May 15, 2012
What do Mark Cuban and ET have to do with you?
Love him or hate him, Mark Cuban is an interesting guy who can teach us a lot.
First, he has incredible passion for life and his business.
Second, he's super-smart and uber-successful (I threw in the German for Dirk.)
And his advice this week is to stop listening to your customers.
You heard me right: STOP listening to your customers.
"It is not the job of your customers to know what they don't know."
We've all heard the story of the film ET, that it failed miserably in the storyboard focus groups that Hollywood always does before committing money to an expensive project.
Of course, Spielberg went ahead and made the movie anyway, and it went on to become one of the top-grossing films of its time.
And that's because Spielberg had a vision of the story he wanted to tell, and no storyboard or focus group could adequately recreate that vision. He had to do it. He had to create ET before audiences could "see it" in their heads and get emotionally involved with the characters.
Perceptual research has been one of the victims of consolidation, and that's not a good thing.
But visionaries don't need focus groups to tell them how to create masterpieces. Steve Jobs didn't ask you before he created the iPod or the iPhone. Jobs is famously averse to customer research during the creation process.
If Mel really had a vision of what "radio" could be, why wouldn't he have turned over one of his channels to teens, with no controls over what they aired?
Why wouldn't he offer a channel featuring the "Best of the World's Radio" with a different market-leading station from outside the U.S. every week?
Why wouldn't he have a TALK channel hosted by a 16-year-old, or with co-hosts in different countries? Satellite radio is basically land-based radio with deeper playlists, fewer spots and less clutter ... and worse talent. That's not revolutionary.
And land-based programmers and managers aren't off the hook, either.
You guys cut your night and overnight talent because you knew you could without impacting listening in a major way. So, if no one's listening, why not use this time to experiment, to offer something hyper-local with a live host? Why not let a young, untrained voice have a shot after 10p?
Cuban has a quote in his piece that says, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
It's your job to create the radio that will survive the digital storm.
Research can't do this one for you.
Radio's future requires vision, boldness and belief, so that the inevitable failures are not confidence-cripplers.
YOU have to hear it before listeners can decide whether they want to as well.
It's as simple as that.