What if Steve Jobs Took Over Clear Channel?



In the 12 years that Steve Jobs has been back running Apple, the company revolutionized the computer business, created the mobile device market and attacked traditional media as effectively as anyone ever has. Imagine if he brought his ideas to radio?

Steve Jobs Replaces John Hogan

Monday, June 15, 2009  


Apple CEO-Steve Jobs-His innovativeness put APPLE on top. Imagine if he was to run Clear Channel?

Apple CEO-Steve Jobs-His innovativeness put APPLE on top. Imagine if he was to run Clear Channel?

In the 12 years that Steve Jobs has been back running Apple, the company revolutionized the computer business, created the mobile device market and attacked traditional media as effectively as anyone ever has.

Apple did eight great things in that time span that not only affected the geek end of their business but redefined the ego driven entertainment side.

Obviously, while record companies and radio groups slept, Apple was busy at work.

The return of Steve Jobs was in and of itself a remarkable feat. He was kicked out of the company he co-founded and Apple had a near death experience at the hands of CEO Gil Amelio.

Then in 1998 came the iMac that once again revolutionized the personal computer business and pressured the competition. Apple was back.

In 2001, the new Mac operating system was introduced – the one that’s cool, reliable and defies viruses.

That same year Apple created a new market for itself by inventing the iPod. You may remember that Mp3 players were all the rage before the iPod but they were clunky, unreliable and filled with potential — not consumer satisfaction.

One of the reasons the iPod worked where previous competitors failed is because in 2003 the iTunes Store came into full prominence. iPod customers had a cool place to plug in and fill up their devices. Nevermind that they had to pay 99 cents for the music, many were willing. Simultaneously, the filesharing market continued to grow and there was plenty of room for pirated music on an iPod.

In 2006, Apple switched from PowerPC chips to Intel – faster, better. Another improvement.

The iPhone was born in 2007 and the rest is history as the only thing holding the iPhone back from total domination is Apple’s agreement with AT&T (that will hopefully get modified soon).

Learning from the success of the iPod/iTunes model, Apple created the wildly popular App Store that resides in iTunes and helps consumers fill up their iPhones with neat and useful applications designed by all types of individuals and developers.

There is a rumor that Apple is getting ready to unveil a tablet-sized device – larger than an iPod Touch and able to play movies, videos, pictures, applications and some call it the Kindle killer because it will no doubt thrust Apple into the digital book market.

All during this time, Jobs led his company in the opposite direction of most digital businesses.

He started brick and mortar retail stores in high-end locations.

Keeping with the company’s image, the design of their stores was cool and artistically pleasing. The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City is all underground with a big glass entrance leading to the escalators. The rest of the expensive real estate is “just” a plaza for pedestrians.

The new Apple store in Scottsdale – minutes from me – just opened a few days ago with high ceilings and glass walls on two sides so you can see through it. Take my wallet away, please!

This guy doesn’t quit – and during those 12 years Jobs’ health deteriorated, he fought deadly pancreatic cancer and currently is recuperating from the effects of his life saving surgery.

Now that’s putting meaning to the Apple motto “Think Different” with no excuses for personal health problems or low stock prices (remember, Apple stock was once very cheap).

In approximately that same time period, the radio industry and the record labels did what?

I’m waiting!

Let’s see.

HD radio that would revolutionize broadcasting and provide more channels to greedy consolidators.

And rather than gloss over this, remember the time, money and attention that was invested in the uncoolest consumer product since the Edsel.

Then there was satellite radio – the terrestrial killer.

Turns out satellite radio was not much better than over-the-air broadcasting and it cost $12.95 a month.

The radio lobby, NAB, made a fool out of itself by spending millions of dollars to try and kill satellite radio off when all it had to do was step back and watch. It’s like Iran. If you want to damage Iran, just let them hold elections and get out of the way.

Any new formats for radio?

Nah. Just the ninth generation hybrid of music formats that sounded similar to the eight others that preceded them.

Of course, there was new technology that made voice tracking possible, but didn’t this hurt the consolidators more than help?

How about a new generation of radio personalities.

No again.

Howard Stern changed addresses. Don Imus got more decrepit and talk radio pumped itself full of hot air pandering to the same aging audience that advertisers don’t seem to want.

I didn’t see anyone spending the fortune that it takes to start an all-news station.

How about the record labels, maybe they fared better?

Think again.

Suing consumers in their ill-conceived strategy to stand up to music pirating blew up in their face. In fact, the RIAA is about ready to have its lunch eaten – perhaps to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars – if Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a 32-year-old mother of four and self-described “huge music fan,” wins her rematch in a Minneapolis court.

This time instead of employing a “Sonny Bono” defense strategy, she has herself a couple of sharp young lawyers – one from Harvard that are working “pro Bono” (free!) to play pin the tail on the donkey. If she succeeds, the labels may find themselves actually owing the “sued” back pay.

What about digital initiatives?

No, while Jobs was thinking different, the labels were thinking the same. Trying to hold onto a shrinking CD market because, after all, record labels are just widget makers at heart.

They blew buying Napster. Sued them instead.

John Hogan runs the Huge Clear Channel empire-With it headed to bankruptcy obviously he wasn't able to bring fresh ideas to the table.

John Hogan runs the Huge Clear Channel empire-With it headed to bankruptcy obviously he wasn't able to bring fresh ideas to the table.

Tried to cram their misguided belief that labels actually could set prices for music even while Apple became the music industry’s de facto number one record label.

I could go on and on and you probably could insert mistake after mistake from both radio and the music during the same period of time that Steve Jobs was building a hardware and entertainment giant.

Same period of time.

Same number of recessions.

Same stock market and Wall Street piranas.

Same time frame.

Same next generation coming of age except Jobs embraced them while radio and music execs tried to change their demands.

All things being equal.

Apple won. They lost.

But it is deeper than that.

Imagine for a minute – as I have done in past pieces – that Steve Jobs ran Clear Channel.

I can guarantee you Clear Channel would be a public company with a stock price over $100 and no Mays children in site.

What would Jobs have done as CEO of Clear Channel?

Let’s use our imagination.

1. He would have sought a partnership with Apple or Sony or someone to help design new age “radios” – perhaps they were like iPods and they probably would not – I repeat not – carry the terrestrial signal. Jobs would have realized that young people listen to media on-demand. Hell, if you gave Jobs the talent of Clear Channel programmers and talent, he would make you forget about Ryan Seacrest by redeploying them to digital media.

2. Jobs would have hired not fired. Firing is what losers do. Hiring is what achievers do. He would have raided Citadel, Cumulus and some of the smaller well-run groups and created the nucleus for new age plans.

3. He would control the content for new podcasting and streaming using radio talent. As head of Clear Channel, we are presuming he would also not be working for Apple so he would get ready to revolutionize the radio and record businesses with other partners. You see, radio and records fit together. Apart, both industries are weaker.

4. Jobs might have created radioandrecords.com (by buying the newspaper) and turning the name into iTunes except it would be owned by Clear Channel and the record labels. That’s where consumers would buy music, watch videos, connect with each other and artists and contribute content – right there on the very site Steve Jobs built for Clear Channel. Can you imagine the Mays’ doing this?

5. He’d sell the outdoor division while it was still worth something, get additional funding and own the WiFi space in partnership with his manufacturing sources. Jobs would know that eventually WiFi would dominate and that content is what his Clear Channel should be doing. That terrestrial radio had a short shelf life in the future.

6. Jobs would start selling the radio stations off to local operators who recognize that analog radio works. It’s kind of like what he does right now with application developers. They create the content and he controls who gets to air what where. In this case, Jobs would turn the dying terrestrial radio business into a thriving one by renting out signals to entrepreneurs who promise his Clear Channel a clean percent of the cut.

I don’t know about you, but I am getting too excited to type.

Let’s say I’m wrong – still, this is more like it.

Imagine the difference that a smart, generationally-wise CEO could have made at Clear Channel.

Or at any other consolidated radio station or record label.

One that anticipated the digital future and aggregated talent instead of spending. It would then be possible to think differently about what “radio” could have become.

Instead, we’re all increasingly asking what went wrong and what could have been had even a semi-competent CEO ran but one consolidated radio group.

John Hogan.

Steve Jobs.

Lew Dickey.

Steve Jobs.

Fagreed Suleman.

Steve Jobs.

See what I mean, the radio industry didn’t die.

It was murdered.

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2 comments on “What if Steve Jobs Took Over Clear Channel?

  1. Great article! Except… there’s no escalators in the 5th Ave Apple Store in NYC 🙂 [just stairs & an elevator!]

  2. what type of musical content would steven jobs tolerate at cc gangsta boogie 24/7? or a more non fragmented format that seems to define urban radio the last 16 years. That’s the real question.

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