Friday, February 29, 2008
I remember when CBS hired Katie a couple of years ago. Sean McManus, President of CBS news, said he was looking for a "prominent personality" to "attract a younger audience". Katie turned out to be the "prominent personality" he chose.
The program I watched had no personality and no distinguishing characteristics. It's no wonder it is a distant third in the ratings. Katie was dressed in a business suit and sat behind a big anchor desk just like Brian Williams on NBC and Charles Gibson on ABC. There was lots of duplication of news stories on the three broadcasts. This wasn't a big surprise. All the major broadcast news organizations -- radio, television, cable television -- seem to report the same 6-8 news stories each day in spite of the amazing variety of news and information that is available in this high-tech digital age.
Katie's primary function on the broadcast was to introduce correspondents in the field who did most of the reporting. She read what appeared to be scripted questions from a teleprompter to lead the correspondents into their reports. Sometimes, she got to read a scripted question to a correspondent to close a report.
For variety, Katie had a brief live chat with a reporter who joined her at the big anchor desk. It followed the format perfectly. Katie led the correspondent into her report by reading a scripted question to her. She closed the report with a very contrived sounding two or three word reaction of concern about the contents of the report. It may have been planned or scripted, too.
This was scary stuff. The newscast reminded me of liner card radio with a very expensive liner card reader -- Katie reportedly makes $15 million a year. I have no idea why CBS has her doing the format I saw. What a waste of talent and money.
Sadly, as I recall, there was a big tune-in for Katie's first few Evening News broadcasts. For a very short time, I believe her ratings were number one-- beating her direct competition on ABC and NBC handily. Apparently, Katie's fans from the Today Show were pretty excited about seeing what their friend would do with the CBS Evening News. So, maybe Sean McManus was right about Katie's personality and its appeal.
Unfortunately, when Katie's fans showed up for her first few broadcasts on CBS they discovered she wasn't there. Katie and her personality had been shoehorned into the conventional television network news format. She had become a robotic facilitator reduced to reading the liner card intros and extros. I guess Sean McManus will never know if his idea works unless he has the courage to create a unique format that showcases Katie's personality and talent instead of hiding it.
I couldn't help but wonder what might happen if CBS let Katie pick the stories to report and let her decide how to present them. This approach works pretty well for personalities like Oprah, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh. I don't know Katie and I have no idea what a newscast with stories of her choosing would be like. It certainly couldn't be any less distinctive or more ordinary than the current approach. At least it would let CBS know if the "prominent personality" they're paying for can actually attract an audience.
On second thought, that may not work either. I suspect Katie's "I Matter" belief is not very strong right now. The only support CBS management is providing for that belief is the big check they write to her each month. Sean McManus and his team probably need to learn and embrace "The Artist's Secret" before they put Katie in charge. Otherwise, it is likely to be a short-lived and ill-conceived experiment short on mettle and without an effective vision.
I know this from what I watched last night, there is no way CBS can blame Katie for the dismal ratings. The blame falls clearly on the people who designed the CBS Evening News format, choose its content and the way it is presented each day. And, the person who writes Katie's "liner cards" must shoulder some of the blame, too.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Dan Patrick, the former ESPN SportsCenter anchor and host of the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio, was there to talk about his new venture. He was on fire or as he likes to say, "en fuego". After 18 years at ESPN, he had finally developed the "I matter" belief.
Dan and his personality were instrumental in creating the SportsCenter brand for ESPN. He was one of the original lovable smart asses that delivered sports news with humor, fun, and just the right amount of irreverence. He became the template for all the SportsCenter anchors that followed him.
I don't think Dan realized how much he and what he created mattered to ESPN viewers and radio listeners until after a chance meeting with Jimmy deCastro at a golf outing. As Jimmy tells the story, he was immediately blown away by Dan and his talent. He began to wonder why Dan had never ventured out on his own and "taken control of his brand".
It seemed obvious that Dan didn't have a strong "I matter" belief before he met Jimmy. He viewed himself as a part of the big ESPN brand. Things have sure changed.
Jimmy served up a steady diet of praise and recognition for Dan's accomplishments. He expressed a sincere belief in Dan's extraordinary talents. This produced an "I matter" belief that inspired and motivated Dan to, "walk out the door of ESPN after 18 1/2 years with no net", wondering, "Why didn't I take this chance before?"
Dan's newly developed "I matter" belief has fueled a big vision for the Dan Patrick Brand. As Dan talked about the future with those gathered in Phoenix the ideas just flowed. He was brimming with confidence. Dan's energy, enthusiasm, and excitement were amazing. He told us, "This is high school with money."
What Jimmy deCastro did for Dan Patrick is a model for any coach trying to develop a gifted radio personality or artist of any kind. Help them develop the "I matter" belief because it fuels the courage and passion to create and provides the creative juice that produces original ideas. The "I matter" belief is a beautiful thing. Ask Dan Patrick.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I asked him to explain how he does it. He told me, "We have only one local show, our morning show. We get our news from a local TV station and we get our traffic from Metro".
I couldn't help but wonder where this PD and his owner will be when the syndicators that provide 85% of his station's content don't need his station's transmitter, tower, and broadcast frequency to distribute their programming. I hope they're saving all the money they're making now because that day is not far off.
Monday, February 25, 2008
- If MySpace was a country it would be the 8th largest in the world.
- Number of Internet devices in 1984: 1,000, in 1992: 1,000,000, in 2006: 600,000,000.
- Years to reach a market audience of 50 million:
There's good news and bad news here for traditional broadcasters. First, the good news. Traditional broadcasters are no longer limited by their FCC licenses. They can broadcast multimedia information and entertainment content to anyone they want anywhere in the world. Now, the bad news. Anyone else can do the same, with or without a transmitter, tower, or FCC license.
The reality is traditional radio broadcasters no longer have a virtual monopoly on the distribution of audio information and entertainment content. Survival in this new age will depend on their ability to create remarkable information and entertainment content, not distribute it. Future success for traditional radio broadcasters will rest on their ability to find and develop gifted artists and air personalities capable of creating extraordinary multimedia information and entertainment content.
The "exponential times" in which we live are either a giant threat or a huge opportunity for traditional broadcasters with their towers, transmitters, and FCC licenses.
I've been coaching radio personalities and studying gifted artists for over 20 years. I've been privileged to work with some remarkable performers like Kidd Kraddick, Jeff of Jeff and Jer, Rush Limbaugh, and Dr. Laura. I've observed successful songwriters, authors, screenwriters, and creators of TV shows. I've learned a lot about where great artists get their inspiration and how they create.
I've discovered successful artists across the media spectrum -- those who've created hit songs, blockbuster movies, best selling books, top-rated TV shows, and the most listened to morning radio shows -- are guided by a common force I've come to call "The Artist's Secret". It has three ingredients.
Instinctive Reactions. The source of their ideas. The inspiration for what they create comes from inside. It begins with the artist's instinctive reactions to what they experience in their own lives -- spontaneous, raw, uncensored thoughts and feelings triggered by what they see, hear, taste, touch, or smell.
Audience of One. Everything these artists create is designed to appeal to and satisfy an audience of one -- themselves. It's all about what makes them laugh or cry, marvel and understand. They create stuff that they truly enjoy, stuff that turns them on and rings their emotional bell.
"I Matter". The artist's belief that their thoughts and feelings matter. The belief that creating stuff that reflects how they think and feel matters and can make a difference in the lives of others. These beliefs fuel the courage and passion to create and provide the creative juice that produces original ideas. They also supply performance energy, enthusiasm, and excitement.
I've collected many examples over the years to illustrate how "The Artist's Secret" has influenced extraordinary artists and their works. Here are three of my favorites. As you read these stories, look for the Instinctive Reactions, the Audience of One, and "I Matter".
Mel Gibson is a devout Catholic Christian. He's battled addiction and obsessive behavior most of his life. He came to a turning point when he was about 34 or 35 that inspired him to create the blockbuster movie "The Passion of the Christ". Here's how he described the process in an interview conducted two weeks before the movie was released.
"Every seven years you change pretty profoundly. I wondered, what's my life about? I started looking into things that I had knowledge of, but really hadn't fully explored. I read all the Gospels, read the New Testament, read the Old Testament. I started to go through all that just trying to maintain myself. I would imagine what was that like, really? You're talking about the single event that probably influenced civilization as we know it now. It’s created our laws, behavior, and the knowledge of good and evil. It's influenced art and literature. It's affected every possible aspect of anyone's life, whether they know it or not, it has. This is big stuff you're dealing with. It's absolutely everything. I don't think it's ever been told as it should be. It suffers in accuracy, accuracy as far as the Gospels go, accuracy as far as the extent of the sacrifice and the torture involved. Make no mistake about it, this (movie) is graphic and my aim is to profoundly change people with it. I know it's not gonna be everybody's cup of tea, but it's the way I want to present it. It speaks to me that way and that's all I know. My hope is that anyone who goes in and can manage to stay through it and can suffer through with it, that they are changed when they leave."
Mel was experiencing a "profound" change in his life, "just trying to maintain myself". The Instinctive Reactions started to flow. He began to wonder, "What's my life about?" Searching for answers he read the Gospels, the New Testament, the Old Testament. The descriptions of Christ's suffering and death generated strong thoughts and feelings. "What was that like, really?... You're talking about the single event that probably influenced civilization as we know it... It's created our laws, behavior, and the knowledge of good and evil... It's absolutely everything... I don't think it's ever been told as it should be. It suffers in accuracy, accuracy as far as the Gospels go, accuracy as far as the extent of the sacrifice and the torture involved." Then he began to create a movie for an Audience of One. A movie that reveals what Mel learned from this time in his life because of a belief that "I Matter" -- a belief that his thoughts and feelings can make a difference in the lives of others. "Make no mistake about it, this (movie) is graphic and my aim is to profoundly change people with it. I know it's not going to be everybody's cup of tea, but it's the way I want to present it. It speaks to me that way and that's all I know."
John is Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Many consider him the present-day Walt Disney. He is the creative force behind the growth of Pixar. He's also the creator of "Cars" the movie. Here's how he describes his creative process on the "Cars" DVD.
"Cars is a very personal story to me. Not only is it inspired by my love of cars, not only is it inspired by my dad, who is a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership, but it's inspired by something that happened to me in my life. I directed Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2. By the time I was done with Toy Story 2, it was 1999. Nine years had passed. We had had four boys and my wife said, 'John we've supported you in making all these films and the building of Pixar and all like that, but you better be careful because one day you're gonna wake up and your boys are going off to college and you will have missed it.' So, I took the summer off. My wife and I bought a used motorhome. I wanted to stay off the interstate highway system and travel America. And you know what happened, we got so close as a family. It changed my life. I came back knowing what I wanted this movie to be about is a character discovering what I discovered -- that the journey in life is the reward. I started thinking and all of a sudden the story just started coming out. It's got to be about a race car. I imagined this being the personality of a character -- it's like nothing else matters but achieving it as fast as you can. Winning. Getting that championship. I thought this is the perfect character to all of a sudden be forced to slow down. That's what this character needs to discover. And so we started taking and merging the two worlds of the automobile that we loved so much -- racing and Route 66. We all discovered something we weren't expecting. You know, it's just like life. You start down the path not knowing where it's going to lead you, but you enjoy the ride."
Did you recognize the elements of "The Artist's Secret" in John Lasseter's story? They're all there. Instinctive Reactions to a life experience. "My wife said, 'John we've supported you in making all these films and in the building of Pixar and all like that, but you better be careful because one day you're gonna wake up and your boys are going off to college and you will have missed it'. So, I took the summer off. My wife and I bought a used motorhome. I wanted to stay off the interstate highway system and travel America. And you know what happened, we got so close as a family. It changed my life." Audience of One and "I Matter". "I came back knowing what I wanted this movie to be about is a character discovering what I discovered -- that the journey in life is the reward... It's got to be about a race car. I imagined this being the personality of a character -- it's like nothing else matters but achieving it as fast as you can. Winning. Getting that championship. I thought this is the perfect character to all of a sudden be forced to slow down. That's what this character needs to discover."
If you want to experience and truly understand "The Artist's Secret" get the "Cars" DVD and watch the "Inspiration for Cars". It's amazing and powerful.
Howard is widely known to have more than a passing interest in sex. A few years ago, actor Mickey Rooney was on the interview circuit. I don't remember why, probably a book or movie promotional tour. Howard wasn't interested in the book, movie or whatever. He wasn't concerned that most of his audience would not know Mickey Rooney. Howard creates his show for an Audience of One with a belief that "I Matter". Somehow he learned Mickey had slept with many gorgeous starlets of his time. Howard's Instinctive Reaction to this revelation, "How did that ugly little runt seduce all those gorgeous women?" Howard had to find out for himself. He invited Mickey to come on the show. There was an obligatory reference to the movie or book at the end of the interview, but the vast majority of the conversation was devoted to finding out how that “ugly little runt" made it with women Howard couldn't imagine being with. It was extraordinary guy radio whether you knew Mickey Rooney or not.
Radio personalities who embrace "The Artist's Secret" distinguish themselves from everyone else on the radio.
When they start to notice and record their Instinctive Reactions to all their personal life experiences the magic begins. An abundance of original ideas that reflect the full range of human emotion comes into view.
Fearlessly creating and presenting content for an Audience of One -- the stuff that turns them on, the stuff that rings their emotional bell -- gives them the best chance to relate to their listeners. Human beings share the same set of emotions no matter what their status in life. We all feel love and hate, fear and anxiety, joy and sadness. Emotion is the universal human connector.
When radio personalities come to believe, "I Matter", they become originals like Mel Gibson, John Lasseter, and Howard Stern. They acquire the courage and unlock the passion to create fresh and new ideas that reflect their own thoughts and feelings. Their performance energy, enthusiasm and excitement seemingly have no bounds. They establish an emotional connection and bond with their listeners that are nearly impossible to break. They become the best they can be.