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Jerry Gumbert » Leadership Steve Safran's MediaReinvent

    February 3rd, 2018

    I’ve always believed that continuous hard work and doing it the right way were drivers of success. Many people believe that luck has a lot to do with it, too. After all, luck is when preparation meets opportunity, right? Nope. Being at the right place at the right time and being prepared for an opportunity is not luck. It’s something earned. These two bullets shot during WW II collided before they reached an intended destination. Luck is the two people that they were aimed at didn’t end up dead.

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    October 17th, 2017

    It feels like we have lost much of the love, understanding and tolerance that we used to have.  We have become more and more judgmental of everyone and everything.

    It poisons the soul.  But, here we are.

    Ever heard of this? “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” It’s the Second Commandment – one of the two “Great Commandments.” Yet, it has never been less important to Americans. We live in a culture where enough is never enough while others have so little. We are so self-consumed that OUR opinion is the ONLY opinion and we argue, at the top of our lungs, and demean anyone who believes differently.

    • We love ourselves more than others. We use to put people less fortunate first, but now we close our eyes and ignore them.
    • We spend thousands of dollars to NOT look like ourselves.
    • We have to drive the most expensive cars, wear the latest high-priced fashions, and own the newest iPhone 10. And, we still yearn for more.
    • Our kids have to be the cutest, smartest, most talented and popular. Anything less is a disappointment. Not to them, but to their parents.

    Then, we judge others for not being exactly like us. Who’d wanna be?  Children learn morals and values from parents.

    • The more self-absorbed we are, the more “special” they will want to be.
    • The more unforgiving we are, the more bitter they will become.
    • The more things we need, the more they will have to have to ever be satisfied.

    Parents, we are the problem. We are teaching children to look inward and to place their value on possessions, status and appearance. Is that what we all really want them to become?  Seventy-six percent of Americans call themselves Christians. Well, maybe its time that we all start acting more like one.

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  • To The Mountaintop

    May 31st, 2013

    So, you wanna be successful, huh?

    Dream big. Nothing is out of reach.

    Don’t dim your light, simply because it’s shining in their eyes.

    Never yield to those who say it cannot be done.

    If you believe in yourself, no one can stop you.  No one.

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  • Heroes

    May 27th, 2013

    I have never worn a uniform.

    So, it would be unfair for me to say I know the sacrifice of American soldiers. I don’t. I really have no idea. I can’t imagine the courage and selflessness it takes to risk your life, every day, for your country and its people.

    I do know that they are heroes. For a hero is someone who gives to something bigger than oneself. For them, today is their day and because of them, the other 364 days are ours.

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  • A Leader and Believer

    August 18th, 2012

    Robert Ratliff is 22 years old.  I have known him for nearly all of them.  I watched him learn to play baseball and earn his way into the Little League World Series when he was 12 years old.  I watched him bury his father (and my dear friend) the following spring.  I watched him learn to play football and at quarterback lead Nolan Catholic High School to the State Championship — a big deal in Texas football land.  And, I watched his disappointment when college recruiters didn’t call.

    Through it all, all of it, Robert did not quit.  He never felt sorry for himself. He never stopped believing.  Never.

    Two weeks ago his mother, Patti, his rock and his everything suffered a tragic brain aneurysm. She is still in ICU and critical condition.  Robert and brother John have been at her side ever since.  Last night, they returned to Oxford.   The first day of classes are on Monday – Robert is a senior and John is a sophomore.  Both are walk-on football players at Ole Miss.  Robert is a quarterback and John is a wide receiver.

    This morning they attended a team football meeting and practice.  At the end of the team meeting, Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze asked Robert to stand up.  Time stood still for a few seconds and then it happened.

    He awarded Robert Ratliff a Division I Football Scholarship for his senior season.  A dream come true.

    In God’s glory, he has walked through life, step-by-step, with an unyielding commitment to being “the very best he can be.”  He is not the tallest or fastest guy on the field – ever.  But, this young man’s heart is unmatched.  His  passion for competition and victory burns deeply.  His love for coaches and teammates is true.

    In so many ways, Robert Ratliff is a champion and a role model to all of us.  For more than six years he was told he couldn’t play D1 football.  But, for six years Robert believed.  Believed in God.  Believed in himself.  Believed in what his dad had always told him – “You Gotta Believe.”

    Robert Ratliff,  we all congratulate you.  We salute you.  We are in awe of you.  We love and adore you.  We believe in you.

    And, no one believes in you more than your mother, our Patti.

    And his journey is just beginning.

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  • Innovator of a Lifetime

    October 5th, 2011

    Steve Jobs’ greatest gift:  He knew what we wanted before we understood it ourselves.

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  • Rewind: Are You Headed In The Right Direction?

    May 24th, 2011

    We published our second book in early 2009 about the dramatically changing local media industry.  I thought it would be an interesting exercise to go back two and a half years and review some of our general beliefs at the time and how we predicted the industry would change in the near future.  I think you’ll find many of our thoughts, which raised many an eyebrow when the book was published, where on target and have been embraced by an entire industry.  Our next book, AR&D’s fourth, will be available in late 2011.

    Live. Local. Broken News. (Published 2/2009)

    The world we face is one vastly different from the world we are leaving, and while intuition and experience may pull us one way, business reality is pulling us reluctantly in another. We have tried to give you insight into that new world and raise issues that need addressing, because we will not enjoy continued business success in local television without a fundamental re-engineering of everything.

    What will the television station in which you work look like in 12 months, 24 months, or even 5 years? Nobody really has the answer, because if we did, we could create systems to get us from here to there. Instead, we’ve tried to present general themes of which we are extremely confident.

    1. We cannot and will not manage our way out of the current situation. There is no systematic blueprint we can follow. The situation demands leadership, a willingness and ability to take risks and not allow chaos to deter our vision. Leadership, not management, from the top, therefore, is the driving force for change. But we need leaders at all levels in our companies, top to bottom. We are who we employ, and we need to empower and enable leadership from anyone willing to step up to the plate. We need that leadership like never before, because an undying focus on the vision and its execution is what will make the future difference, and we cannot find that by reliance on systems and tasks. We need the energy and sacrifice that comes from leaders.

    2. In both practice and theory, journalism is shifting from a finished product model to one that is raw and unfinished. We call this “Continuous News,” and its approach satisfies the consumer need to be kept informed at all times of the day, but especially during our “new prime time,” when people are at work. Our need to be relevant in the lives of our future audience is directly tied to how well we’re meeting their news and information needs away from their television set.

    3. Accomplishing this demands the re-engineering of the basic newsroom, and this applies to every employee. We need to realistically examine every system and person in this process, and we are of the firm belief that no single employee is irreplaceable or above the needs of the whole. We aren’t speaking of new titles; we’re talking about brand new responsibilities and skill sets from people who have traditionally not been held responsible, and this is especially true of our chief journalists, formerly known as our anchors.

    4. As a part of this, we must get more people on thestreet gathering local content from the local community. Gone are the days when everybody in thenews-gathering process is a specialist. This is the age of the versatile, multi-skilled generalist, and training these people is the immediate challenge of all local media companies, especially television stations. Newspapers have moved to this model already, and we’re falling behind as a result. Our employees must understand that as we re-engineer our television stations, they are re-engineering their own careers, for the changes impacting local media are not cyclical. There will be no going back. This is not a season of belt-tightening that will ease with time. Our industry is facing a complete paradigm shift. Never has there been a more important time to invest in training and equipping our employees for their new roles and responsibilities.

    5. The Web is our future, but not in shifting our mass media business model there. We must understand that the Web is not TV, and that includes letting go of the fundamentals of scarcity and audience building. There is no need for us to own the property that serves advertising anymore, only the advertising infrastructure. This is why we believe that the revenue solution local stations seek is in the creation of local horizontal and vertical ad networks, where ads can be served and tracked across an infinite number of local websites. In this way, the growth of the Local Web is our growth engine, and we can employ tactics to help it grow, especially in the world of video.

    6. We must take advantage of the tools being created for personal media that will enable us to better communicate with tomorrow’s customers, the people formerly known as the audience. We must be mobile and unbundled, with our content able to be consumed across multiple platforms, even those that don’t appear to offer an immediate financial gain. Too much is at stake for us to ignore any way of reaching local consumers, and that includes the use of social media.

    7. Doing nothing or simply cutting expenses only delays the inevitable. Without operational and cultural change, any local television station will be unable to compete in the years ahead. Stations must adopt new sales strategies, build new products and market to the right audience. But there is no more important concept for broadcasters to embrace right now than the word “hustle,” and this applies from the boardroom to sales and engineering to news gathering and production suites. At every level, the name of the game today is building new businesses, and we simply cannot accomplish that without hustle. Systems and rules that block hustle need to be stripped away and replaced by those that encourage it. Gone are the days of managing static strategies; we all need to hustle.

    This book is being published in the midst of troubled economic times, which are accelerating the crisis of disruptive innovations.  Budget cuts and downsizing have impacted every company, and many long-time news directors and general managers face a future of early retirement, at best. Gone are the days of reliable, double digit revenue growth, and the local television industry is full of fear.

    Those concerns are real, but we choose to look at the future as one of opportunity, rather than one of decline. There has never been a more exciting time in the world of communications or in Western civilization, because technology is cutting through institutional roadblocks that have prevented people from access to knowledge. We have a choice to either fight that or help enable it and the business models available within this disruption haven’teven been written yet. What we do know is that the foundation of ad-supported content is cracking, but it doesn’t mean that businesses won’t be advertising with us in the decades to come.

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  • Wanted: New Ideas

    April 29th, 2011

    When was the last time you had a new idea?  Something truly innovative or interesting that could possibly create value?

    Although we are no longer an industry with its head stuck in sand, we have failed to create an environment that embraces new ideas.  We are still an industry with its head down driven by expense control and hell bent on doing more with less.  “Research & Development”  is a significant line item in most budgets regardless of the industry.  That has never been the case in local media and if there were ever a time when R&D should be front center it is now.  Unfortunately, stock price sensitivity, bank loan covenants and the demand for hitting a short-term number is FAR more important than long-term viability.  I get it, but I think its short-sighted and balanced much too heavily on today.  Investing in new ideas and new opportunities now is what will restore our margins and provide long-term dividends.

    Harvard Business icon Clayton Christensen teaches us the following:

    Finance and economics principles teach us to ignore “sunk and fixed” costs when we evaluate alternative business opportunities.  Instead, we should base decisions on marginal costs and marginal revenues that each alternative entails.   This doctrine biases companies to leverage what “they have put in place to succeed in the past,” instead of guiding them to “create capabilities needed in the future.”  If we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past, that approach would be fine.  But, if the future is different (and it clearly is for local media) then it is the wrong thing to do.

    We must become idea-driven companies filled with exciting, idea-generating people from top to bottom.

    Our success should  no longer be based on the past (50% margins), but on the future (a new found relevancy).

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  • In Search of Leaders

    April 22nd, 2011

    Step back.  Look around the building. Are your direct reports leaders or managers?

    Local media executives must continue to evolve from being managers to leaders.  The operating model for local media clearly needs a dramatic reset, a fresh perspective, right?  However, the overwhelming majority of stations still operate the same way they did 30 years ago (but with less people) despite unbelievable changes in consumer behavior.  Sure, everyone does more, but how many companies actually do it different?   This is an industry under siege and it desperately needs LEADERS.

    • Leaders create change.  Managers get a known job accomplished.

    • Leaders embrace opportunities and break the old rules.  Managers live by them.

    • Leaders see the possibilities during unstable times.  Managers focus on doing more with less.

    • Leaders originate.  Managers imitate.

    • Leaders challenge the status quo.  Manager work within it.

    • Leaders do the right thing.  Managers do things right.

    We must all understand that change, constant change is the opportunity.

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  • Scale vs. Smart

    April 21st, 2011

    Scale is no longer the difference between success and failure.   Sometimes being smarter, more savvy and flying under the radar is a better strategy than BIG.

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