Category Archives: Mason Morning Minute

A Footnote On “The Greatest”

“And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”
~Muhammad Ali

It was in the United Airlines Club in Seattle toward the start of my consulting career. It had been a long day of intense meetings, and here I was waiting for a red eye flight to the east coast, followed by no sleep and more intense meetings. I’m sure I showed the fatigue.

As I looked around the club I thought to myself, “Do you know who that looks like?”  At this point I should probably mention that flying around the country so much, the airlines will give you free upgrades, which meant you meet a lot of interesting people.

Back to our story: He sort of looked like him, but heavier and older, but there were bodyguards, so I became convinced it was him. Next my thought was whether I should bother him or not, but I finally walked across the club room and said, “Mister Ali, you don’t know me, but you’ve been an inspiration for me and millions of others with your ability to keep coming back to win.” He smiled and said, “thanks”, and I turned to walk away, but he reached out and touched my arm and in a soft voice said, “Never give up, you can always keep fighting.”

I’ll never know if I looked like I felt and needed a boost, or if it was something he said to people, but I’d been given advice from the greatest fighter alive!  Those words drift back to me from time to time. You always have to fight to stay in a positive frame of mind, to stay true to yourself and God, and yet, like Ali, with humor.

Muhammad Ali who was a winning boxer, a controversial figure, a great showman, someone with a great sense of humor, a man of history, a father, and true to the best of his faith, died last Friday.

When he had been asked a while ago how he wanted to be remembered he said:

“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him… who stood up for his beliefs…who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.

And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”

That’s true Ali, proud of his achievements, unwavering in beliefs, and always with humor. An American champion.

Microsoft’s Removal of the FM Tuner in Their Phones is Our Fault

Microsoft is removing the FM tuner app from its Windows mobile phones.  According to an article in the trade press, the app has been removed from the latest development build of the OS, and it’s gone for good.  So, what does this mean for radio?

It’s bad PR for us

Tech journalists don’t “get” radio.  They see it as nothing new, and their assumption is that nobody listens any more.  If this is reported, it carries the subtext that “Microsoft removes an old-­fashioned thing from their phones”, even though that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We’ve got ourselves to blame for the above, though.  We’ve failed to care about the user experience on connected devices.  An FM tuner is, when you step back, an insanely bizarre user experience: requiring people to remember random numbers between 87 and 108 to find a station.  On a connected device like a mobile phone, the radio industry could make this experience much better, but we’ve mostly chosen not to.  It’s the poor user experience, I believe, that is the reason why an iPhone doesn’t have an FM radio inside.

It isn’t as bad as it sounds

This isn’t the removal of FM capability from Windows Mobile phones.  The FM tuner continues to be part of the Bluetooth chip inside the device, and so you’ll still be able to download FM tuner apps from the Windows app store.  All that’s happening here is that there won’t be a default FM tuner app pre-­installed on the phone.

This adds an extra step to get FM onto a listener’s phone.  But it does foster some competition in the Windows Mobile FM tuner app space.  The enterprising app maker will be able to use RadioDNS and other technologies to produce a great user experience, and get a level playing field when trying to get installations.

Windows still remains the only mobile OS with an FM receiver as standard.

It ignores the reality of the international market

According to a study in 2011, 94% of Indian radio listeners tune into (FM) radio on their mobile phone.  Only 16% do so on a radio receiver.  FM radio on mobiles is also popular in places like Latin America and Africa; a Firefox employee telling me that FM radio was “one of the most requested features” in those territories.  It’s no surprise that the cheaper the phone becomes, the more likely it is to have access to FM radio.

By withdrawing development of their basic FM tuner app, Microsoft is essentially treating these nations as unimportant to the future of Windows on phones.  That is a mistake, in my view.

Radio needs to step up

The primary argument for FM radio in cellphones is “it’s useful in times of emergency”, which is a weak and niche argument (not least because automated, networked US radio has repeatedly shown itself as relatively incapable of actually reacting at times of emergency).

I have doubts that broadcast radio inside mobiles is the white knight we think it is.  We’re trying to marry the most interactive device we own with a lean-­back medium that’s specifically designed to be consumed while doing something else.  But that shouldn’t stop us improving that experience as much as possible.

We should be working to make the default FM tuner app an amazing experience.  We should provide metadata like logos and service information to already­ existing industry initiatives like RadioDNS and Emmis’s NextRadio app; and we should fund them better so they can do more.

We should put into place optional service­ following from FM to IP, so you never lose your favorite station.  We should build FM capabilities into our own apps, working with the Universal Smartphone Project.  We should capture data (like the Indians) to help argue our case in future.  We should at the very least ensure that RDS is present on all our services.

But most of all, we should be singing with one voice about broadcast radio’s benefit within mobile phones: and highlighting that for Microsoft to remove an app that delivers a free feature is a bone­headed decision.



The Paradox Of Excellence

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
~Mario Andretti


“Let’s do everything with excellence.”  OK, I thought as I heard the comment, that makes sense.  Who wants to be the opposite and do nothing with excellence.  I nodded my head like a good boy.  I’m in, lets be excellent.

Throughout my career I’ve heard different people making the excellence argument.  But I could never figure out what that meant.  The dictionary seems to indicate it’s “possessing outstanding quality or superior merit; remarkably good.”  That seems clear.  Sort of.

Unfortunately excellence is not as ubiquitous as people want to think.  Michael Jordan is excellent, John Wooden was excellent, American Pie is excellent, Star Wars is excellent.  But is your radio station excellent?  Is it excellent because you say so?  Or is it the people who call and tell you how great you are, which never includes the voice of people who aren’t calling you.  Perhaps just your being there makes it excellent.

Saying so is easy, but achieving excellence is not.  Excellence is a quality that people appreciate partially because it is so hard to find.  And like many things, excellence is a journey, not a destination.  We should appreciate the work that went into achieving excellence more than excellence itself.

Which calls for a better understanding of what excellence is.  Fortunately, the Internet can help you with whatever you need and I found something that made great sense to me.  It’s a roadmap for excellence, sort of a “how-to” for those who really want to pursue excellence:

INTEGRITY – Match behavior with values.  Demonstrate your positive personal values in all you do and say.  Be sincere and real.

FAILURE LEADS TO SUCCESS – Learn from mistakes, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  View failures as feedback that provides you with the information you need to learn, grow, and succeed.

SPEAK WITH GOOD PURPOSE – Speak honestly and kindly.  Think before you speak.  Make sure your intention is positive and your words are sincere.

THIS IS IT! – Make the most of every moment.  Focus your attention on the present moment.  Keep a positive attitude.

COMMITMENT – Make your dreams happen.  Take positive action.  Follow your vision without wavering.

OWNERSHIP – Take responsibility for actions.  Be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. “Own” the choices you make and the results that follow.

FLEXIBILITY – Be willing to do things differently.  Recognize what’s not working and be willing to change what you’re doing to achieve your goal.

BALANCE – Live your best life.  Be mindful of self and others while focusing on what’s meaningful and important in your life.  Inner happiness and fulfillment come when your mind, body, and emotions are nurtured by the choices you make.



Good Enough Isn’t

The reason that a product “everyone likes” will fail is because no one “loves it.”

Content is king

Is content king, like everyone says?

If so, why do so many radio stations, producing content daily, sound so much the same?  Why is it that radio stations produce so much content that isn’t unique, compelling or remarkable?

It’s because content isn’t king the way many produce it.  Along with the overused “content is king” phrase should come the idea that content is crowned by the listener/user, not the provider.  It’s only kingly content if the listeners see it that way.

Having content that’s king is a great aspiration, but you have to work very hard to make it so.  The same old, worn out ideas isn’t going to do it.  Playing “the best music” isn’t going to do it, because these days anyone can copy your playlist.  Content that’s King has to be innovative, relevant, and emotional.

If not, maybe the phrase needs to be changed to “content is serf.”


How Are You Doing In RLRT?

“If a brand is to really make a connection and to spark word of mouth, they must speak to the customer like a friend.”
~John Moore


You know, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the others can be quite seductive.  You post something, get some responses, a few forwards and it feels like you’ve really accomplished something.  And you probably do accomplish… something.  But we don’t yet understand what a “like” means or if “thumbs up” means more listening.   At a recent radio conference Mark Ramsey reviewed a study that showed no correlation between Facebook likes and success.

In books like “The Passion Conversation” and “Face To Face,” and several independent research studies, it becomes clear that over 80% of word of mouth conversations happen in RLRT, or “Real Life, Real Time.”  That should get your attention.

So instead of social media, it’s digital interaction, and the smart people will be planning for the bigger picture rather than just the smaller picture one.  Effective must overcome easy.

I know online interaction is easier to do, and I know it reaches a lot of users, but it overlooks the human or people part of the equation.  The more effective interactions come from people to people efforts.

When Brant Hanson of Air1 decided to have the staff and band greet the listeners as they arrived for a concert, walking down a red carpet to their seats, that was human social interaction.  Those people didn’t just attend, they bonded.  When country stations do backyard barbecues with artists, they’re not just getting together for food, they’re bonding in a human way.

If you haven’t read “The Passion Conversation” you need to.  It’s written by an acquaintance of mine, and someone I’ve talked about in the past, John Moore, along with some really smart people from a group called Brains On Fire.  It really is about building passion, and that happens most often in RLRT.