Radio’s Innovation Hurdle: Bonuses

by Russ Hill on April 27, 2010

Someone I interviewed for one of our top management positions at KTAR said something stunning to me.

He works for one radio’s biggest companies in one of the country’s five largest media markets.  He is responsible for producing content that is expected to generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

What was his bombshell?

He told me the only bonus plan his bosses had put him under was for keeping expenses under budget!!

Are you kidding me?

I am so tired of broadcasting executives spewing words and phrases like “innovation” and “multi-platform convergence” and then turning around and putting together the lamest compensation and incentive programs for their managers.

Can I please make a suggestion to every broadcasting executive and general manager within the sound of my voice?  How about this… How about incentivizing your key managers on the things that will lead your organization to experience the greatest growth?

How about some risk taking?  How about some innovation where it matters most – people’s pocketbooks? I love radio.  I love it with a passion.  And, yet, I am convinced we are purging ourselves of talent in our management ranks by rewarding stagnation.

Any GM/executive that bonuses on expense budgets should be ashamed of him/herself.  And, any GM that puts revenue incentives in front of people responsible for content is wasting paper.  How about this… how about an incentive for building a digital or mobile audience?  And, please don’t make yourself feel all innovative by making that bonus some little token amount.  How about making the digital/mobile bonus 3x bigger than any ratings bonus?

Forgive my rant – but I’m so exhausted of hearing all these speeches about innovation by consultants, industry watchers, and executive types across our industry.  We all read them, watch them, tweet them, forward them and yet the people who can jump start innovation the fastest continue to fire content managers, downsize content teams, and bonus on budgets or ratings.

It’s time for us to put our money where our mouth is.

I realize most of those at the top of print and broadcasting companies are near retirement.  Some of them even admit openly they’re praying they can hold on long enough to hit 65 without having to find the answers.

Those of us closer to 35 must speak up.  It’s time for courage.  It’s time for risk.  We’ve been gathering hundreds of thousands of followers long before Twitter came along.  We’ve found millions of friends for our personalities and brands since before the founders of Facebook hit puberty.  We know how to create content that attracts millions of dollars of revenue.  We’ve done it on radio.  We can do it on mobile devices and digital platforms.  We won’t get the opportunity to do it within the radio industry unless we all start speaking up more.

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