Cover Story: John Parikhal on The Media Fix

John Parikhal

Never one to stand still and accept the status quo, John Parikhal has been a leading-edge thinker in the broad based media markets for over thirty years. As CEO of media strategy company Joint Communications, he has worked with a multitude of clients including TBS, MTV, VH1, XM Radio, Rolling Stone Magazine, Pepsi, Wendy’s, Molson, CBS, NBC, ABC, Time Warner and Radio One, as well as major record companies and radio stations in the United States, Canada and around the world.
In addition to operating Joint Communications, Parikhal has also formed a partnership with global media and entertainment expert Taran Swan who has worked with market leaders Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network over a twenty year media and entertainment career. Earlier this year the two multi-media doctors unveiled their latest venture, The Media Fix blog at http://www.gomediafix.com. It’s a must see site for all media and marketing executives who choose to be actionable in their approach to today’s solutions.

John Parikhal on imagination: If you take the commitment away from imagination, eventually you’ll even lose corporate focus.

e-QB presents excerpts from the NovemberFMQB magazine Cover Story with John Parikhal, CEO, Joint Communications

On the core concept of his new blog The Media Fix… The Media Fix became a way for us to start a dialog around the ongoing critical issues of the Internet, integrating ideas that parallel the broadcast and related fields. It’s not strictly about the digital space. We’re interested in all areas of media and technology focused on this changing world and its effects on the consumer. I’ve always been consumer focused. We want to stay on top of change to anticipate and help companies take effective competitive action while staying connected with the consumer.The Growth Curve is an important part of assessing where a company is and where it will go. Phase 1 in almost every business is the Discovery Phase during which you are figuring things out and investing a lot of time in the process which begins with losing more than gaining. You actually go down the Growth Curve before you go up. Once you discover what is really working you start duplicating the pattern of success. The Phase 2 is the Normative Phase where you duplicate what you have discovered and formatting becomes king. It’s also where you make the most money because of the repetition process. The Phase 3 is to rethink and modify what’s worked for you in Phase 2. It’s critical to the future of your business. You can get trapped in Phase 2 because of consistent success through repetition. However if you’re not thinking ahead and modifying your model, someone else will do it for you which can lead to disaster.

On the “Growth Curve” concept on the site which is an integral part of John’s strategic thinking…

On applying this concept to the radio industry…Radio is rethinking, modifying and innovating a lot these days. Some radio companies are doing really smart and creative things on the Internet. Radio is asking for innovation from their suppliers because they had to. You never really change unless you have to. As you move along the Growth Curve, whether you like it or not, after you make a lot of money duplicating the old pattern, it stops working and everybody always ends up at the rethink and modify stage or else they die.Radio is being innovative but there’s often confusion between innovation and top down initiatives. Top down initiatives are seldom innovative. They are usually the result of a committee meeting and jamming out something that’s sub-optimal but agreeable to all parties. Consolidation was developing managers burdened with too many responsibilities and radio lost its innovative edge.

On radio innovating based on a survivability mechanism…
All businesses are like that. Radio just happens to be in that place on the Growth Curve and the curve is moving them along. The tough part on radio is that the management of innovation is a skill that hasn’t been taught correctly. They factor so little training into radio anymore. It’s a real issue. You have to be more sensitive to your employees’ imaginations. If you beat up your people when they come to you with ideas that are sometimes off the wall, they won’t come to you with ideas that are sometimes great. Human beings crave positive reinforcement. If you take the commitment away from imagination, eventually you’ll even lose the corporate focus. We’re seeing that in radio this year with CBS and Clear Channel. Even they are starting to think that maybe the idea of owning huge numbers of radio stations is not a core business the way it used to be. Maybe being smaller and more nimble and focused on areas where you can make more money is the way to go. Sometimes the plan to be smaller is an attractive strategy.You need to look at where people are spending their entertainment time and incorporate your product into their lives. You need to look at Internet usage. We need to forecast where the population’s going to be in three to five years and beyond. One of the most amazing things about radio is they hardly ever look ahead at demographics and yet it’s very predictable what the future composition of a population will be based on current data. There are predictable growth patterns in cultural groups that can be forecast. It’s very powerful information that current radio management could utilize.

On the impact of radio’s innovation initiatives…

On too many top-down directives from radio companies…

On where radio fits into peoples’ lives in three to five years…

On whether other companies will follow Clear Channel’s privatization move once money and banking becomes freer…There’s been much talk about that for the last few years. Why not cash out when you’re experiencing record highs and margins? That time has passed. The circumstances are different now with the critical banking issues. Radio has also done a poor job of marketing its value to induce investors. Radio executives admit they’ve done a poor job in selling their medium. With radio’s emphasis on short-term returns for so long, eventually it ran out of gas. You run out of gas when you don’t reinvest in your business and for too long there was no reinvestment leaving radio vulnerable.

On assessing what happened to the music industry over the past decade…The music industry has turned into an oligopoly. If someone said to you ten years ago that the music industry would be down to only four major music groups ten years later, you’d have thought they were crazy. After all, music consumption has grown to be more ubiquitous than ever. But there were two huge disruptive technology forces that came along at exactly the same time, file sharing and the mp3, which basically blew the industry up. The scenario was the same as the turkey discovered on Thanksgiving: the hand that feeds you (the abused music buying customer) is also the hand that rings your neck.The old music industry model is on the downward side of the rethink and modify curve, and it’s literally going back to square one, which is Phase 1 on the Growth Curve. New music sales are down but licensing is way up. That’s not to say the catalog and the licensing aren’t valuable, but the huge sums from licensing are not necessarily going to the record labels. The economics have totally changed. I do believe today’s labels are being run much smarter with a new breed of executive. But they really need to get the digital download model down quickly.The label that figured it out best is Hollywood Records where they finally started utilizing the Disney model. You look at what they’re doing among their properties like Radio Disney, films, TV, ‘Tween artists and the record side. They use all of these areas to market and brand their artists to limit resistance from radio. They figured out one audience better than anyone else. Disney looked at demographics five years ago and kept saying, ‘Look at all of these 8 year-olds. Do you know how old their going to be in five years? My God, there are millions of them. Going forward the businesses that will do best are those that increase the 4 C’s: convenience, connection, control and context. Customers love convenience. And if you increase connection through social networking and data base fan clubs and marketing, it heightens the customer experience. Context is simply making sense of things. The more you push the 4C’s, the more successful you’re going to be because that’s the way the world is going. The connection side is a very big deal and radio, in many cases, is doing a good job utilizing their web sites and data bases. MySpace is a living example of it, and Facebook is the ultimate in connections. People will want more of that.

On analyzing the music business changes this decade…

On which record company marketing model John admires most these days…

On trends he sees coming that will heavily influence the media world…

** QB Content by Fred Deane **

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2 Responses

  1. hello johnnie O
    funny, but it has now been 5 yrs since i sold my business. more than a year ago you told me to read “the black swan” and i did.. then you told me to read “empire of debt”, and i did. last summer, i transferred most of my stuff to cash and boring notes at 2%. today, when i check my undies, they are still white.
    you were so right! now tell me what do do next.
    futurists would do well to listen to you!!!!!

  2. your story on the Golas CD was fascinating.
    here was my simple theory on pricing.
    our company had limited people and resources (100 team members and 45 CNC computer controlled lathes) to make custom parts for high tech customers in north america.
    the sales people passed all quotes to me for final approval before sending… i almost always marked them up by 25% (small order were more). it was frustrating for them because they were rewarded for sales volume ( and i cared about profit).
    we lost a lot of orders… but those received were very profitable and the company grew.
    we produced excellant quality and always gave on time delivery and that is exactly what some wanted. those customers did not care as much about price. we were also debt free so i could behave like that.
    we kept resources available so that when big fish hit, we could land them and they returned!
    we had a unique reputation for quality and delivery and were noted for being very expensive but when some buyer’s ass was on the line because he screwed up earlier on quality or delivery, he did not want to get slapped again.
    lesson: unique service/product, customer believes in you and feels satisfied at any (reasonable) price.

    god knows would not want to be a manufacturer today in north america (the market has changed so much). we simply did it while we could then thankfully got out!
    i couldn’t sell a $200 Golas CD (but i would buy one)

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