Quality versus Quantity

Money shouldn’t be the goal – money is the reward you get for ACHIEVEMENT OF the goal.

When you stop to think about how many successful companies understand this – big brands like Apple,  Google, Jet Blue, etc, you also quickly recognize how few radio companies understand this principle.  It’s a rare owner that will tell you that their goal is to do great radio, create an environment where creative people can create, positively impact the community that they are licensed to serve, and profit from doing so. Most owners simply want to skip all of that and just get to the money.

And therein lies the problem.

From everything that I can tell based on the books and the movie, Steve Jobs liked money… but he also liked great design even more. It was his insistence on quality design and innovation that  drove Apple’s success. Just good enough was never good enough. Sure they could have shaved a few dollars off the cost of production by using cheaper materials and less aesthetically pleasing designs, but he made the decision to go with better quality, better design, and charge a premium for it.

Radio has lost its pricing power in most of the big markets because it has become a commodity. Station A gets the same music as station B. Someone does 95 minutes commercial free, while the other station does 98 minutes commercial free. If you’re just a utility offering the same experience as another utility, people will always go with the cheapest option. I like the BP gas station up the road, but occasionally the Marathon station across the street is a few cents cheaper, so I’ll go there. It’s just a utility to me – the experience is the same.

But a great radio station breaks beyond utility status. A great radio station can charge more for “Mojo in the Morning” because it’s a great morning show that you can’t get anywhere else. Great radio stations think like Apple – charge a premium for great design and better quality.

It’s the difference between a brand and a commodity. If a commodity goes away, people replace it with another commodity. If a brand goes away, people protest its absence.

So which one are you? A brand? Or a commodity?

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