Be Disruptive

Digital disruption. You’ve probably noticed that it’s everywhere. The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided the case of American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v Aereo. Aereo is the new technology that for just $8/month will let you use a tiny antenna to capture and record over-the-air programming to watch on your TV, tablet or smartphone. The clever people at Aereo were one of several companies working to disrupt the TV business by giving the people exactly what they want. The Supremes (not the ones with Diana Ross) on Wednesday decided what they were actually doing was violating copyrights.

But one defeat is unlikely to reverse the disruption of digital media distribution. Clearly no corner of the media business is safe from this wave of “creative destruction.” Every medium has been disrupted, and some (the music industry) have been blown to smithereens. It can be terrifying when the things your business has done for years stop working, or at least don’t work as well as they used to. And it’s worse when some smart-alecky upstart tries to eat your lunch. But you do have a choice – you can drop back into a defensive position and try to protect your business-as-usual, or you can become the disruptor!

The only way out of this new paradigm is forward through innovation, through challenging the old models, and seeking out new opportunities to provide something different to your audience, or to new audiences. Traditional media, especially radio, has a tremendous opportunity, as Apple once encouraged us, to “think different.”

Recently, we’ve seen a wave of experimentation in the radio space, lots of it from smaller markets and smaller operators who’ve realized that business-as-usual isn’t getting the job done. It always makes me smile when I see people getting out of the linear audio mindset.

What all these efforts have in common is a willingness to shake off the constraints of tradition, and make a small bet on something really different. Following the rules of the “lean start-up” with a willingness to “fail fast,” these efforts may or may not work, but the learning gained is hugely valuable. By disrupting their own businesses these companies have a better chance of finding (or maybe failing) their way to success.

So who do you want to be? The disrupted? Or the disruptor?

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