Apple Taking Care of Business

Steve Jobs, Apple's dynamic baby boomer CEO, made headlines Wednesday when he announced a new generation of iPods and said Apple was going to reduce the price of its top of the line eight gig iPhone by $200.

Of course, if you were an early adopter -- someone Apple needs to drive its innovative businesses -- you could have felt screwed.

But, one day later Jobs made it right by offering all those who paid $200 too much a credit of $100.

"We want to do the right thing for our valued iPhone customers," Jobs said. "We apologize for disappointing some of you, and we are doing our best to live up to your high expectations of Apple."

Not only is this the right thing to do for the customer, it's the right thing to do for Apple.

You'd be lucky to get out of an Apple store or off spending only the $100 credit.

What Jobs has done is brilliant because he smooths ruffled feathers and gives his customers a little play money to put toward other Apple gear.

What gear?

One of those new iPods he demonstrated. Some software. A new battery. The new Mac operating system update when it becomes available in October.

Who knows?

And who cares?

Hell, the holidays are coming and many of us have kids. You know what kids want.

There are many things for us to learn from this quirky, odd and talented new age CEO.

One, he's old and it doesn't matter that he is old.

So for all those radio people out there trying to hang on for a few more years before the ship sinks, you're making a mistake. The ship doesn't sink if you take one lesson from Jobs: know the youth market better than they know themselves.

Thanks to Clear Channel, I have had the chance these past four years in my own way to go where I would never have gone -- the college campus, face-to-face with a generation I frankly thought I knew.

I didn't.

Even though I have a daughter in college, I looked at things differently when I looked at my own flesh and blood.

But I know more now and fully realize that the things I thought matter, don't.

They just don't.

1. All Clear Channel's money couldn't help them operate the 1,100 stations and assets they bought as an elite public company. They undervalued their people -- the most important resource.

2. Sony's dominance of the Walkman market couldn't give them a leg up in the digital MP3 market. In fact, it hurt them. They paved the way for this guy Jobs who knew what his customers wanted instead of what sister company Sony Records was worried about -- piracy.

3. Yahoo is a new age company that looks embattled like a traditional media company. You mean young companies with lots of young people can take their eyes off the prize, too? That's how Google surpassed them.

4. Sumner Redstone is not as crazy as some people think. Viacom and CBS are hanging in there. Maybe Sumner isn't getting down with the youth, but someone there is.

5. You don't have to be young to think young, but you do have to open your mind to their new ways of thinking. For them, stealing music is not stealing. There are legitimate ethical issues here, I know. But as a business issue, you must see beyond what sticks in your craw. Their dislike of radio isn't personal. They've just traveled elsewhere. You have to travel with them.

6. Record labels are history because they forgot how to value their customers -- the young folks who buy their product and support their artists. The labels stopped taking risks and hunkered down to make boring music. They sued their customers. Now what if Apple sued their customers? What if they stonewalled them like Sony did when they tried to encode CDs a few years back? I don't recall Sony making good on those CDs. It's one thing to take your customers for granted and it's quite another to wage war against them.

So Steve Jobs, who amazes me in so many ways, is reminding all of us that good business is doing right by the customer.

Just as endless numbers of radio stations have done over the years when they've given make-goods to advertisers they've disappointed.

Jobs didn't make a mistake.

He made a brilliant marketing move.

And I know my readers in the music-related media know exactly what I'm talking about.

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