Reality Radio: John & Lew Plus You

By now you may have seen or heard of the reality show Jon & Kate Plus Eight on TLC.

It's about Jon and Kate Gosselin and their eight children —a set of fraternal twin girls and a set of sextuplets (three girls and three boys).

Jon & Kate Plus Eight follows the family through their daily lives, focusing on the challenges of raising a large family.

It strikes me that in the radio industry we have our own reality show called John & Lew Plus You -- a story about John Hogan, the President of Clear Channel Radio, the largest radio consolidator in the world and his fraternal little brother Lew Dickey, Junior who runs Clear Channel Lite (otherwise known as Cumulus).

John & Lew Plus You show follows the two through their daily lives concocting cutbacks and firings and focusing on the challenges of running a radio group when neither one has the skill to do it.

You might be wondering what happened to the other wannabe consolidator, Farid "Fagreed" Suleman, CEO of Citadel.

Well, Fagreed doesn't have time for a reality show right now.

He is on his way to a come-to-Jesus meeting with lenders to try and forestall bankruptcy.

Late last week Fagreed gave the world another hint of where Citadel is heading when he instructed Standard and Poors to stop issuing lousy ratings on his company.

The credit rating agency continues to believe Citadel is increasingly likely to default on its debt service obligations.

Of course, that's old news. But the fact that Citadel requested Standard and Poor’s to withdraw its ratings is news. It appears Fagreed has resigned himself to the inevitable. Why pay a ratings agency for bad news that is shouted from the rooftop?

So Fagreed is otherwise tied up in saving his ass while Clear Channel's John Slogan Hogan and his little brother Lew Dickey, Junior are caught up in a real life comedy/tragedy of their own.

Finally, Hogan has convinced someone he is channeling Jack Welch.

What has resulted is Dickey see -- Dickey Do.

For example.

There is a trend perhaps you've noted where these two companies are hiring people outside the radio industry to help turn around their companies.

You saw it first when Hogan -- the guy who has been firing thousands of seasoned radio employees -- decided to create the new position of Senior VP Revenue Management to be responsible for increasing the companies revenue.

Oh, and he hired a man named John Kaufman to handle the job. Of course, no one working in one of the previously greatest radio groups in the world is capable of doing the work, right? So Slogan Hogan hired Kaufman from outside the radio business.

The closest to on-air Kaufman comes is "in-air" at Priceline and American Airlines. He was most recently Exec VP of Revenue Management and Electronic Marketing at Extended Stay Hotels.

Oh, another thing.

Did I mention that Kaufman was authorized by the Slogan guy to hire up to 40 revenue managers deployed across 150 Clear Channel markets to show these failing radio people how to make money?

So let's see if we can get this right and keep it real.

Hogan started it all by feeling the need to bring in outside people -- even as he was firing arguably some of the best talent in radio -- to show his company how to do radio the way they run Extended Stay Hotels.

And in spite of all the crying in his beer Hogan did about having to fire his brethren, he sure as hell quickly freed up the money for 40 more top level managerial salaries to attract executives with little or no media experience to his sinking ship.

Thank God for a recession because Kaufman's recruiter is earning his or her keep.

Come work for us, we're on the brink of bankruptcy -- but no radio experience necessary.

I've written about this before so I won't burden you with any further details, but what is significant is the effect monkey see - monkey do is beginning to have on the other consolidators.

It's not surprising that the market leader sets the pace positively or negatively.

Now, Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey, Junior is following his new best friend John Slogan Hogan down the fresh minds, new attitudes path by hiring outside the radio industry.

What is it with these guys?

Can't they see that it's not their employees who have fallen down on the job? It's that they have failed their employees.

Nonetheless, Dickey, Junior -- the man who told his employees spy cameras were being installed so corporate can interact with each market -- is in Pinocchio General Hospital to have his nose returned to its normal size.

Some Cumulus employees think that the cameras are no more than a veiled attempt to spy on them.

Now Dickey, Junior is mimicking Clear Channel again as he is looking to anywhere but radio to solve his group's problems.

Dickey told his managers last week that he fired the GM in Albany, GA and Quad Cities and that he was replacing them with two qualified executives from outside the business.

One comes from Cintas Uniform Rentals -- he'll step in at Albany without ever having spent any time working in a radio station.

The Iowa replacement, the managers were told, had some newspaper experience way back when and has been working for John Deere, the farming equipment company which at least makes her qualified to know what bullshit is because she's likely to see a lot of it working for Cumulus.

Now Dickey, Junior will probably reassure his people that he isn't purposely attempting to hire non-radio people even as he fires, furloughs and voice tracks his budget down.

But some believe that Dickey, Junior is trying these non-radio hires out in the small markets first and then they expect to see more inexperienced radio managers at the helm of Cumulus stations. So when you get on today's Cumulus Spy Cam, see if your CEO doesn't indeed reassure you before he marches you to your execution.

Terms have been thrown around like "embracing a new culture" as if the radio culture as we know it is antiquated.

So there you have it.

Two consolidation CEOs who have failed miserably by stock and revenue standards are seemingly pointing a finger at their seasoned pros while they have failed to notice that they have three fingers pointing directly back at them.

And that's what you are likely to see in the months ahead.

CEO's like Fagreed Suleman distracted and desperate to save the company if possible.

And CEO's like Hogan who in my opinion is in over his head (just my opinion) will be shadowed by Lew Dickey, Junior who is following the leader to total destruction.

Say, I have an idea.

Why doesn't Hogan go work for Extended Stay Hotels and Dickey seek employment at a uniform rental company or farm equipment manufacturer? I'm sure their radio experience would make them just as qualified to serve outside of radio as their new hires are qualified to run radio stations.

I'm not saying never hire someone outside the business.

Radio has always been open to all types of people.

I'm saying, hey guys -- you are flushing talent down the toilet at a record pace.

There's a lot of radio people out there with a proven record of accomplishment. After all they built radio into the industry that Wall Street coveted and you took advantage of.

You believe in localism, right?

Hire local.

Since radio CEOs can't be ousted from their positions, we're in for the next insult -- hiring inexperienced outsiders to do the job.

Why am I surprised.

Isn't that how these radio CEOs got their jobs?

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. IMPORTANT: Service doesn't start until you verify an email from "Feedburner" immediately after you sign up (may have to check your filtered mail).

Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.