Bob Pittman – Lessons from Building Media Empires | Founder’s Field Guide with Patrick O’Shaughnessy

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Key Takeaways

  • It’s a mistake to think about your audience as one big group of people
    • You have a coalition of a lot of small segments that have come together
    • If you fail to understand them separately you are talking to no one
  • Consumers are on an eternal quest for convenience
    • If your product saves people’s time or makes their life easier they’ll be happy to pay for it
  • What makes good hosts?
    • They have to be willing to be honest, even if it doesn’t make them look good
      • People will see them as a friend, as opposed to seeing them as a star
    • “You wanna be a good host? Know how to tell a story” Bob Pittman
  • Bob sees the media business model as building relationships with consumers, and then “renting it” to third parties
    • You can’t let advertisers abuse your relationship
  • If you can figure out how to be important to the consumer, you’ll figure out how to make money
  • To be more creative, listen hard, and value every experience you have
    • “The great idea is just as likely to come from a production assistant, as it is from the president of production, or your kid, or a friend of theirs, or a cab driver” Bob Pittman

Intro

  • Bob Pittman (@PittmanRadio)  is an entrepreneur and investor, he founded MTV and is currently the CEO of iHeartMedia, the country’s largest operator of radio stations
  • Host: Patrick O’Shaughnessy (@patrick_oshag)
  • In this chat, Bob discusses the lessons he learned as the co-founder of MTV and CEO of iHeartMedia

Understanding Consumers in the Media Industry

  • Bob used to describe himself as a sociologist
    • His main concern is with understanding the consumers
    • Bob was able to move through different industries thanks to his deep understanding of consumers’ behaviors
  • It’s a mistake to think about your audience as one big group of people
    • You have a coalition of a lot of small segments that have come together
  • If you fail to understand your sub-segments you are talking to no one
    • People often look at averages, instead of the real distribution
    • If your users are 20 and 40 years old, it’s a mistake to think about your average user as a 30-year-old
      • You don’t have any 30-year-olds

Convenience is King

  • Consumers are on an eternal quest for convenience
    • If your product saves people’s time or makes their life easier they’ll be happy to pay for it
  • Most consumers will take convenience over quality
    • This doesn’t mean to compromise on quality, but you should remember to maximize convenience
  • Examples of how Bob’s businesses focused on convenience
    • AOL made the internet easier to use
    • Cable networks such as MTV, ESPN, CNN were a precursor of on-demand
      • They realized that consumers wanted to be able to choose when to watch news, sports, and music
      • Cable networks provided a specific offering 24 hours allowing consumers to watch them when they wanted

MTV, Podcasts and the Importance of the Host

  • In the early days, MTV was more like a radio than a TV channel
    • Its main purpose was keeping people company
  • It was not only about the music videos, viewers felt a sense of connection
    • They bonded with the DJ or Host playing the music
  • Podcasts are similar in this way, they are “host-driven”
    • Some people think about podcasts in terms of what works on TV (story and production value)
    • Podcast listeners form a deep bond with the host, and that’s what they value the most
  • What makes good hosts?
    • They have to be willing to be honest, even if it doesn’t make them look good
      • People will see them as a friend, as opposed to seeing them as a star
    • “You wanna be a good host? Know how to tell a story” Bob Pittman
      • Keep it simple
      • Focus on what’s relevant for the audience, instead of focusing on yourself

What Makes a Well-Run Media Business

  • First, know your mission
    • If you’re just trying to sell advertising, you don’t have a business
  • Build a strong bond with the consumer
    • Bob sees the media business model as building relationships with consumers, and then “renting” it to third parties
      • You can’t let advertisers abuse your relationship
      • You have to be careful about what you allow advertisers to do
    • If you can figure out how to be important to the consumer, you’ll figure out how to make money
  • Treat consumers with respect, you never go wrong by doing so
    • “They’ve given you their trust, if you blow it by selling it off in some irresponsible way, it may not affect you today, it may not affect you next year, it will affect you eventually” Bob Pittman

Creativity and Magic in Business

  • Bob thinks about marketing as the union of math and magic
    • You have to understand the data about consumers
      • Amazon, Facebook, and Google are great at this
    • Few companies can do magic better than radio
      • Radio is able to get people really excited
  • The biggest problem to our creativity is the blinders that we put on ourselves
    • We tend to be most creative when we are young because we don’t know enough
      • Knowing too much becomes a burden to creativity
    • How do you keep the blinders from killing creativity?
      • Bob always looks to have new experiences to open his mind
  • Bob’s creative process
    • He acquires all the information he needs to know and then forgets about it
    • The right idea usually comes to him in his most relaxed state, when taking a shower
    • When dealing with ad agencies he doesn’t like to go through their standard processes
      • He instructs them to have three different teams independently come up with ideas
  • Listen hard and value every experience you have
    • “The great idea is just as likely to come from a production assistant, as it is from the president of production, or your kid, or a friend of theirs, or a cab driver” Bob Pittman

Uncertainty and Planning

  • Everything is uncertain
    • “Plans are sort of funny because we invent plans to reduce our anxiety about the future” Bob Pittman
  • Plans always need to be adjusted
    • The best managers know that everything’s changing and are willing to throw out their plans
    • Rather they constantly observe the present to understand what the future will be

Additional Notes

  • The day that Bob realized that MTV was going to make a profit, he also realized that there was no “arriving” at a destination, there was more work to do
    • “There is no such thing as success or failure, there are just stepping stones, you don’t stop on either one of them, you keep going” Bob Pittman
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Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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