The People ARE in Charge!

picardfacepalmOpinions from various corners of the television industry, when placed together, can often open a reader’s eyes to deeper truths about events challenging the broadcast and cable status quo. This is why I try to keep my eyes open for clues that light the path to tomorrow during my reading and study time. Today, I want to provide you with a classic example of this.

First, let’s go back to November of last year and a Mediapost article about the future of television. TV: Evolution or Revolution by Charlene Weisler is a nice overview, although it lacks anything really “new” or profound about what lies ahead. There is a quote in this article, however, that I find utterly fascinating. It comes from Joan Gillman, COO of Time Warner Cable Media. This is no foot soldier making this statement on behalf of TWC; this is a top, top-level executive:

We have trained the consumers to consume media whenever and wherever they want, but what hasn’t caught up is the measurement.”

So basically, TWC believes that the people’s demand to explore media “whenever and wherever they want” was actually implanted in them by the cable giant. Really? This is pure poppycock and anybody with half a brain who’s been paying attention knows it. The people have FORCED media companies into providing them with the content THEY want when and where they want it. It takes a very special kind of arrogance to make the statement “we trained the consumers” when, in fact, the very opposite is true.

This is important, folks, because if you’re of a mind to be influenced by what Ms. Gillman says, you’re going to make mistakes, serious mistakes on the path ahead. For crying out loud, how can anyone so highly placed — at Time Warner Cable, of all places — not acknowledge the revolution of the people brought about by technological disruptions? Wow. It blows my mind.

Now let’s move over to an article from The Street Friday about, well, the future of television. Why Streaming Old Shows Could Backfire on Television Networks by Leon Lazaroff is a reaction piece to the Thursday announcement by Les Moonves in which “his network had signed a deal to license its super-show CSI to a U.S.-subscription-based video-on-demand service, known in the industry as SVOD.” The article contains this remarkable response by Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger from an investor note:

We believe networks need to wean themselves off of SVOD (subscription video on demand) licensing, which we believe is the primary driver of the demise of ad-supported video consumption.”

Wait. What?

Here’s another seemingly intelligent human being (I mean the guy advises people on how to invest their MO-NEY) whose head is actually stuck up his backside. Really, Mr. Juenger? Get onboard the Cluetrain, for crying out loud.

What would happen if the networks actually TOOK this advice? Once again, anybody paying any attention can easily come to the correct answer: Bye-bye networks. Hello? The people are in charge today, as Jay Rosen first tagged them, “The people formerly known as the audience.” This moron actually thinks that people would climb back into the casket of viewing on somebody else’s schedule complete with commercials to pad the ride.

OMG!

So here’s the point. Both of these quotes point to a self-deluded ignorance that has gone to seed. It’s rampant out there, folks! This is exactly why the industry is doomed to collapse under the weight of such ill-informed and ignorant leadership.

Repeat after me: The. People. Are. In. Charge! We need to be meeting their needs and not our own, for in pressing our needs first, we are guaranteeing ourselves an empty chair at tomorrow’s table.

The Right Way to do Customer Service

I received this 2 days after contacting Vanguard

I received this 2 days after contacting Vanguard

It’s been many years since the “Dell Hell” episode in the life of Jeff Jarvis, and customer service across the country continues to have its ups and mostly downs. In my limited experience, however, I sense that companies are really trying to use technology to assist with the heavy lifting today, although we still have a very long way to go (will somebody please invent a replacement for telephone answering technology?).

I want to share with you today a remarkable experience I had last Wednesday with Vanguard USA, a manufacturing company that specializes in photo, video, and hunting accessories. In my case, I was looking for a quick release shoe (see photo) for Alicia’s old tripod, made by Vanguard under the Forceguard brand. My search for this was like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, and I ended up on Vanguard’s website. They offered 10 or so quick shoes, but the dimensions weren’t offered, so I was stuck. On their contact page, right under their phone number, is an email address. At first, I was taken aback. I mean who knew? I clicked on it, opening my Outlook and presenting me with a simple method of contact.

Below is the entire email chain. Note especially the time stamps. Every company in America (hell, the whole world) could learn from this, and I am happy to present it here for you:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 12:28pm

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m in need of a quick release plate for an older Forceguard (Vanguard) tripod (MG5-OS). The opening for the plate clasp is 1 1/2″ x 1 3/4”. Do any of your QS products (except #40) fit that criteria? You don’t give the dimensions.

Sorry, but I really NEED this.

Thanks,

Terry

Terry Heaton
7435 S Catawba Circle NW
Madison, AL 35757

12:59pm

Terry–

Thank you for your email and your interest in our products.

You need the QS-36. You can purchase it from our website at www.vanguardworld.com

We thank you for choosing VANGUARD and we hope to keep you as a satisfied customer.

Michelle Rainbolt
Repair Technician
Vanguard USA Inc

1:22pm

Your are amazing! Thanks.

Terry Heaton

1:27pm

I ordered the part, Michelle. Too bad I can’t request overnight shipping. Seems like something’s missing in your ordering process. I need that sucker and was willing to pay what’s necessary to get it. Boo-hoo.

Terry Heaton

2:01pm

Terry–

Call me here at the Service Center 800–875-3322 x120 and I will see what I can do…

Michelle Rainbolt

2:39pm

Terry–

It will be going out today 2nd day air. Tracking # is as follows: 1zew00150265006143

Michelle Rainbolt

3:03pm

You are SUCH a blessing. Can you give me name/email of your supervisor? I’m so often underwhelmed with anybody’s “customer service,” that I’m really trying to come to grips with the opposite. Love to get you a raise.

Terry Heaton

Thursday, February 5, 2015 12:48pm
Email to Michelle’s supervisor:

Dear Lynn,

I had just a wonderful customer service experience with a staff member of yours yesterday. I’ve got to say that in all my years of contact with various “customer service” units, I’ve really never had one quite so positive as I had yesterday with Michelle Rainbolt. You know, everybody has horror stories, and I always dread contacting companies, because it’s just so often useless. Just the fact that your company provides an email address online that is actually watched is remarkable, and I appreciate it so much. I sent my need (a little Quick Shoe for an old tripod), and Michelle got back to me within the hour to give me the information I needed. Unbelievable! I then went to your website and made the purchase. Unfortunately, speedy delivery was not an option, so I wrote Michelle back to thank her and tell her I wished I had the option of 1 or 2 day delivery. She got back to me immediately and actually gave me her direct line. So I called and spent 5 minutes on the phone with her, where she was able to arrange 2nd day delivery for me. I’ll now have my part tomorrow, and I am one truly HAPPY customer.

Give Michelle a raise, pat yourself on the back, and go tell your CEO that I said he runs a terrific company.

Thank you so much,

Terry

1:24pm

Terry,

Thank you so much for the kind words for Michelle.
I have shared your email with the whole company, because you are correct too often we only hear the bad.

Thanks again.

Best Regards,

Lynn A. Slagle

Local” is Losing to Outsiders

cofc2Long ago, my friend Bob Papper, he of the RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey on the state of local radio and television news, said something in a meeting I attended long ago that really struck home. “Television,” he said, “didn’t hurt radio by taking away their listeners; TV hurt radio by taking away their money.” He was talking, of course, about advertising and how radio “money” was shifted to TV, which had a dramatic impact on the industry. This wise observation is something we all should be considering today, as digital innovative disruptions are similarly now impacting even television.

Local television stations are currently meeting bottom line needs largely through cable fees that may not last forever. Cable is under attack from many areas, most notably the ability of customers now to go directly to the studios, the networks, and others, for example, via services like Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and Hulu. They can get their programming through digital technology in what is called OTT (over the top), and it threatens to hurt cable by taking away its money, too. This is the sort Darwinian evolution of human advancement, where nothing seems to last forever.

But it goes way beyond that. I’m reminded of the wonderful question asked many years ago by John Hagel of the Deloitte Center for the Edge in a most interesting essay. “What if there is no equilibrium?” He was speaking of a business environment in constant flux due to disruptions that come left and right. I like Hagel’s thinking on this, and the uncertainty within the West’s entire advertising hegemony is evidence that we really don’t know what to do.

So once again, one model is being shredded by another, and the real issue is money. And we’re talking LOTS of it. Chambers of Commerce need to be very concerned about this, for the revolution in advertising impacts local communities in ways that are insidious and potentially very damaging. Advertising dollars being spent by people in your communities are leaving those communities today in record numbers, and all the signs suggest it will continue rising. According to Borrell Associates, a company that studies LOCAL dollars spent online, the lion’s share of money spent by local advertisers online today goes to outside companies, many based in Silicon Valley. Most of that is money used that to be spent with local media companies.

Digital advertising at the local level will grow, by our estimate, 42% this year. At that rate it would account for $2 out of every $5 spent by local advertisers. It’s grown to the level of dominance that newspapers enjoyed for years, until the late 1990s.”

But those dollars are not being taken in by local companies, as they were in the late 90s. Online “pure-plays,” and Borrell notes that there are “thousands of them,” are scooping up bigger and bigger shares of local dollars.

In 2015, these independent companies will account for nearly three-fourths of all digital advertising, elbowing out local-media competitors who have tried for two decades to use their existing sales forces to also sell digital advertising.”

These outsiders pay no taxes. They employ no local residents. They do not contribute to the local community chest. They don’t go to churches, shop at local businesses, or send their kids to local schools. They don’t buy Girl Scout cookies or contribute to any club, service organization, fundraising or charitable effort. They don’t support the local ball clubs or go to the State Fair. They are outsiders threatening the parochial nature of most communities, big or small, across America.

The reason I use the term “insidious” in describing this is because the local businesses spending their money with Google, Amazon, Facebook or whomever are actually contributing to their own downfall. It’s the ultimate shell game. Look here, move there. These businesses can’t help it, because Google works, and it’s cheap. They make everything SO easy. But what good is that ad on Facebook, if it eventually leads to a broken economy where you live? One day, we will wake up and discover that everybody has gone, because the money drain on our communities will force them elsewhere. Think I’m exaggerating?

To paraphrase Ross Perot, “That sucking sound you hear is the lifeblood of your community being drawn by vampires a thousand miles away.”

Local media companies are really at fault here. As Borrell correctly notes, they are all playing in the wrong stadium when it comes to online advertising. It is highly sophisticated, elegant, and oh so complicated. They don’t understand it, think it’s the “same game” that they’ve always played, and insist that their brands will protect them. These are all insidious lies that now threaten the status quo in Anywhere, USA.

As the people at Block say, “Wake up America! It’s time to get your billions back!”

The strange mystery of the Southern GOP

I’ve been thinking a lot about the political “right” these days, and that’s caused me to remember some things from way back. My dad was a Stevenson Democrat and had little use for Dwight Eisenhower. He didn’t do a lot of talking about politics, but he would get riled up sometimes during the televised conventions. He was a labor guy and regarded the GOP as representing rich people, the “silk stockings.” He absolutely hated Richard Nixon, but then, who didn’t in 1960?

Kennedy in Grand Rapids

John Kennedy in Grand Rapids, October 14, 1960.

On October 14th of 1960, John Kennedy was running for President and came to Grand Rapids to campaign and support a Democrat running for governor. The car route went through the far reaches of our neighborhood, so we all walked a mile or so down Silver Street to Burton Street to watch the motorcade as it made its way downtown. Kennedy was mesmerizing, and all of America was in love with him. We weren’t any different, and I’ll never forget that experience. He was perched atop the back seat of a 4-door convertible, and we all had a good view.

It’s occurred to me how far things have swung since those days, when there was a clear political line dividing the haves from the have-nots. The awful deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in 1968 led to riots everywhere, and Nixon came in as the law-and-order guy. Gerald Ford was definitely of the silk stocking group, and he didn’t last, but events were stirring in the South that would change everything.

First, Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia, was elected President. What a disaster.

Then, the rise of the televangelists in the late 70s and early 80s led to a remarkable shift. There was suddenly no such thing as a “Conservative Democrat” anymore, and moral issues such as abortion and prayer in schools were cleverly exploited by the GOP to build a new allegiance in the South. I played a part in this as Senior Producer of The 700 Club. Turns out the televangelists were also courting the wealthy side of the GOP, further cementing the relationship. You pat my back and I’ll pat yours. That’s not to suggest anything disingenuous on the part of the religious right; it was just very convenient.

Today, I’m afraid that many of my neighbors here in Alabama and in other places I’ve worked since I first set foot south of the Mason-Dixon line in 1979 are still conservative, as they were all those years ago. However, they’ve switched parties now, and I keep wondering when they’ll figure out that “their” party still represents corporate America, the wealthy, and the silk stockings of old. Evangelical Christianity is second nature down here, and one of the most common expressions is “God bless you.” Any politician worth his salt would never challenge the faithful, and that means those awful “liberal democrats” are the enemy. It seems impossible to crack that ignorance, and my dad would be amazed. “Poor people in the GOP? What are they thinking?” It seems to me they are being used by smart people who know what buttons to push publicly while quietly voting to keep the rural poor just as poor as they’ve always been and then blaming the Democrats’ spending.

Let me tell you, friends. There’s such a profound set of lies floating around down here that I just don’t see how it can last.

Fox News: A Most Dangerous Cancer

For years, I have quietly criticized Fox News for their deliberate pressing of the agenda of the Right. Today, I’m prepared to publicly and loudly call Fox News THE most dangerous cancer on Western Civilization and perhaps the whole world. I believe deeply that all of my conservative friends need to examine the matter and their own hearts. You don’t realize what’s happening, perhaps because you believe their propaganda, but more likely because you simply trust they are speaking for you. You support the Right. They are the mouthpiece of the Right. Fair enough.

I believe in point-of-view journalism. I produced The 700 Club in the early 80s, so I’m familiar with slanted news. It’s okay, but your bias must be stated up front. Fox doesn’t do this, and the problem I have is the degree the disinformation has reached, whether it’s deliberate or not.

Last night, Shep Smith described the video of the Jordanian pilot being murdered. The banner beneath him said “Islamic State Execution.” This is a deliberate, inaccurate and highly inflammatory phrase, and it comes from an ignorance so profound that it’s really difficult to comprehend. I don’t care what name this organized crime group goes by, to repeat the phrase “Islamic State” requires a person or organization with so little knowledge of history, the Islamic faith, and contemporary manipulation that it truly boggles the mind.

Moreover, here’s a quote from Bret Briar during his dinner-hour “special” report: “Tonight, we are going to show you some of the images ISIS has put out. The images are brutal. They are graphic. They are upsetting. You may want to turn away. You may want to have the children leave the room. Right now. But the reason we are showing you this is to bring you the reality of Islamic terrorism. And to label it as such. We feel you need to see it.”

Again, these criminals, as the King of Jordan said earlier this week, are NOT Islamic, so their deeds CAN NOT be described as “Islamic terrorism.” They cannot be, people! And again, this is ignorance gone to seed. I refuse to believe that it’s deliberate, for if it is, it’s a conspiracy so deep and widespread as to defy anybody’s logic OR common sense. I have family in Jordan that believes otherwise, so I have to keep an open mind.

But here’s why I think Fox News is a dangerous cancer: If this continues, we will find ourselves plunged into World War III in the place where war originated, and how do you think that’s going to go?

Fox News is war mongering, and I despise it.

An Open Letter to the DEA & DHHS

February 1, 2015

An Open Letter to the DEA and DHHS,

May I ask for a show of hands? How many of you have actually set foot inside a pain clinic? Uh-huh. Thought so. Your dictatorial directive last year that went into effect on October 6, 2014 reclassifying all hydrocodone combination products (HCP) as Schedule II narcotics has sent more than just shock waves through the chronic pain community. So let me take you inside the typical pain clinic, so I can give you an idea of the unintended consequences your action has had.

First of all, as you look around the room, you’ll see that everybody is suffering. It’s not uncommon to hear crying and moaning in the waiting area. Pain is pain, and the audacity with which you have poked these people in the eyes with your thumbs is inhuman. That’s right. It’s inhuman. Secondly, you’ll notice that about two-thirds are elderly, many crippled, in wheelchairs, walkers or canes. These people, for the most part, have made the difficult choice — with the approval of their doctor — to live a life of addiction to pain medication rather than deal with the ravages of chronic pain. These are often the poor and the afflicted, which don’t have the choice of expensive surgeries to perhaps correct the many ways in which they’ve been betrayed by their bodies. They live in an ugly prison, and you, in your suits and ties, have no idea of what I’m talking about. On an emotional level, you’ve made every one of these people feel like criminals just so they can get the medicines that allow them at least a degree of comfort and dignity. How dare you do that to these poor people?

You, of course, will be quick to defend the decision, because, after all, they can still get their medicine, right? You are fools. You have no idea of what you’ve set in place, so let me tell you. Everybody — every single person or profession in the treatment and care of chronic pain — has been negatively affected by this change. You dictate, for example, the inventory a major pharmacy can have on hand. I know an elderly man who was thrown into horrible withdrawal symptoms, because his pharmacy didn’t have enough on hand to completely fill his prescription. Why not give him a few pills to last until they got them in? Because your rules prohibit that. No partial refills. Moreover, you now only allow one 30-day prescription at a time. That means unnecessary travel to the doctor EVERY MONTH, which, if you have chronic pain, is not such a fun thing. You’ve scared the crap out of everybody; especially the big chain corporately operated drug stores, whose attorneys have come down hard on the local pharmacies to insure compliance with your ridiculous rules. That’s right, ridiculous. Independent pharmacies may quietly offer a wee more flexibility, because corporations don’t govern them. The problem is that’s not where most people get their medicine. The entire chronic pain community now functions under the watchful eyes of a seemingly autonomous Federal agency that has unlimited power in the name of “fighting” drugs. Again, what is wrong with you?

Folks, I’m not here to suggest that your motives were evil in taking this step. You certainly have a difficult job. I think you all need to seriously examine your own hearts, though, and I hope somebody from Congress, the Courts or the Administration is listening. Chronic pain sufferers vote, too. We all understand the war on drugs (how’s that going, by the way?), but let me make one simple statement for you to think about:

You’ve severely punished those who have no choice in taking opiates in the name of cracking down on those who do. Why in God’s name would you do such a thing?

I hope the high-5s and the attaboys were worth it. You’re doing SUCH great work!

Regards,

Terry Heaton
7435 S. Catawba Circle NW
Madison, AL 35757