Bring in the oxygen tanks Pt II


Part 1 took a look at all the antics of Mad Money’s Jim Cramer. Now, Cramer is nuts (but often right), but today we’re talking about a proven visionary, Lee Abrams. He has introduced himself to the troops at Tribune Company where he was brought in as Chief Innovation Officer. Get ready, here comes the culture change and action to turn that old battleship into a sleek racing boat. Summing up the team of Sam Zell, Randy Michaels and now Lee Abrams inside the old Tribune, you truly have to start pumping in a lot of oxygen in for people who are confirmed old media types, especially when Lee writes to the Trib staff and talks about "Soul, Art, Passion, and Character."

Lee is an old friend and colleague going back to our ABC Radio days when I was PD at Top 40 KQV Pittsburgh.  Now, fast-forward another 34 years and while reading Lee’s blog another colleague and friend, Bill "Fig" Figenshu commented to me on Lee’s writing, so I’ll share it with ya – "If any of the major public radio companies hired a chief innovation officer and let her/him develop change, then actually fund a few new ideas, I suspect these large companies may have a chance."


Lee Abrams, Tribune’s new innovation chief, writes to the staff:
"Please forgive this rambling introduction letter, but I am ecstatic with no-bullshit excitement and pride in joining The Tribune Company.

Soul. I hope I can bring that out in us. Soul is something that big companies rarely have. And having it not only improvers the spirit, but it’s a competitive advantage. Most media companies are soul-less. If we have Soul, we have a dramatic intangible advantage. Historically, the great companies had Soul. In the modern era, they do not. You know the ones that do. Those companies have FANS not just users.

Art. How unfashionable in today’s bottom line World. But we need to be artists. Media Artists.  A great artist delivers something that lasts and touches people. If we approach EVERYTHING from mail delivery in the building to breaking stories with an artist Point of View, we will create lasting change. Artists create Quality. Quality lasts. Art enriches lives. We can/will re-define the art of brilliant media.

Economics. I am an economic dunce. My old company (XM Radio) would give me free vacation days during budget season so I’d stay out of the process. I know the ‘buzz’ is cutbacks, fear, paranoia etc…Hey-that’s part of the reality for survival. But I hope to encourage revenue growth in a different way. Simply put-If Tribune properties turn users into fans and we make intelligent moves to significantly (and dramatically) increase circulation and viewership, the revenue WILL skyrocket. That I know.

But I’ve also witnessed creative people being beaten up by the financial realities to the point where it’s taken their eye off the future and are operating under fear and nostalgia. How about channeling the fear into writing the future? Everyone will win…emotionally, creatively and economically.

PASSION, CHARACTER AND MUSCLE: Passion is just that. Like Soul and Art – intangibles that Joe Media Executive doesn’t ‘get,’ but secret weapons in the mission of enlightening people with our content. Character is the need to LIVE outside the envelope (cliché-sorry). And Muscle is what we have. This company is bad ass big – channeled right, that muscle can change the world!"


OK, guess that got your attention. When RBR/TVBR reported that legendary radio programmer Lee Abrams was jumping from XM Satellite Radio to join Tribune Company as its first-ever Chief Innovation Officer 03/12/08 RBR #50, some of you who don’t know Lee may have wondered why it was such a big deal.

Our RBR/TVBR observation then: Sam Zell, Randy Michaels and Lee Abrams – what a team! Some people would find each and every one of them to be overbearing, off-the-wall and just plain nuts. Each of the three would probably take that as a compliment.

No status quo thinking here. Will they be able to reshape the American media landscape by changing how 160-year-old Tribune Company approaches its various businesses? Will they turn this boring, old four-door media sedan into a turbo-charged hot rod? One thing is for sure – it will be fun to watch them try.

I don’t know Zell, but I personally know Michaels and Abrams. I offer one little piece of advice – don’t strap on that helmet too tight because what they say they will do, they will.

But it is the unexpected you have to watch out for. The Michaels/Abrams team are program directors – I for one am going to love this ride because they know as I do, Content is King. If you are lucky enough to be working with these guys, best order in extra oxygen tanks and breathe deep.

Post your comments below or send your comments with photo to me at [email protected]  We are always looking for great content to make people think. The Independent Digital Future of Radio, TV mediums Starts Here!

(More of his comment to the Tribune staff may be found at Lee Abrams’ blog)