The Yin and Yang of Media Sales

cc-to-pandoraIs it mere coincidence that hot on the heels of the announcement by Clear Channel about reducing the size of their sales force, Pandora has announced that it is hiring salespeople?

Clear Channel and CBS, who stand to lose the most from Pandora’s move, deny that Pandora is a significant competitor. Uh-huh. Since when is a “station” that comes out of nowhere to rank, in some cases, in the top five, not a competitor?

From all accounts, Pandora is taking a page from the radio playbook in setting up sales offices in their top markets, staffing those offices with sales pros who—and I hope this is not just a projection on my part—intend to meet with clients face to face.

Meanwhile, Clear Channel is rewriting a page from the radio playbook, and in doing so, is ignoring a whole stack of evidence that what they want to do, won’t work.

Remember when we thought that the brick-and-mortar retail store was dead because of online commerce? It is true that several badly-operated stores and chains bit the dust, but now comes word that Amazon, of all outfits, is planning to open retail locations. Walmart, Staples, Best Buy and many others offer free shipping on items ordered online and picked up at the stores.

All this is not to say that I am opposed to innovation and experimentation. That’s how we grow. But evidence continues to mount that success lies not in ignoring the lessons of the past, but modifying—rather than overturning—the way we do business. Retail businesses have learned the importance of having an e-commerce outpost. E-commerce businesses are learning the importance of having a physical presence.

Radio is learning that not every single interaction the client need be face to face. We are using websites, email, social media—even texting—to keep in touch with our clients better and more frequently. But to eliminate that face to face interaction entirely?

I may—as I often am—be proved wrong on this. But I do feel that radical experimentation, resulting in the loss of good radio people, is irresponsible and damaging.