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Abrams Urges Stations to Focus on Air Product

… and not be blinded by all things ‘digital’

Lee Abrams says he has three or four opportunities he’s looking at.

Speaking at the Jacobs Media Summit in Baltimore when I wrote my previous online report, album rock pioneer Abrams — the first employee hired at XM Satellite Radio in 1998 — also said “no one realized how expensive it would be” to get sat rad off the ground.

Abrams, who left his gig as XM’s chief programming officer in 2008, said satellite radio will be successful and remain part of the overall radio pie; but he thought “it would have been bigger.” This was in reaction to a question from Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs referring to Sirius XM’s 20 million subscribers.

Since the companies combined, “it now sounds a lot different than what we did at XM. I’m not saying that’s good or bad,” Abrams added, noting that sat rad in general now sounds more like traditional radio, without the commercials.

He cautioned that radio should focus on its on-air product in this digital age, saying some see digital as the “magic answer, and what suffers is the core product.” At radio stations he visits, “they’re talking about what they’re doing on their website.”

He also talked about what happened during his recent tenure at Tribune. His thoughts were familiar to me as someone who made the transition from being on the air and writing for the ear, to now writing for the eye in the print market. Of his suggestions for sparking up packaging of the newspaper, Abrams likened the reaction in the Tribune newsroom to the attitude of underground jocks: “You can’t tell me what to play; I’m on a mission from God.”

(That was pretty much my reaction when I anchored the news at a station Abrams was consulting; now I realize he took that kind of a response in stride because he heard it all the time!)