After learning they were to receive the NAB National Radio Award, Fred and Paul Jacobs felt some surprise, a lot of pride and perhaps some satisfaction that this honor might better satiate their 93-year-old mother — who still has no idea exactly what this brotherly pair do for a living.
At the NAB Show New York last week, the brothers said the award has been a validation of the work that they have provided in industry research, market insights and consulting to the radio industry.
In the late 1990s the brothers made the decision to pivot their focus as they saw the impact that the internet could have on radio. After completing a digital vision project for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, they saw an opportunity to help radio adapt and transform itself in the massively changing media environment.
“We could focus on more than just telling rock stations which Led Zeppelin songs to play,” Fred said during the duo’s acceptance speech.
Paul said that the secret to Jacobs Media’s success boils down to their unique perspective.
“We see dozens of research studies every year, in addition to the surveys and focus groups we conduct ourselves,” Paul said, which puts them in the room with some of the best media companies and thinkers in the business. The group’s mobile app business offers insight into how radio listeners are accessing their favorite stations, and the community they’ve built around their CES tours and their work in the auto industry connects them with brilliant people.
“It’s impossible not to see the future when you are around so many smart people,” he said.
The two break down their efforts in ways that complement one another. Fred tackles programming and long-term visions. “He sees things that at first seem unrelated, and then makes the connection, and voila, that’s when the magic happens,” Paul said, while he himself handles sales, revenue and logistics.
“We complement each other, filling in our respective weaknesses, always unafraid to tell each other, ‘You’re out of your damn mind,’” he said.
In particular, the two pride themselves on thought leadership.
“While we haven’t been afraid to gently nudge the industry when we feel it’s headed in the wrong direction, we are dedicated to leaving the radio broadcasting industry in better shape than when we first broke into the business,” Fred said.
“Every time we hear someone in radio say, ‘I’ll be retired by then — it’ll be someone else’s problem,’ we call it out,” Paul said. “We share in the responsibility to support the industry that’s supported us, and when people ask us when are we going to retire, our response is, ‘Why? There’s too much to do and too much opportunity to explore.’
“Frankly, radio is just too much damn fun. It is an amazing business that touches audiences, advertisers and communities unlike any other. We help communities in times of crisis, but we also make people smile on the way to work or think about an issue in a new way. How many other industries can say that?”
Fred is the founder and president of Jacobs Media and is credited with the creation of the classic rock radio format. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2018 and has served on the board of the Public Radio Program Directors Association.
Paul is the vice president and general manager of Jacobs Media and began his career in the radio industry in sales and management positions at radio stations in Detroit and Dallas. As founder of the startup jācapps, the company has created approximately 1,300 apps. Paul has served as the board chair for Greater Public and the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Foundation.