Fred Jacobs is one of the brightest and most visionary people in the radio industry and beyond. I spoke with him recently about the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and the annual Jacobs Media Webinar about what he and his brother Paul saw at this year’s show.
The webinar is this Thursday, February 8th, at 2 PM ET. It’s free, and there is still time to sign up here.
After years of urging by Buzz Knight, Fred and his brother Paul began attending CES in 2009. Fred resisted for years. “Part of the issue,” he explained, “is if you’ve never been to CES before, you can see it covered on the news, or people can tell you about it, but like many amazing things, until you actually witness it yourself, you don’t get it.”
In 2009, they were rolling out jācapps. Fred recalls, “We humorously convinced ourselves that now we were tech guys, and we should go. It turned out to be fortuitous because that was the year Ford’s (then) new CEO, Alan Mulally, was the first automotive exec to keynote at CES and the rollout of the first generation of Ford’s Sync. We happened to be there the year that the whole intro in the dashboard thing began.”
The Jacobs brothers have been every year since, except for the year the show didn’t happen because of COVID, in 2021.
In 2017, they began leading CES tours when Bill Hendrich, then EVP of Cox Media, called Fred inquiring if they could curate a tour.
A few years earlier, Fred established a chance relationship with Gary Shapiro, the President of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the organization that owns and produces CES. The connection with Shapiro and help from CTA’s tour department led to the creation of the annual tours.
Fred Jacobs told me they do between two and four per year and have 13 to 15 people on each. He says they finally know what they’re doing and get there a few days early to scout to see what’s coming.
He added, “In the early years, it was mostly CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and commercial radio people. It has become a more diverse group of people from other walks of radio life. Now, it is not the least bit uncommon for Christian broadcasters, Public Radio people, etc. to join us.”
“The thing that started happening on the tours almost immediately…is the realization that here is this unbelievable show with 4,000 plus exhibits and radio for all purposes is invisible. It’s not there.”
Fred Jacobs continues, “Which is why we started building in an appearance with IBiquity and Xperi every year. They’re really the only radio that’s been present year after year. Their exhibit and footprint is growing. Now, thanks to Xperi’s platform, DTS AutoStage, they’ve got an amazing story. They’re working with car makers across the spectrum on getting this platform built into dashboards, and it’s just beautiful. It holds up exceptionally well.”
We shifted gears to discuss how CES has changed over the past 15 years. For Fred, there are several significant differences. For starters, the presence of automotive that didn’t exist before 2009, as well as other verticals, including health care.
The biggest difference Fred Jacobs sees is the shift from gadgets, especially phones and tablets, to themes. I think, (it’s) more ideas-driven and more innovation-oriented.
Fred credits that to Shapiro’s influence. “He is working around themes like sustainability, resilience, and access to technology worldwide. He has some really cool altruistic ideas for technology and how it can make for a better world. I don’t remember a lot of that thinking being in place back in 2008. It was more like, ‘Wow, cool phone (laughs).’ It’s a different kind of show today.”
By this point in our conversation, I noticed that Fred, whom I’ve known for over 35 years, was more upbeat and optimistic – even about radio – than I’m used to hearing him.
Fred Jacobs believes radio still matters. He finds that when automakers and other people learn you work in radio broadcasting, they’re interested. “They grew up listening to it, and hopefully, they still are listening to it today.”
He says, “I am optimistic because I think, for smart, enlightened people who are willing to see the world, not through the same lens that they’ve been seeing it through for decades, but the lens of what is going on now.”
“There is no way you can spend three days at CES and not come back to your market pumped up, excited, and enthused about some of the things that even radio, in the condition that it is today, can do more to reflect the consumer experience with media.”
He continues, “What would give me more hope is if there were more people from the radio broadcasting industry going to this event every year and sucking in the perspective that we get. It’s hard for me to explain to other people why this event is so important in shaping your thinking. It’s not just seeing an exhibit and going ‘Oh, I wonder if there’s a radio in the cockpit of that car.’ It’s actually seeing the larger theme and wondering: Hey, are there things we can do on the air to create a more personalized or customized experience for our customers?”
With that, our discussion turns to this year’s webinar. “Typically, what I do is a compartmentalized almost topic-by-topic breakdown of what we saw. They’re working on the dashboard. So, here’s five or six minutes on that with a bunch of pretty cars flying by and video or whatever. There were robots, so there will be a little section on robots. There was AI and the Metaverse. AI was such a huge part of this year that we’re creating sort of an AI pullout,” Fred says.
He adds, “There’s not an AI exhibit, an AI room, or even gadgets per se. AI is like oxygen at this event. It permeates everything, everywhere, and it’s fascinating to watch companies integrate it into what they’re doing. Some of this stuff dovetails into applications that any of us as individuals can use and certainly as radio stations could. And you know the thing to me that’s been lamentable about the past year in radio is that most of the AI conversation has been that hair on fire; oh my God, is this going to replace more DJs?”
“I understand the paranoia. It is well placed. There easily could be job losses down the road, but there could be job gains down the road, too, if radio people committed themselves to learning AI, its principles, and its usage and figuring out a way to make it work for stations and people individually. We’re going to talk a lot about that in the webinar.”
Another thing that will make this year’s webinar different is more interactive polls. In past webinars, Jacobs’ Media has done a one-question poll. Fred reveals that they are looking to make the webinar more interactive this year. “You won’t be able to lean back at your desk or the conference room table. We are going to ask you to engage in some of the content we’re showing,” he notes.
Although Fred Jacobs is clear that this year’s CES show was more thematic and less gadget-focused, that doesn’t mean there weren’t cool gadgets on exhibit. As a toy freak, I had to ask him about the coolest new devices he had ever seen. Fred Jacobs has a definite favorite.
He told me, “This year, the gadget I liked best was a flying car from a Chinese company called XPENG.” We laughed about the history, shortcomings, and potential complications of flying cars. Fred believes XPENG could be different.
“XPENG’s CEO addressed one of our tours. What makes it unique is that it has four propellers that retract inside to convert it to a regular car, much like how the top of a convertible folds into the trunk. Why a flying car? Ask George Jetson. It avoids a lot of traffic. Imagine flying into LaGuardia, then hoping into XPENG and avoid the snarling traffic in Queens and Manhattan so you can land in Midtown.”
His second favorite is “Adam,” a robot barista-bartender who tells jokes and uses AI to recognize you and predict your order.
Jacobs’ Media Webinars are always informative. The CES Webinar this Thursday, February 8th, at 2 PM ET should be no exception. It’s free, but you must register.
Fred Jacobs is passionate about CES in a way, I cannot do justice in this column. I highly encourage you to join Jacobs Media’s CES Webinar, and if you can, speak with Fred about why you should go to CES.
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.
Proof That Both CNN and Fox News Manipulate Their Audiences
Playing with numbers and technicalities is a function of what the media does today. Since the average person just reads the headline, viewers will likely move on if it confirms their own bias.
When news organizations collide, journalism loses. Last week, CNN posted on X saying “US inflation cooled down in January, offering some relief for Americans who have suffered through the steepest price hikes in four decades.” The same day Fox News posted “BREAKING: Inflation rises faster than expected in January as high prices persist.”
While these are seemingly opposite statements, both can be true at the same time. More importantly, both of these outlets are manipulating their audience.
People like their own opinions and want those opinions verified by others. This is what social media has done to news: You read the post, see your opinion is valid, and then move on to the next clickbait (confirmation bias). More importantly, both of these tweets are true because one is based on an estimate, and one is based on actual numbers.
Looking at CNN, while their post on X seems positive, their business headline is a little less positive, “Inflation cooled last month, but some price hikes continue to cause pain.” The change from tweet to headline is striking. One says Americans are getting inflation relief, the other says inflation continuing to cause pain. In today’s world of “Read the headline and move on,” this is why people feel CNN lies. Its post is in conflict with the headline— even though both are true statements.
It’s not until you read the article that people can see how this is possible. The outlet notes overall inflation did cool when comparing January 2023 (6.4%) to January 2024 (3.1%). Four sentences into the article it says, “CPI rose by 0.3% in January.” It goes on to break down why inflation is still high and causing pain in the pockets of Americans. Although the X post is factually correct, people on the right side of the political spectrum feel CNN is untrue because they see the inflation problem in their bank account.
Meanwhile, the Fox News X post and Fox Business headline are identical, “Inflation rises faster than expected in January as high prices persist.” However, the keyword here is “expected.” Inflation did cool year-over-year. However, because Fox is comparing the January 2024 number to what experts expected the number to be, what they have posted is factually correct. This nuance is sometimes lost on readers.
The article does not mention inflation is down year-over-year. However, nine sentences into the article, the business outlet says, “Inflation has fallen considerably from a peak of 9.1%.” The nuance of “expected” combined with the lack of mentioning year-over-year inflation is down is why the left side of the political spectrum believes Fox lies.
Let’s be clear, neither CNN nor Fox News have lied (on this one specific topic). They both chose to present the same data differently. It also needs to be noted, CNN and Fox News are not the only outlets that do this. They all do. Playing with numbers and technicalities is a function of what the media does today. Since the average person just reads the headline, viewers will likely move on if it confirms their own bias. The problem is twofold.
- Facts are no longer direct but skewed to fit a narrative.
- Some viewers accept headlines and posts without diving deeper into the article.
We have been trained to share a headline without reading the article. We’ve known this since 2016 when Columbia University and the French National Institute found 59% of shared social media links were never read. We’ve gone from headlines selling newspapers, forcing people to read the articles, to headlines being shared on social media, but people won’t read the articles.
This is only a small part of why The Messenger failed: neutrality. The sentiment of unbiased news was well-intentioned. However, America has lacked unbiased news since 1987 when the Fairness Doctrine was abolished. Many on the left believe this has helped right-leaning outlets. This is false. Not only has it benefited both sides of the aisle, it can be argued the progressives have benefited more than the conservatives (but that is a different article for a different day).
When news outlets collide, the American public loses. Not because we lack news, but because we lack the ability to read the full scope of the issues in one place. Outlets are not forced to present all sides of the political argument or present the entirety of data sets. Additionally, news is not being fully read. Headlines are now king. Shares, clicks, and likes keep the lights on in newsrooms. Most importantly, facts are now nuanced. This forces debate instead of continuity and cohesion.
Krystina Alarcon Carroll is a columnist and features writer for Barrett News Media.She currently freelances at WPIX in New York, and has previously worked on live, streamed, and syndicated TV programs. Her prior employers have included NY1, Fox News Digital, Law & Crime Network, and Newsmax. You can find Krystina on X (formerly twitter) @KrystinaAlaCarr.
Does Dealing With Criticism Ever Get Easier?
Engage in the content of the criticism and ignore the rest – or at least take the high road. If that gets difficult, end the conversation.
Thick skin. If you work in media, you gotta have it. If you don’t, you either won’t last or you won’t sleep – or both.
Even if you are neutral politically, super nice, and in it for all the right reasons, there always will be people who criticize you, and some will even make it personal.
Having “thick skin” is a cliché I’ve been thinking about and dealing with for years. I find it fascinating that, somehow, I am way more sensitive at home than I am at work – and by at work, I mean on the air for hours every day.
Even the angriest of listeners are engaging, and engagement is what I want. Sometimes, it can throw a show off-balance, but if handled properly, it should never fully derail you.
Over the years, I have modified my professional behavior, perspective, and attitude, yet my foundational approach has not changed. It began with my first full-time television job when a journalist/mentor of mine told me not to ever act interested in ratings. Rather, he said, focus on my performance and content — the rest would take care of itself.
In my first two anchor/host jobs, it worked wonderfully. I immersed myself in the job, and the ratings were strong. I thought it was a mandate to always take this approach, although in retrospect, I was probably more lucky than good. Regardless, following that mantra actually allowed me to learn my craft and not be overly aware that ratings mattered.
Ignorance was journalistic bliss.
Flash forward to 2024 and it all seems rather naïve, but I think the approach really works well with criticism, too, whether it be on social media, through phone calls or even with fellow hosts.
Just a quick note on nuance: Look at the sentence four paragraphs above – don’t act interested. Looking back at the guidance given by my mentor, his point also seemed to be that even if you are laser-focused on how a show is rating, don’t make it a major topic of conversation, and don’t let people think it defines you as a broadcaster and journalist.
All of it may seem like advice from Fantasyland, but in an indirect way, this approach also makes me less vulnerable to criticism. I simply don’t focus on it too much, and over time, it stopped bothering me even if I did focus on it. Make sense?
Of course, it’s not as if I like it when a listener rips me or the show, either directly or on social media; but I never engage emotionally, and if I do respond in any way, it’s usually content-focused.
That’s the key.
Engage in the content of the criticism and ignore the rest – or at least take the high road. If that gets difficult, end the conversation.
You have the conch. Never forget that.
Ultimately, you’ll feel better, especially knowing you did not take the bait and handled it professionally – no need to create any more tension than is already out in the media eether.
That brings me to the moment a host of a show on my station was sharply critical of an interview I had done, saying it was soft, and not holding the guest (a sitting U.S. Senator) accountable enough.
Specific questions were put forth that absolutely should have been asked, according to the host, and honestly, it was used as a chest puffer for that person to show why certain guests were scared to come on that later show.
And … I thought it was great.
Well, maybe not great, but I actually had no problem with it. First and foremost, they were talking about it, which is good. When I can provide that kind of grist, it’s good radio. It wasn’t always easy to listen to — I was still in the office doing some booking — but for some reason, it did not bother me. This from a guy who gets a one-second side eye from my wife of 20 years, and I think our marriage is in trouble.
In the end, a few of the criticisms were helpful, believe it or not: One or two of the suggested questions put forth on the later show should have been asked.
It’s all part of the balance I seek to create a place where members of both political parties feel comfortable coming on our network. I always reserve the right to ask difficult questions, and I do ask them (apparently not enough for some), but I also try and be balanced and manage relationships.
It’s delicate, and sometimes, elicits criticism – sometimes deserved. Meanwhile, I just focus on the content, naïve as that may be.
Brian Shactman is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Radio. In addition to writing for BNM, Brian can be heard weekday mornings in Hartford, CT on 1080 WTIC hosting the popular morning program ‘Brian & Company’. During his career, Brian has worked for ESPN, CNBC, MSNBC, and local TV channels in Connecticut and Massachusetts. You can find him on Twitter @bshactman.
CBS Mornings Scores Big Post-Super Ratings Win
CBS Mornings became the most-watched program from 7-9 a.m. in total viewers for just the second time ever for a CBS morning news show.
The historic ratings milestones continue for CBS as a result of Super Bowl LVIII.
Less than nine hours following what turned out to be the most-watched telecast in U.S. TV history to date (120.25 million of the near-124 million watching Super Bowl LVIII did so on CBS), CBS Mornings became the most-watched program from 7-9 a.m. in total viewers for just the second time ever for a CBS morning news show.
For the Monday, Feb. 12 edition of CBS Mornings, which featured co-host Nate Burleson from Las Vegas, the site of Super Bowl LVIII, and a visit from Jon Stewart in New York to promote his Daily Show return (which generated great ratings milestones of its own later that night), it delivered 2.9 million total viewers including 654,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. It marked its best total audience and demo figures since Feb. 4, 2022.
CBS Mornings topped ABC’s Good Morning America, the usual morning news viewer leader, by a mere 7,000 viewers; it also outdrew NBC’s Today (2.86 million) by 49,000 viewers.
CBS also bested ABC in A25-54 by +103,000; the sixth time CBS Mornings has led over Good Morning America this season based on the key demo.
This was not the first time a morning show benefited from a halo effect of what the network had aired the night prior. Mar. 8, 2021, was the first time CBS won in the morning. It was the day after Oprah Winfrey’s primetime interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry had aired which drew 17.1 million viewers for CBS. The Mar. 8, 2021 edition of CBS This Morning featured an exclusive interview with Winfrey and the premiere of never-before-seen clips from the Meghan and Prince Harry discussion, had delivered 4.793 million viewers with 1.026 million of them in the 25-54 demographic.
The program changed its title to CBS Mornings in September 2021.
For this 2023-24 season, CBS Mornings has the smallest deficit margin in viewers with ABC’s Good Morning America since the 2017-18 season and the tightest margin in A25-54 ever.
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/