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The Fred Jacobs Interview – Part 1

“None of this is to say that radio doesn’t matter because it does. When you talk to the automakers and other people and let them know you work in the radio broadcasting industry they’re interested.“

Andy Bloom



Fred Jacobs

In February, I wrote a column previewing the Jacobs Media annual CES webinar. In preparing for that column, I conducted a far-ranging interview with Jacobs Media President, Fred Jacobs.

Over the last four decades, Fred Jacobs has been one of the most important and influential people in the radio industry. 

During the interview, he told some stories that I hadn’t seen or heard elsewhere. In other instances, he added details that were previously unknown. Fred Jacobs also goes into substantially more detail about CES and AI than I could present in the prior column.

I think readers will find the transcript of the interview revealing and fascinating. Therefore, I’m presenting it in two installments, beginning with part one this week. 

Andy Bloom: When did you first start going to CES, and why?

Fred Jacobs: Buzz Knight was the inspiration for us. He was going in the early 2000s and kept pushing me to go. I just couldn’t get there. Part of the issue 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. I didn’t get it, but every year, he kept pushing both Paul and me to go. 

The first year we went was 2009. The reason was we had started the app company. We kind of humorously convinced ourselves that now we were tech guys, and we should go. It turned out to be really fortuitous because that was the year that Ford’s new CEO Alan Malawi, 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.

All of those Ford guys are from Detroit, and Paul met a guy named Julius Marchwicki who was essentially the head of Ford’s Sync. When Paul saw some apps on Ford’s Sync screen, his question for Julius was: ‘Do you foresee a day when a radio station app could be on the Ford screen?’  Julius had never thought about that before because, as you know, most automakers aren’t thinking about radio very often. That started a wonderful relationship between Ford and jācapps.

That was the first year we started going, 2009. We’ve been every year since With the exception of the year that it didn’t happen, 2021, because of COVID.

AB: How did you start organizing the tours was it informally and then grew organically, or was it an idea that’s just grown every year?

FJ: Let me back up a bit because there’s an interesting story. The head of the Consumer Technology Association is Gary Shapiro, and Gary is a very outspoken, flamboyant guy perfect for this organization. Gary is very much a conservative pre-market capitalist kind of dude. That’s when Jeff Smulyan was doing Next Radio.

There was all this industry talk about a mandated FM chip in cell phones. Gary wrote an editorial slamming the radio industry for taking the easy way out by having government try to solve radio’s problems. In Gary’s mind radio should innovate its way out of whatever mess it happened to be in. As a part of Gary’s essay, he referred to radio as a buggy whip industry.

I wrote a blog the next day called ‘Buggy Whip My Ass.’ I didn’t really go after Gary. It was one of those equal opportunity messages where I went after the radio industry but also criticized Gary for being a little too blunt.

I got a phone call from Gary the next day. He was pissed because he was trying to write a response to the blog, and when he hit submit, it all went away. So, he calls me up, tells me who he is, and accuses me of trying to block him on the blog site. I explained to him that I really wanted his comment and that if he wouldn’t mind writing it again and would email it to me, I would Post it myself under his name. So, he did that, I did that. He called me back and said, ‘Who the hell are you.’

I said, ‘Well, we’re consultants from Detroit.’

‘Where in Detroit?’

I said, ‘Our offices are in Southfield.’


I said, ‘On Telegraph Road.’

‘By what Mile Road?’

I said, ‘Wow, you know the area.’

Just tell me what Mile Road, Fred.”

I said, ‘Between 12 and 13 Mile.’

He said, ‘What building?’

I said, ‘The Bingham Office Park.’

He says, ‘Yup, that’s right next to the Comerica Bank Building, where my wife is a retina surgeon. I live in Birmingham, Michigan, and commute to Washington DC every day.’

A relationship was forged, and Gary spoke at a couple of Jacob Summits for us. At the end of one, when I interviewed him, I handed him a buggy whip, which, believe it or not, you could buy on Amazon at the time. He claims it is still on his desk. So that’s the Gary Shapiro story.

The tour happened like this: Every year Paul and I went to CES. We were writing extensively in the blog about what we saw and how important it was. I got a call from Bill Hendrick, who at the time was running Cox, And he gets on the call with me.

This was probably early Fall one year and He says to me ‘Well, you have finally convinced me that I need to go to CES.’ I said, ‘Fantastic, let me know when you’re going to be there. We’ll be sure to grab dinner. He said well, I’m not going. I’m convinced I need to go but I’m also convinced by all the stuff you guys write that it is just too massive for me to navigate and that I’d screw it up, and I wouldn’t see the things that I need to see. Now, if you guys, with all your knowledge of CES and radio, could actually curate a tour, I would pay for that.

I thought, oh, that’s kind of cool. I never thought to do that. So, I contacted Gary and said hey, has anybody ever done this before? He said, ‘We have a whole tour department that does nothing but put these things together. I can put you in touch with my tour people, you can tell them the kinds of things that you want to see and do. We can make that happen.’ And so that’s how it came together.

We’ve been doing that now, I believe, since 17. It averages about two to four tours a year. Typically, there are maybe 13, 14, or 15 people per tour. The CTA has tour guides, and now we work really close to them. We actually know what the hell we’re doing. Paul and I get out there a couple of days early and kind of illegally walk the floor so we can see what’s coming.

Believe it or not, a lot of the exhibitors don’t even tell CTA what they’re going to be showing. Honda will take a big space, but CTA has no idea necessarily, what they’re going to be actually showing until the day of. It’s always kind of a game-time decision exactly what we’re going to see and what we’re not going to see. But it’s a cool process and we really love working with them.

AB: Is there anything else that you want to say about the background of getting to know CES or the tours?

FJ: Yeah, in the early couple of years, it was mostly CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and people like that. It has now become a more diverse group of people also from other walks of radio life.

It was mostly commercial radio people in the early phases. Now it is not the least bit uncommon for Christian broadcasters, Public Radio people, etc. It’s actually a different group schlepping around the Las Vegas Convention Center every year, but it’s fun.

It’s a great experience for Paul and me. It’s not a loss leader, but it’s not a big moneymaker. It’s something that we enjoy doing, and we’re there anyway. It’s a fun thing to do.

AB: Let’s look at the big picture since 2009. How has CES, and I’m not talking about the exhibits; I’m talking about the show. How has the show changed since 2009?

FJ: Wow, in a lot of ways. Clearly, the presence of automotive is immense. There was virtually none of it pre-2008-2009, none. Now, the entire West Hall, which is the new hall Is all automotive, and a lot of that bleeds over North Hall. So, the presence of automotive presence of health and wellness. There are a number of verticals that were not there 15 years or so ago.

The converse of that is, in the early years, for us at least, the show was more gadget-driven.  The typical question that you would get is what’s the coolest gadget you saw at CES? There’d be a lot of smartphones and tablets and stuff, and that’s all still there, but it is less gadget-focused now, I think, and more ideas-driven and more innovation-oriented.

A lot of that is Gary’s influence, he is working around themes like sustainability and resilience and access to technology worldwide, he has some really cool altruistic ideas for technology and how it can actually 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.

It’s still impossible to navigate. You have to accept the fact you can’t see everything. It occupies all of the LVCC and then a number of far-away Casinos, hotels, and conference centers, so you just can’t get to everything.

The trick now, I think, what we have learned over time is if you’re doing it right, you’re trend spotting. You’re on hand and looking for common themes and ideas that you see cropping up in multiple places. If you’re like Paul and me and go every year, you have that longitudinal perspective as well. You remember what they were doing in 2021 And what they were doing in 2015 and you go, you know what we’ve seen that before, or we saw the beginnings of that; Now it’s coming home to roost. The perspective over time has been helpful.

AB: Okay, well I have the gadget question as the last question. We’ll get to that. Let’s talk about CES as it applies to the radio industry. What does CES suggest to you about the future of the radio industry as you saw it over the past couple of years and this year?

FJ: The thing that started happening on the tours almost immediately and this was something when Paul and I started going and hanging out with people like Buzz, Holland Cooke, and some of the other people that got there before we did, we noticed. It’s the realization that here is this unbelievable show With 4,000 plus exhibits and radio for all intensive purposes is invisible. It’s not there.

I mean there are exhibits from weird companies now like RCA (laughs) that still are there. They show these retro Bluetooth radios that look like boom boxes from 1975, but it’s all retro stuff. Radio really isn’t there and you bring out radio CEOs to CES and an hour into the tour it occurs to them where’s radio?

The fact is radio doesn’t really play much of a role in consumer electronics and a lot of the themes that you see at CES. Which is why we started building in an appearance with first IBiquity and now Xperievery year. They’re really the only radio that’s been present year after year. Their exhibit and their footprint is growing and now thanks to their platform DTS AutoStage. They’ve actually got an amazing story. They’re working with car makers now across the spectrum on getting this platform built into dashboards and it’s just beautiful. It holds up exceptionally well. We’ve kind of gone full circle. The early years there really wasn’t any radio.

These radio CEOs would run around with us, and nobody would recognize them. It wasn’t like going to an NAB where they’re holding court at The Encore or The Wynn. This is the opposite of that. They’re one person out of 180,000 and nobody at CES gives a shit about radio. Understanding and having that perspective and realizing that for radio to participate we have to adjust our focus a bit and maybe rethink some of the things that we’ve grown up to believe about our business and the role it plays.

None of this is to say that radio doesn’t matter because it does. When you talk to the automakers and other people and let them know you work in the radio broadcasting industry they’re interested. They grew up listening to it and, hopefully, they still are listening to it today. Radio by in large stuff doesn’t play a huge direct role. It is more tangential at this point than anything else.


Part two of the interview will run in this space next week.

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Uri Berliner Told Us What We Already Knew About NPR

Is it possible that by going public, Berliner’s efforts will cause even the slightest self-reflection within NPR – if not actual change?

Andy Bloom



A photo of Uri Berliner and the NPR logo
(Photo: NPR)

On April 8th, a rare celestial event, a solar eclipse, occupied the national zeitgeist. On April 9th, something even more rare occurred. A respected liberal journalist — Uri Berliner — became introspective and said out loud what many already believed about National Public Radio (NPR): It has become a liberal wasteland.

A 25-year NPR veteran and senior business editor, Uri Berliner wrote a column for the Free Press that pulled the curtain back on NPR’s DEI and liberal political agenda.

Far from being a conservative, Berliner describes himself as a Subaru driving, Sarah Lawrence College graduate, raised by a lesbian peace activist mother, and fits the mold of a loyal NPR fan.

The column is stunningly frank and revealing. It is instructive to conservatives, who incorrectly assert that NPR has always had an ultra-left agenda, and to NPR insiders, who fail to see how the organization’s current path has damaged its brand and listenership.

The column is blistering but honest and specific. It lays out NPR’s journey from journalism to advocacy. The question is whether others at NPR will become more reflective and consider changes.

The choice of outing NPR in The Free Press is interesting in itself. Bari Weiss founded the Free Press after leaving The New York Times in 2020 for what she called a “hostile environment.”

Weiss had been hired from The Wall Street Journal by then-editorial page editor James Bennet to expand The Time’s viewpoints.

Shortly after Weiss’ resignation, Bennet was forced out after he invited Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) to write an op-ed with opposing points of view to those other Times editorialists had written about the George Floyd riots.

Liberals don’t tolerate opposing views; a point Berliner makes.

Berliner takes NPR to task for no longer having an “open-minded spirit.” He correctly asserts this wouldn’t be a problem if it were a “news outlet servicing a niche audience. But for NPR, which purports to consider all things, it’s devastating  for both its journalism and business model.”

He reveals that in NPR’s Washington, D.C. newsroom, there are 87 registered Democrats and not a single Republican. Imagine the spirited debates that must lead to – does Trump deserve the death penalty, or is life in prison enough?

Berliner traces NPR’s “rise of advocacy—as in many newsrooms” to Donald Trump’s election. He cites the Russian collusion fixation and NPR’s obsession with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who Berliner seems to have figured out bamboozled them. Then he goes on to do something I can’t recall any other liberal media figure doing; he criticizes the organization for not only blowing the story but “to pretend it never happened, to move on with no mea culpas, no self-reflection.”

“Russiagate was not NPR’s only miscue,” he continues, excoriating NPR for its handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story and its Covid coverage.

The problems at NPR, according to Berliner, started when NPR’s former CEO, John Lansing, went from working behind the scenes primarily as a fundraiser and liaison with member stations to a more visible role after George Floyd’s death in 2020.

What Uri Berliner describes, “NPR itself was part of the problem,” must have been a nightmare for guilt-ridden white liberals.

To fix the problem, “He (Lansing) declared that diversity —on our staff and in our audience—was the overriding mission, the ‘North Star’ of the organization. Phrases like “that’s part of the North Star” became part of meetings and more casual conversation.”

The effect? “And I believe, is the most damaging development at NPR: the absence of viewpoint diversity,” Berliner writes.

He cites stories that this mindset led to, including “How The Beatles and bird names are racially problematic; justifying looting, with claims that fears about crime are racist; and suggesting that Asian Americans who oppose affirmative action have been manipulated by white conservatives.”

The results? According to Uri Berliner: “Back in 2011, although NPR’s audience tilted a bit to the left, it still bore a resemblance to America at large. Twenty-six percent of listeners described themselves as conservative, 23 percent as middle of the road, and 37 percent as liberal.”

“By 2023, the picture was completely different: only 11 percent described themselves as very or somewhat conservative, 21 percent as middle of the road, and 67 percent of listeners said they were very or somewhat liberal. We weren’t just losing conservatives; we were also losing moderates and traditional liberals.”

The numbers he cites are from a combination of Pew Research Center and NPR’s data.

There is additional evidence that before 2020, NPR wasn’t as far to the left.

AllSides is an organization with the following mission statement: Free people from filter bubbles so they can better understand the world – and each other.

Their website states: “Don’t be fooled by media bias and fake news. We display the day’s top news stories from the Left, Center, and Right of the political spectrum – side-by-side so you can see the full picture.

AllSides also rates news organizations on a scale: Left – Leans Left – Center – Leans Right – Right.

In its most recent review (2022), AllSides rates NPR Leans Left.

In its previous ratings dating back to 2016, NPR was rated Center, Though Close to Lean Left.

AllSides ratings reflect what Berliner believes and NPR’s audience composition then and now.

Before he wrote the column for The Free Press, Uri Berliner tried to bring about change within NPR. He pushed for minor changes to make reporting less left-skewed, and more accurate, even scheduling a meeting with then-CEO Lansing, which never happened.

Is it possible that by going public, Berliner’s efforts will cause even the slightest self-reflection within NPR – if not actual change?

The answer came the same day (and was updated a day later) in a story written by NPR’s media correspondent, David Folkenflik, and posted on its website.

Folkenflik reports, “NPR’s chief news executive and chief content officer, Edith Chapin, wrote in a memo to staff Tuesday afternoon that she and the news leadership team strongly reject Berliner’s assessment.”

Reading into the memo, we should assume that life will continue as before at NPR, although perhaps not for Berliner.

At least one former NPR staffer disagrees with the organization’s response. Jeffrey Dvorkin, NPR’s former VP for news and ombudsman, posted on X (formerly Twitter), “I know Uri. He’s not wrong.”

The shame is that this is a perfect opportunity for NPR to consider course corrections. NPR has a new CEO, Katherine Maher. She started on March 25th.

At least on the surface, it doesn’t appear that Maher is interested in Berliner’s views. A network spokesperson says Maher supports Chapin and her response to Berliner’s critique.

NPR used to practice journalism. Over the past several years, it has become another news organization advocating for liberal causes. Uri Berliner has done a tremendous public service by showing exactly how that transformation happened. It’s too bad that it looks like NPR won’t be returning to journalism anytime soon.

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Alex Silverman is Sharing How He’s Led KNX News Through Disasters at the NAB Show

“From my experience, sometimes what happens is the engineers…will put a plan together and it’s a really good plan on paper, but it doesn’t always take into account everything that is needed on the content side…”



A photo of Alex Silverman and the KNX News logo
(Photo: Audacy)

As the media industry gathers in Las Vegas for the NAB Show, Barrett News Media was able to catch up with some key speakers this week including Director of News and Programming at KNX News 97.1 FM, Alex Silverman. His talk is going to be focused on emergency preparedness for stations, something he’s worked under several times.

From reporting on disaster zones to managing a team during a catastrophe, Alex Silverman has worked through some of the toughest stories of our time, and it all began as a childhood dream.

“I always wanted to be in radio. Ever since I was a little kid, there was just something about it. Something about the power of audio and being in the car with my parents, listening to audio. It just made me feel like that was what I wanted to do with my life,” Silverman told BNM over a Zoom call.

While he never made it to be a sportscaster, he did attend Syracuse and worked at both a local news station and the school’s radio station. Silverman said, “[At the school station] I became their chief engineer and operations guy, and later, general manager. That’s where I started learning the technical engineering side of broadcasting and those are kind of the two worlds that I’ve been in ever since.”

From The Orange he went to Seattle, followed by stops in New York and Philadelphia before moving out to LA.

Alex Silverman will speak on planning and enacted emergency procedures using examples from his own career including covering Hurricane Sandy and COVID.

“I’m also going to be bringing in John Kennedy, who is Audacy’s  Senior Vice President of technical operations, who oversees disaster planning for all 230 plus of our stations.”

Silverman went on to say, “I’m going to be talking about my experiences, and he’s going to be sharing some of his experiences, particularly things like Hurricane Katrina, which is probably the best example of a station actually having to implement its disaster plan for a long period of time and serving the community that way.”

Additionally, the pair will speak on how to know and what to do if you have a plan that might be faulty and not cover all you need.

“From my experience, sometimes what happens is the engineers and the technical people will put a plan together and it’s a really good plan on paper, but it doesn’t always take into account everything that is needed on the content side. Which is why collaboration between the technical side and the content side is so important,” Silverman said.

With his career straddling both the technical and content side, Silverman has learned how to pivot in emergencies including during COVID.

“When I was in Philadelphia, we had a studio at our transmitter site. But it couldn’t do all the things we needed it to do if we actually had to go there and we actually had to continue providing information to the public.

“As soon as we had that disaster plan in place, now we actually have to think about it. If one person gets COVID, the days when we thought that way, we have to abandon the facility, right? Okay. How are we going to do that? We’ve got to figure out how to get satellite feeds for our networks into this emergency studio at a different location. We have to figure out how to get phone calls and the app our reporters use. All those things.”

To get the full scope of how to plan for a disaster Alex Silverman believes, “Sometimes it’s not really thought about unless there is that collaboration between all the stakeholders at the in the newsroom.”

Throughout his career, the KNX News 97.1 FM leader has seen significant changes in the radio landscape.

“Just in the time that I’ve been in the business, the technology we use in radio has changed so dramatically. We used to — if we wanted sort of broadcast quality audio from a reporter in the field — carry around a clunky device. And now reporters will use an app on their phone and they’ll sound like they have studio quality audio.”

Alex Silverman also believes technology is changing the way radio is delivering content, “because we can’t just deliver it to them over the normal broadcast channels. We have to be everywhere. We have to communicate to people that we’re on all of these platforms.”

He believes the key for everyone to succeed on all platforms is to ensure we have good content. “Where I see the future of this business, it’s reliant upon people wanting the content, no matter what platform they are getting it on. So if somebody gets into their car and the first thing they see is CarPlay, we want them to be thinking ‘I’m gonna turn on 97.1.’”

For those looking to follow in Silverman’s footsteps, it’s simple. He believes this is an interesting time to be in the media. “A lot of people see it as a scary time because so many things are changing constantly. But there will always be a need for good content.”

He also noted how critical it is for those who want to be in the industry to be a true journalist.

“It’s a really critical time right now. We don’t have enough people who actually want to go into audio and video media to do real journalism. It was much easier to recruit journalists when I became a manager several years ago than it is now.

“So I would say anybody who has a real passion for true journalism, getting to the facts, letting the audience decide for themselves how to interpret those facts. There are so many there going to be so many opportunities. No matter what the platform is.”

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How Many Ads Are Too Many on Radio Stations?

While it’s fair to go after some radio stations for their heavy spot loads, let’s talk about the consumer experience for online…it might be much worse!



A photo of Times Square

Last week, I started this column by confessing that I read too much radio, TV, ratings, and advertising trade press. Same goes for email ads. 

LinkedIn sends emails regularly suggesting entries that might be interesting to me. Most of the time, the posts aren’t all that engaging, but last week, I was rewarded with a good use of my time against the power washing that needs to be finished or a paper deadline in my Middle East international relations class at Western Kentucky that will be here sooner than I expect (don’t worry, Dr. Kiasatpour, my paper will be submitted on time!).

The initial post was from someone I don’t know, but George Ivie, the head of the Media Rating Council (MRC) and a longtime friend, had responded. It concerned digital advertising and while much of the conversation was beyond my knowledge, it was instructive. 

For example, among the many three-letter acronyms I’m aware of, I had never heard of MFA, or at least not in this context (admit it, your mind probably came up with something “not safe for work” or for broadcasters, “not safe for on-air” too!).  MFA is “Made for Advertising” and refers to certain websites that have numerous display ads.  Often, these websites run a ton of ads, sometimes by spoofing a legitimate website.

In the case discussed on LinkedIn, the publisher was Forbes magazine, a venerable title that has been around for over a century. If you happened to go, everything was fine. As I understand it, there was also a URL that ran any number of ads.  According to the report from Adalytics, an online ad quality and transparency platform,

“Forbes appears to have set up a dedicated sub-domain – called, which appears to have a very different ad-serving experience relative to the “normal” sub-domain. A reader viewing an article on the normal sub-domain may see about 3-10 ads in an article, whereas reading the www3 variant exposes the reader to approximately 201+ ad impressions in a single page view session.

“Several experts assert that this “www3.” subdomain of Forbes can be classified as “Made for Advertising” or “Made for Arbitrage” (MFA). One consumer was shown 27 New York Times subscription ads and 201+ ads total while viewing a 52-slide slideshow on the “www3.” Forbes subdomain. The New York Times paid an effective cumulative CPM of $60.39 to serve ads to that one consumer.”

Part of the LinkedIn discussion revolved around MRC’s digital standards concerning Invalid Traffic (IVT) and Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT) and how there may be a loophole in the standards. Ron Pinelli, another friend from his days auditing the Arbitron system who is now a senior vice president at MRC and well-versed in these matters, replied concerning how MRC handles these issues.

Why write about some LinkedIn “back and forth” that not many of us fully understand? While over 200 ads in a slideshow is over the top and to me, even up to ten ads with one article seems a bit much, this isn’t my reason for raising this issue. When we talk and write about how to improve radio, we invariably bring up spot load. I’ve not seen anyone defend the current spot loads on most commercial stations, yet this torrent of display ads on a website dwarf just about anything on radio.

And when was the last time anyone talked about “invalid traffic” on radio? Advertisers pay for spots and they run. Yes, mistakes are made from time to time and makegoods are run and our stop sets are often far too long. Perhaps this is “apples and oranges”, but the various digital advertising options are loaded with ads, oftentimes extremely annoying pop-up video ads that take away from what you were trying to access. While it’s fair to go after some radio stations for their heavy spot loads, let’s talk about the consumer experience for online…it might be much worse!

What advertiser would want to run their ad in that kind of environment? Let’s go back to the oft-used John Wannamaker quote that about half of his advertising was wasted, he just didn’t know which half. For the 21st century, perhaps the quote can be “Some of my digital advertising is fraudulent, but I just don’t know which part”. 

Oddly enough, when I searched on Google to get the exact Wannamaker quote, one option was a newsletter from Forbes. You should have seen how many ads popped up!

If you’re interested, here is the LinkedIn conversation that triggered this column.

And if you’d like to know more about the Media Rating Council (and you should), click here.

Let’s meet again next week.

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