First, it is common knowledge that Hubbard owns the second highest-billing radio station in the United States, WTOP in Washington, DC. What is less well known is that Hubbard also has the highest-billing digital operation in terrestrial radio. And that happened because of a proactive attitude that understood the future and embraced it. Hubbard President/COO Drew Horowitz and former boss Bruce Reese have studied digital for a long time (we know because one or both has consistently attended the Radio Ink Convergence conference). Hubbard embraced digital early, and, unlike most, has figured out a way to make a lot of money with it.
Curiously, Hubbard came very close to investing in online radio when I was fundraising in 2001 for my online radio startup, RadioCentral, but that was disrupted and ultimately fell through due to the World Trade Center attack a week before we met. Perhaps they quietly invested in another online radio company. But clearly, this disruptive technology was on their minds almost a decade and a half ago.
What does Hubbard know that you don’t know?
Hubbard understands that change is inevitable, and they have a history of being in the middle of change or ahead of it. For instance, it was Hubbard that launched DirecTV, which disrupted the television business — and when they did it, they had a huge investment in broadcast TV properties. They didn’t fear cannibalizing their own stations; instead, they wanted to control what was likely to disrupt them.
What can we learn from Hubbard?
Hubbard CEO Ginny Morris told us yesterday, "We're interested in learning where that part of the industry is headed." She believes podcasting is more than repurposed radio shows; it's part of the radio landscape that's here to stay and she wants to be a part of it. “How big it's going to be, I don't know,” she said. “I'm convinced it's not going away. I'm excited to see the trajectory. The space is young and we want a front seat."
It is critical for all of us is to understand that something always disrupts the status quo, and it's better to own a part of what disrupts you than to have it bankrupt you. Along with fighting to hang on to what we’ve got (which we also have to do), we all need to look at technology that threatens us and find a way to be a part of it.
I applaud Hubbard for its investment in PodcastOne and for being so proactive. And I suspect they are quietly seeking to be a part of other disruptive technologies — not because they believe radio is dead or dying, but because they want to be in technologies that have the potential to disrupt the status quo. Clearly podcasting is on a second wave and real dollars are flowing, as are giant audiences. Hubbard will reap the rewards as this increases.
People spend a lot of time fighting change rather than embracing it, but rarely does fighting change work. Rather than fighting it, we should all seek ways to be a part of it.