Dear Christian Radio,

1975 was an amazing year for innovation.  In a lab, Kodak built a digital camera.  It was revolutionary.  The ability to take pictures and store them on a digital platform.  Never mind that the camera took 16 batteries and 23 seconds for a single image to be recorded.  Kodak held the future in their hands.

Kodak’s executives were skeptical.  Questions began swirling.  What would this do to their film development business?  How would they transition 145,000 employees from traditional film to this new digital platform?   One more thing, the money.  Kodak’s cash cow was film.  The selling and printing of it. 

The decision was made.  It was fine to “dabble” in that digital market but their main focus would be the traditional camera, film and print.

In 1976, Kodak employed 145,000 people.  Most recent numbers show the company has 18,000 people on payroll.  In January 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.  The very next month, February 2012, Kodak announced it would focus on the corporate digital image market. (Perhaps a little late to the party…)  Nearly 10 years ago, Kodak’s stock price was between $40-$45 per share. Today? $15. 

Kodak had been presented the future.  They knew the direction the industry was trending and they ignored it.  In an effort to protect the here and now, they sacrificed the future.

There’s a famous quote that says if you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.  That’s true in Kodak’s case.  Sony, Olympus and Canon all saw the opportunity that Kodak failed to take.

Kodak did what was easy and as we all know, easy never changed the world. 

What’s the point of all this? 

First, you create or destroy your own future.  Even if there is a market disrupter, our future lies in our hands.  We can innovate and follow the wants and needs of our listeners or stay safe where the cash is and slowly wither away to irrelevancy.   Someone will email and say, “You’re forcing me to choose to do one or the other.  To protect my cash flow or plan for the future.”  No, I’m not doing that.  I’m actually encouraging you to do both.   Take care of the here and now and be preparing for tomorrow. 

Second, no one knows the future of Christian Radio (except Jesus).   Just a few years ago, it was announced from a stage that, “The front page of your website will be more important than your terrestrial signal”.  Uhm…Dear Nostradamus – that hasn’t happened yet.  As a matter of fact, the website is a platform for those who listen locally to find out more about the ministry.   When someone stands up and says, “The future of Christian radio will be…” be skeptical.  Be very skeptical.  You’re in the day to day fight to win listeners and donors.  You can “feel” the trend.   You know more about the direction of your ministry than anyone else.  

Third, technology is not our enemy.  The connected car, Apple TV, Roku, iPads and iPhones are simply additional platforms in which people can access the experiences we provide.  They’re not to be viewed as distractions or the beginning of the end.  They’re to be the fuel of our innovation.

A high percentage of you reading this will be headed to Florida for Momentum next week.  The theme is “Hello, Future.”  Listen carefully.  Watch for trends.  Consider how your ministry can capitalize on those trends.  Be ready to return and work…and work hard.  You’ll need to be open to implementing new ideas and possibly raising additional funds to hire more people to make the future a reality.  This won’t be easy.   But then again…

Easy never changed the world.   Just ask Kodak.

#ENCW –

Brian Sanders
Executive Vice-President
Positive Alternative Radio

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