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TheTop22.com is Signing Off

It’s time for some Creative Disruption – a concept that might help you and your station…

By Paul Marszalek
TheTop22.com

After more than 14 years and a few thousand posts, I’m winding down TheTop22.com.

But not for any reasons that might seem obvious.

We all know too well that media finds itself in uncharted, choppy waters. There’s nothing to celebrate in the news that Audacy has filed for bankruptcy, although anyone with a radio could have heard coming.

iHeart has pivoted nicely to adjust its business model to drive digital and event revenue, and smaller broadcasters still understand localism. For those who stay with an ad-based business model and think they can cost-cut their way to success, things may be unfixable.

I’m more concerned with the state of public media, having now spent more than half of my career working on that side of the alternate universe. This piece, I’m increasingly convinced, is fixable to a large degree, and I want to participate in that reinvention.

During the pandemic, I went back to school with the objective to explore where media was going, and specifically, where public media might safely land. Certainly other industries had faced disruption and structural decline, and certainly lessons had been learned, so I thought.

Bored silly (as we all were during lockdown), I spent nearly two years earning five professional certificates from Cornell University and Harvard Business School. First up was a certificate in DEI, followed by certificates in Product Management, Disruptive Strategy, Design Thinking, and Entrepreneurial Essentials.

What I loved about this process was, among other things, the ability to learn from major institutions on a (reasonable) budget — while designing my own curriculum to focus on product.

I learned that my hunch was correct — thousands of products and even entire industries have been precisely where we find ourselves today. Not all survived, but some did — those that were disciplined and followed a series of sometimes very hard-to-swallow processes.

I’m now taking what I’ve learned and am focusing on helping companies improve their current media products and create new ones. I’m also working to incubate a couple of media products of my own.

To do that more effectively, I need to find more time – create capacity. On it’s face, this seems to be a simple task, but in practice it can be difficult.

A few years ago I came across a concept called Creative Destruction from innovation expert Jeff DeGraff. Creative Destruction is basically consultant-speak for “sometimes you need to rip off the Band-Aid.”

DeGraff explains Creative Destruction nicely in this video:

A lot has changed since TheTop22.com was launched – from the consumption of content via social, to the stagnation of the Alternative Radio format, to the shrinking of label investment in radio promotion. As much as I enjoyed posting, I knew the editorial content of the site just needed to be better. I figured that I’d need to put in another five or six hours a week to get the site to where I felt it should to be — but the return on investment would be modest in terms of revenue and impact.

Public Media faces this same dilemma every day: there’s a huge desire to do something new, but a severe reluctance to create capacity. Slow moving or stuck. The truth of the matter is most public stations would improve their positions by stopping something rather than starting something.

Taking DeGraff’s advice, I’m killing this site so I can put what I learned during the pandemic to work. I’ve been approached on a couple of very interesting projects, and as mentioned, an entrepreneurial endeavor is taking shape.

I’m happy to share what I’ve learned, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Thank you for reading over the years. Thanks also to everyone who supported the site – in particular Lisa Sonkin at Columbia, James Evans at Interscope, Nick Attaway at BMG, Ayappa Biddanda, Michael Plen, Ellena Osis, and all who supported the NON-COMMvention Official Program.

It’s also been a pleasure to support WXPN’s Dan Reed and the NON-COMMvention in any way I could.

See you in Philly in May!

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2 comments

  1. Paul, thank you for your service to public radio through The Top 22. I’m sure what you have next will be just as compelling. Thanks

  2. Exactly! Gotta step off of the treadmill to explore new directions. Thanks for all these years of The Top 22!

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