CES 2016 Was All About Innovation


(by Buzz Knight) I’ve just wrapped up another trip to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and as always, I have some final thoughts to take back to our audio business. The number one takeaway that comes out of my trip to CES is the reinforcement of the theme of innovation. Everywhere you look, touch, and smell at the event evokes this notion. The event has an optimistic edge unlike anything I have ever felt before at any event.

Failure and doom is not in the vocabulary of the chatter in the hallways or on the convention floor. There is no industry inferiority complex here. That’s why I keep encouraging more from our industry to make the commitment and attend. It was great to see new attendees like Erica Farber, the President and CEO of the RAB, and Steve Goldstein from Amplifi Media.

Our outlook needs the “booster shot” that attending the event provides. In 2011, the CEA (now known as CTA) started a campaign, called The Declaration of Innovation, that tries to unite the cause and celebrate innovation. In it the organization says, “We believe innovation is America’s best hope for prosperity.” If all of our business teams are to unleash our potential to protect us for the future, we have to bolster our own idea movement and foster innovation and our own versions of research and development. Nothing is more important than this for our survival. We need to not fear failure.

Of course we all know that our available resources are smaller compared to pre-recession, but we need to eliminate the barriers to innovation. Remember when many of us first started on this road and career path? Part of the passion and fun then was about the raw discovery that provided those eureka moments. Over the years of twists and turns of our industry, it has forced many of us to retreat to our bunker and stop thinking about the innovation process. From raw failure can come innovation and success.

One of the elements of CES that has grown significantly is a marketplace called “Eureka Park” which celebrates new products in their earliest stage. The positive and optimistic vibe there is raw and that’s why it’s special. There are no $100,000-plus glitzy backdrops like you see from major companies on the main floor at Eureka Park. But you will see the enthusiastic inventor along with their team, proud to discuss their venture with anyone who passes by. Yes, many of the ventures will fail at Eureka Park, but that fast failure will lead to either another breakthrough innovation or an evolutionary success of that product.

Let’s start with the notion of solving an existing programming, sales, or marketing problem and devote actual time and energy with our teams to innovate and create a solution. Kill two worthless meetings that week and focus on that one thing that you are trying to solve. Maybe you can identify that one thing that enhances and improves the quality of life or user experience for your audience and innovate around that solution.

CES teaches us to explore possibilities and hunches. It gives us a deep appreciation for understanding and exploring the pace of change even if it produces fear. We need to fear the growth of in-car dashboard entertainment systems and the ease of use that enables consumers to plug in their smartphone and have more choices than ever.

The importance of talent and brand excellence is larger than ever. It shows us what the possibilities can be if we explore partnership opportunities. It reminds me how important it is to remind our teams about the show business values that we have sometimes lost. It reminds us to look at the successful companies and learn how to emulate their success, and to look at the troubled and disrupted brands and understand and be educated about their failure.

So get out and try something: Experiment with something that can grow your social footprint beyond its existing form. Innovate around video  and unique digital-only podcast content while celebrating the excellence  of your talent. Innovate around future talent within any of your available channels of distribution. Empower your audience and make them potentially future stars or collaborative innovators. Innovate ways to make your brands even more vital to your community. Do the things that other forms of audio can’t or won’t do. Customize and personalize the experience through innovation.

Retention rates are a big topic of analytic discussion at CES. How are you analyzing your client retention or audience retention and growth rates in 2016? These are all classic reasons to look at the world around us and take the innovation pledge and “innovate or die.” That’s why I love attending CES.

Thanks to Peter Smyth and Greater Media for allowing me to attend and to Gary Shapiro, the President and CEO, of the Consumer Technology Association and his team for putting on a mammoth show.

This year at CES my eyes were even further opened up to the mobility and connectivity of our world.

In my view CES is important because we need to fear the future to be prepared for the present.


  1. Meanwhile, Buzz, I invite you, personally, to consider the propositions as stated in my adjacent blog.
    I would appreciate your feedback – perhaps leading to a discussion.
    I also realize these are challenging concepts – given radio’s unstated, perhaps even unrealized, but very real and self-imposed glass walls and ceilings.

  2. Indeed, Buzz. “Enthusiasm” is a marvelous elixir, especially if it lasts longer than it takes to get to the parking lot… and back to the shop.:)

    As you may know, my position is one in which training for Greater Communications Competencies – across the board – describes the innovation most desperately required. That is, if radio is to chart a worthwhile future. Too bad how this innovation challenges and flies in the face of the status quo – the radio dogma. Tough sell? Woo-hoo!

  3. Thanks for the comments Ronald and well stated.
    Honestly the gem of inspiration that comes from the trip becomes less about frustration and more about “we have to do this no matter the obstacle”
    You see thousands of optimists on the convention floor and it is contagious!

  4. I wonder, after a few days in an exciting environment surrounded by innovators who are actually out there with actual products/services, if Buzz did not experience some levels of frustration – if not panic.
    Radio, as we can attest, has been in the glue for a very long time. Programming has been locked down for decades. Commercial production has been banished to broom closets.
    When pros like Buzz are brought in to extinguish bush fires or to tidy up station phusterclucks, those are examples of going into “survival mode”.
    There is no interest, time or resources set aside to get after the much-vaunted, but still unidentified “innovations”.
    Would, I also wonder, ownership and management recognize an “innovation” – even if it was gift wrapped and paraded into the station’ foyer by a guy in a clown suit offering free balloons for the kiddies…?


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