We all have our sources of anxiety, and this post is not meant to remind you of yours. No matter our age or station in life, we all have worries, cares, and concerns.
But when it comes to our professional lives, the last decade or so has rocked many of our worlds. Starting with the Great Recession a decade or so ago, several rounds of consolidation, and disruptive media patterns, that's more than enough to keep most of us tossing and turning during the wee hours.
Our company used those rough economic times to redefine our focus and direction, starting with the launching of this blog and jacapps at approximately the same time. It's noteworthy that as the economy was tanking, two of the biggest forces in our lives were rapidly achieving scale – smartphones and social media. Change is hard, and that catch phrase, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” is something I often remind myself of when things get a little tense.
My greatest fear – and the one that motivates me harder than any other – is FOFB:
Fear of falling behind
I recently saw Mark Ramsey speak at a radio company event. His talk was about social media best practices, and he linked “Fear of missing out” – or FOMO – to the essence of what drives users of Facebook, Twitter, and broadcast radio. We don't want to feel we missed something that's already happened, something that's happening right now, or something that's going to happen. Smart, strategic programmers and air talent can successfully play on those fears to create more of those coveted “listening occasions” that drive the ratings, whether diaries or meters.
But for me, it's that fear that I don't know about a new technology, device, site, app or innovation that affect our industry and our audience – that's what keeps me up at night.
But the good news is that you can overcome your fears – at least most of the time. There are plenty of things you can do to better ensure toss-and-turn-free, no-Ambien sleep. They aren't fool-proof because our world is rocketing along at such a fast pace it's often impossible to know about everything that's out there now or about to debut.
But by actively learning, gathering information, and considering why business, social, and cultural leaders do what they do, you can apply much of that to your daily routine of tasks.
Stop thinking about yourself as a Luddite or “not good with tech,” and dive in anyway. Like it or not, technology is the DNA. While old school habits (reading books, playing records, and talking to people face to face) will continue to find favor with many of us, a commitment to understanding how our lives are changing and being disrupted is a key to surviving in the media world.
So, in that spirit, with the help of my staff (who share my fear of falling behind), we've put together a list of a dozen things you can do, most of which don't cost a lot of money. But they do take time and a commitment to stay on top of trends – or even ahead of them.
- Attend a non-radio conference – For me, it's been CES, but there are plenty of digital/future oriented get-togethers, including the Ted X gatherings.
- Have children (or borrow them) – Living in a home with Gen Z's is an education in and of itself. They know everything that's happening on the tech/media fronts. Just observe them. Ask questions later.
- Hang out near a college or university – Being on a campus for a couple hours can help you tune into very different frequencies.
- Gather a network of influencers – And not just YouTubers but writers, business people, thought leaders. Follow them, especially on Twitter, to get inside their heads. (A large percentage of the topics I write about here come from there.)
- Walk the walk – Buy a smart speaker, cut the cord, listen to a podcast, play video games, test drive a new car, subscribe to a streaming music service. (It's probably all tax-deductible.) Better yet, start your own sandbox project – launch a podcast or learn how to edit video. You learn by doing, not by just talking about it.
- Join online communities – Many Facebook groups “talk about” this topic regularly. You can learn from others. Setting up “Google Alerts” is another way you aren't missing things on topics like podcasting, voice, autonomous cars, and you name it. A feed reader like Feedly works well,, too.
- Tune in international radio stations – They used to fly to the States to listen to our radio. Not anymore. You can now “visit” radio stations in Ireland, Iceland, and Israel without having to actually go there (although see #12). Be a good consultant and steal a great idea. Or make it better.
- Stop speeding through ads – As liberating as it may be skip ads using DVRs and streaming service, advertising often reflects trends and ideas. Watch them , critically evaluate those that stand out – both good and bad. They're all trying to grab attention, just like you are.
- Shut off social media (for a day or two) – Stop “hanging out” in the same echo chamber with the same people who share your views on politics, dogs, and craft beer. Algorithms have made it too easy to congregate with people who share our ideologies and experiences. And on that note…
- Get out of your bubble – Volunteer and hang out with people less fortunate than you. Read a magazine written for people with completely different interests than yours.
- Work remotely – And this doesn't mean from an out of town office. Spend a couple hours in a coffee shop, bookstore, or library to see how others engage in work and information-gathering. Just getting out of the station or your familiar surroundings for a while can be refreshing.
- Take your vacation time and travel – Nobody derived a whole lot of stimulation from a “staycation.” Whether it's to Omaha, Orlando, or Osaka, go somewhere you've never been before. Not the same cabin up north or that same hotel where everybody knows your name. Go someplace different, where the food, customs, and language aren't familiar.
- Read, read, read – And I'm talking anything – books, magazines, online articles, white papers, new media, old media, and even a classic novel. It's amazing what you can learn when you're constantly reading.
OK, it's a “baker's dozen.” Feel free to add to our list, give us your comments, and let us know how you combat FOFB.
There's hope for all of us.
Postscript: Thanks to Bill Jacobs, Bob Kernen, Chris Firmage, Mike Stern, Paul Jacobs, and Seth Resler for the input and ideas. And when I was about to publish this post, I did a quick web search on FOFB – and no surprise – a few people hit on this before me. That tell me it's a more common fear than I even imagined. It also tells me that like the good consultant I try to be, I've found a good idea to share with you. – FJ
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.