Jim Goodmon Interviewed For IT Magazine
Capitol Broadcasting Company President & CEO Jim Goodmon recently interviewed with IT Magazine. The resulting article by Rick Smith appeared in the December issue of the publication.
Following is a copy of the article, reprinted with permission of the publisher.
A “Shared Vision” Keeps Capitol Broadcasting on the Cutting Edge
By Rick Smith
Jim Goodmon sits down to endure something he simply doesn’t enjoy: talking about himself.
“I don’t like to do interviews,” says the president and chief executive officer of Capitol Broadcasting Company.
Goodmon doesn’t fit the mold of a technology savvy CEO these days whose company is worth millions and is at the cutting edge of technology across several different fronts. He doesn’t drive a snazzy car, but a Suburban. He checks his ego at the door for meetings and discussions. And he could care less if a magazine wants to feature him on the cover.
“But sometimes you have to do this,” he adds, relenting to the request. “As the CEO of the company, I have to make myself available sometimes.”
Writers seek out Goodmon for several reasons: the success enjoyed by Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting; the cutting-edge technology Capitol consistently pushes, from the latest weather radar to a faster helicopter to the best in Web sites and being the accepted leader in deployment of high-definition television. His record of community service and philanthropy have brought him much recognition and many rewards.
His last name, if you think about it, fits. He’s received enough awards to fill pages on his official resume: the Thad Eure, Jr. Memorial Award and the Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award, both in 2000; Journalism hall of fame; numerous awards from the Boy Scouts which are supported deeply by WRAL-TV and Capitol Broadcasting; DTV Pioneer Award; and many more. The Fletcher Foundation, which Goodmon heads, has poured millions of dollars in grants into the arts – particularly ballet and opera that were so deeply supported by Goodmon’s family.
In choosing him its 2000 outstanding achievement award, the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association (NCEITA) said of Goodmon: “As president of Capitol Broadcasting, Jim has been on the cutting edge of endeavors such as digital broadcasting, satellite communication, high definition television, and datacasting, helping show North Carolina as a leader in communication technologies. His quiet leadership, outstanding vision, and unbridled enthusiasm for technology spills out to those in his company and to those in the region, as he continues to soar to new heights by engaging in and leading major communication technology developments.”
Yet at his core, Goodmon is a sincere, deeply devoted family man who is tightly focused on his job as a broadcaster.
“When I get up in the morning, the first thing I think about is broadcasting,” Goodmon explains.
“I think of myself as a broadcaster, and a broadcaster is someone who holds a license to operate a broadcast station in a local community for the benefit of that local community,” Goodmon adds. “That’s what I do.”
He also certainly realizes the importance of turning a profit, which is where investing in new technology comes in.
“My business plan is to stay in business,” he says, “and the way you do that is by staying abreast of new technologies and adopting to those new products.”
A.J. Fletcher, Goodmon’s grandfather, helped pioneer radio and television in what is now Research Triangle Park. Goodmon, whose middle name is Fletcher, practically grew up at his grandfather’s knees as what evolved into WRAL-TV, WRAL-FM, and other properties developed. As soon as he could work, he was toiling away, learning every aspect of the family business. After attending Duke and a four-year stint in the Navy, Goodmon joined Capitol in 1968 at the age of 25, as operations manager of WRAL-TV. In 1979, he took over complete control of the company.
Over that time, Goodmon constantly strived to keep Capitol within the family, even as family-owned broadcasting properties were bought out. He has grown the company by staying on the leading edge of technology. Even the Fletcher Foundation recently launched a Web service and Internet newsletter to better serve non-profits. But he has not experimented with new inventions and advances for the sake of thrill or experiment. Rather, Goodmon has stayed focused on his primary mission as a broadcaster and using technology to enhance the product his company sells.
“I like technology, but I like more what technology can do,” he says. “What we are trying to do is a better job of providing local news and information and providing better services to our viewers and our listeners.
“The technology is exciting because of how you can improve your product and your productivity. The whole (economic) expansion over the last five years has been underscored by improvements in productivity, and that has come from technology.”
Goodmon seized upon high-definition television (HDTV) as a way to improve the quality of TV broadcasts and the capability of additional channels to be used for data delivery. Thus, WRAL-HD TV was the first commercial HDTV station in the United States in 1996.
While commercial success for HDTV even today is years away, Goodmon aggressively defended his decision to embrace it – and spend millions of dollars in doing so. “People used to challenge me, wanting to know the business plan and where is the revenue stream. Our plan is to stay in business,” he said during the keynote speech he delivered to the Consumer Electronic Association convention November 2 as quoted by Communications Daily. “This is not a new revenue stream. This is not about sending e-mail to a wristwatch. This is about protecting and enhancing our position in the future,”
Not content with distributing video, Goodmon seized on the idea of delivering digital data. As a result, he started another company, DTV Plus, which is testing ways to use the HDTV channels for transmitting audio, video, and data to specially equipped desktop PCs.
“There isn’t any question that the future of audio and video distribution is digital, and terrestrial broadcasting (free over-air TV) is going to be a big part of the digital distribution of audio, video, and data. This will be one of the key distribution mediums in the future for broadband.”
DTV Plus has been experimenting with desktop wireless data delivery for several months, and Goodmon finds the technology fascinating. “Have I ever showed this to you?” he asks a writer with the enthusiasm of a new father. With a click of the mouse, he can bring up WRAL’s news, weather, or sports. The WRAL-HD signal is used to distribute data such as newscasts to special receivers that look like rabbit ears on PCs. The PCs have special cards for saving the information sent. “I can sit here and watch the 6 o’clock news anytime I want,” Goodmon explains. “It’s right here on my hard drive.”
Seeing the Internet as a possible means of distributing content, Goodmon launched Interpath as an Internet Service Provider in 1993. That led to WRAL-TV’s development of a Web site – again, one of the first in the nation for a TV property – and has developed into one of the best, most heavily visited such sites in the country.
Another company, Microspace Communications, was among the first companies to utilize satellites for high-speed data distribution. While Microspace is broadcasting, it’s not the same as radio and TV delivery. Microspace uses satellites to distribute data to multiple points, such as Muzak. Goodmon calls Microspace Capitol Broadcasting’s “hidden jewel.” “It’s a business-to-business service,” he says. “There isn’t any reason for people to know about us. We just haul information around the country for people.”
Capitol also is working to deliver local TV stations through satellite TV systems with a company called LTVS (Local Television on Satellite).
Not to be omitted are the constant advances in weather systems and the day-to-day technology needed to produce local newscasts.
“As our use of technology relates to the Internet and high-definition television, digital television was a clear opportunity for us to improve our product. It’s just better,” Goodmon says. With HDTV, picture quality and sound quality are vastly improved, and additional channels can be used to augment existing programming.
“With the Internet, it’s another way to deliver what we do,” he adds, “and we need to put our product on the Internet.”
But he also says technology must be related to his core business.
“I’m essentially talking about brand extension, so we’re talking about extending the brand through the use of new technologies. I think we’ve done a good job with that. We’ve had some really good people, and I believe we are using the technology to the advantage of our viewers.”
When asked if he considers himself an entrepreneur, Goodmon pauses. Answering that requires an in-depth answer.
“So, OK, I do look for entrepreneurial ways to improve the core product of the company. That’s news, weather, and entertainment,” he explains. “See, what I mean is, (new technology) all has to do with different ways to distribute the core product.
“One other I would call a principle and something I think is important is that there are times you need to spend money, to do things and try things because they might help you in two or three years.
“In other words, there are some industries where there is an almost complete focus on this quarter’s earnings, and there is a loss of future planning and visioning needed for the future of the company.”
Pointing at the Wall Street woes of some telephone companies, Goodmon says they erred in buying up long distance providers and competed on rates rather than investing in other products and technologies, “Look where they are now,” he says. “It seems to me they are not properly positioned for the competitive marketplace.
“That’s why you have to do things, to experiment with things, to try to do things that will not pay off for several years. Nothing stays the same.
“If that’s being entrepreneurial,” he adds, “then I’m entrepreneurial.”
Hiring The Right People
Goodmon was asked once how he so often was able to make good business decisions.
“By the seat of my pants, I guess,” he says with a chuckle.
Anyone who knows Goodmon or has tracked Capitol’s success knows better.
Along with Capitol’s many successes – from buying and growing the Durham Bulls franchise to investing in office properties and helping revitalize downtown Durham – have come many challenges as well. Goodmon suffered a major heart attack in 1994 but recovered. The company’s acquisition of WTTV Channel 4, an independent TV station in Indianapolis, IN proved to be a costly favor. And the company’s mammoth TV tower collapsed during a huge ice storm several years back. But Capitol emerged from each crisis stronger than ever.
At the center of each comeback was Goodmon, although he would never say so. In his prolonged absence after the heart attack, Goodmon’s chief allies such as WRAL-TV manager Fred Barber, chief financial officer John Brennan, vice president Ben Waters, and several other executives rallied the troops. And when Goodmon was told about the 2000 NCEITA award, he immediately wanted to share the honor. “I think it should go to the company,” he says. “There are lots of people really working hard at this.”
Barber, who recently retired after working for Goodmon for several years, deeply respected Goodmon from the aspect of an employee. “Jim is wonderful,” he once said. “He gives you the tools to do the job you need to do.”
On Capitol’s Web site is a quote from Goodmon which could serve as the motto for the company: “There is no magic involved in successful broadcasting and communications. Hard work, creativity, and a commitment to our audiences, our clients, and our employees have served us well since 1937 – they will serve us well in the future,” he says.
So when Goodmon is looking to add to his management team, he keeps that vision in mind.
“One of the keys to our being able to get it done is what I call the shared vision,” he explains. “The shared vision that is our core product is local news and information and community related items, and we’re going to try every way we can to distribute that.
“I look for people who share that vision. Local news is the most important thing we do every day, and of course people need all the skills. But the shared vision – that’s what I’m talking about.”
And Goodmon is quick to point when he wins awards that the honors should be shared with his company. I work with some great people,” he says, “and we have a good time.”
Rick Smith is president of Internet Business Development, a consulting firm in Raleigh, NC and is also a freelance writer. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. He is co-author of “The Internet Strategic Plan.”