Remembering Tim Davis

This piece originally appeared in the The Jacobs Media Strategies Blog on April 10, 2017 and is reprinted by permission.

Tim Davis

By Fred Jacobs, President
Jacobs Media Strategies,
Bingham Farms, MI

If you’ve done business with Jacobs Media or jācapps throughout the ’90s and ’00s, chances are you interfaced with Tim Davis. He worked for our companies for a lot of years and impacted them in more ways than I can even convey to you in this blog post. In fact, this blog wouldn’t have existed had it not been for Tim convincing me – OK, cajoling me – to start it more than 12 years ago.

So the truly sad next chapter in the Tim Davis story is that he passed away over the weekend after a brief illness at the shockingly young age of 49. He touched a lot of lives throughout radio, in our companies and across an eventful and successful career.

Tim’s journey with Jacobs Media was a bit….non-linear. We originally hired him to back up Tom Calderone during the early go-go Edge years. We were signing on stations pretty quickly in the early ’90s in the middle of the Grunge explosion and Alternative music was Tim’s passion.

He moved to Detroit from some place called Texas with his young wife, Kathy. And, as he acclimated to the Motor City and our company, it became very clear to us that while he loved radio programming, it was technology, computers and the Internet where his true talents lied.

He was ahead of the curve, he even read Wired, he listened to The Church, he couldn’t understand why more people didn’t subscribe to Rhapsody and his instincts for how consumers would get and share entertainment and information as technology burgeoned were very sharp and incisive.

It wasn’t long before Paul and I convinced him to shift out of programming consultation to become our first (and only) Director of Digital. Tim fought us – which became common. He wasn’t sure a position that wasn’t clearly connected to specific client revenue was a good long-term plan. Thankfully we convinced him otherwise, and his longevity with our companies proved that for once, he was wrong. We actually had a lot of mostly healthy, philosophical arguments during a time in radio and media when those exchanges were really beneficial.

Tim knew a lot about a lot of things and enjoyed talking about where it was all headed. And he was a true fan of radio – commercial and public – and wanted very much for it to survive the Digital Revolution. He also was a fan of Christian radio and ended up introducing our company to a different world of broadcasting where we continue to have a footprint to this day.

As Steve Goldstein commented on Facebook yesterday, “Tim dragged many of us into the digital world. Many great conversations. He will be missed.”

True that. Tim designed Jacobs Media’s first website. And the second. And the third.

As mentioned, JacoBLOG was his idea. And he held my hand through its early years, encouraging me to keep it going and entered every post to make sure they looked good and contained clever and relevant links.

Tim also was a key player in our foray into ethnographic research. In both “The Bedroom Project” and “Goin’ Mobile,” he played a huge role in how those projects were analyzed and presented. There were many conversations, debates and arguments along the way as we all worked together to figure out how to do something very challenging that we’d never done before.

And when I had this ridiculous idea that we could aggregate hundreds of radio station databases to conduct web studies that would be cost-effective and predictive, he figured out how to engineer it and make it happen. If you participated in the first 10 Techsurveys or any of the other research studies we conducted during that period, Tim was the guy behind the wheel, coordinating it all. And then building hundreds of tables, charts, pyramids and infographics that helped make the data come alive and helped make Jacobs Media look good.

Oddly enough, Tim had a knack for tech but also studied graphic design at Texas A&M. All those logos for all those projects came from him.

But perhaps his biggest contribution came with the launch of jācapps. We were talking a lot back in 2007 about the rise of mobile. We were seeing it very clearly in our Techsurveys and other studies, but like others, we were doing a lot of talking. So, in the fall of 2008 when the Dow was dropping hundreds of points a day and radio (and maybe our company) was on the brink, Tim walked into my office holding his iPhone and pointing to an app for a radio station he discovered. Its key feature was that it streamed a Rhode Island radio station – something none of us had seen before. He connected the dots that the smartphone could become the new millennium’s Walkman.

A few weeks later – and just 100 days after Apple opened its now-famous App Store – jācapps was born. Tim was at the helm during the first few years when we were still feeling our way along as software developers. Most of you now know that adventure worked out pretty well.

A quick story: Every year, we take the staff to a Detroit Tigers game and while Tim was not a baseball fan, he got excited at that first game when the Tigers scored a couple of “points.” Tim was an early adopter of a lot of gadgets and was one of the first people I knew who had a GPS. On the way home from that game, Tim was driving. When we got a couple blocks away from the office, he flipped on his GPS. I sarcastically assured him I could get us successfully back to the office without the help of satellite technology, but he told me how comfortable it made him feel to simply know where he was. That very much summed up how the guy lived his life.

Along the way, Tim became a Detroit guy (although he still pined for Texas), settled into the community and had two kids – Xander and Alyssa – both of whom are teenagers now. As hard as he worked, for him and Kathy, it was always about family – his kids, his parents and his brother.

We parted ways 2+ years ago, but Tim’s impact on our company is always a part of our conversations. Back home in Dallas, he went to work for Rockfish, an Internet ad agency, where he became their Director of Digital Strategy. I spoke to him before the holidays and he was truly enjoying the gig and its new challenges.

It’s cliché to say, but in this case, it’s true. Tim left it on the field every day. He worked very hard and was the most loyal employee who ever graced our doors. He challenged me and everyone who worked for the place. And he made us better, smarter and more thoughtful. Tim was often blunt, always honest and very much in your face if you pissed him off. But you never questioned his work ethnic or his passion for doing the job well and making it look good.

A number of you have asked about where to send flowers and as Kathy reminded me yesterday, “Tim was not a flower guy.” She’ll be forming an education trust for Xander and Alyssa and we’ll get you that info as soon as it becomes available.

If you’ve been on the planet for a while, you have no doubt become accustomed to the births and passings of friends, family and co-workers. It’s all part of life. But this one hits very close to home for us at Jacobs, as well as for many of you who came to know Tim over a bright career of innovation, accomplishment and just being a good guy.

Tim Davis will be missed.

A postscript: Tim was a big fan of South By Southwest and made the trek during his years here with Jacobs Media. I always asked for a little “ROI” in exchange for attending – a client memo, a blog post, or some other tangible benefit. Tim never let me down and this post is one of his takeaways from the 2011 SXSW event that became a much-talked-about topic here at the company. It’s here.

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