There’s gotta be a reason to keep writing this blog. And there’s gotta be a reason for the three or four of you to keep coming back here. Do you remember why we even started together?
I do. It’s the preserve at least one man’s life of radio. You know and I know that at some point radio as we know it will go away. That’s what happened to me as a pit trader. One day we’re all standing around in a ring, yelling and screaming at each other, and next thing you know the whole process is taken over by a computer. That’s the progression. It worked for trading and somehow I think it will work for radio.
So, since we’re caught in this downward spiral of 6% less TSL (time spent listening) every year – and we hear the impending footsteps – why not record the process, if for no other reason than posterity?
That’s right. I started writing this blog because I wanted to preserve, for historical purposes, what it’s like to live a life of radio 24-7. It’s a great life. I wake every day to do my morning show. It gives me purpose, a mission, a reason. It makes me feel wanted, creative, useful and a little bit talented. There is, at this point in My Radio Life, full fulfillment in talking on WJOB every morning for a few hours.
But there is a lot more to My Radio Life, as the three or four of you know, than talking with caller Mad Mac in the morning. Or hosting with Verlie Suggs. Or jawing with my childhood chump, Bill Baker, every Monday. There are whole radio stations to run. We need to establish a programming lineup. We must fix the machines, report to the government. Sell advertising. Pay bills. Build studios. Develop a plan for the future.
That’s where it’s a little tricky. If, as I say, radio is participating in its own demise, then what is the plan for the future?
Truth be told, I don’t really know. What I do know right at this moment, sitting on my bed on Easter morning at 9:07am, is that I love a few things about radio:
What does that last one mean – dabbling in new technologies?
It’s double layered. As you know, I love radio. I love it enough to look for ways to give it new life in a world in which radio could easily die if it’s not tended to.
I love radio and radio is dying.
I love new technologies and new technologies are thriving.
Put them together.
This is not so easy as it sounds. After losing all of my money twice – that’s another story for another live blog – I learned one very important lesson: You can’t force things to happen. That’s especially true about the markets. It’s also true about love, singing ability, good vegetable chili, and technology.
I can sit here and say: “I think such and such is going to happen in the world of media. So let’s invest our time and resources there.” If it works, the three or four of you and maybe even people who don’t read my blog could hail me as a genius. This is basically the strategy that I followed starting in 2010 when I, along with Chuck Pullen, built what we billed a “vertical digital streaming system.” A VDSS for short.
We bought servers, installed a huge internet pipeline, procured intricate software and storage systems and then put it all together in the satellite receiver room at WJOB on Olcott Street behind Smith Chevrolet. We truly were, I believe, the first local radio station to stream from our own servers live video.
But we sucked at it. When too many people logged on, the whole system crashed. And to try to keep that from happening, we had to stream to people’s computers and phones at a really low bit rate, which meant that the picture they were looking at resembled UHF out of the 1970s. We were on the right track but before our time. What we attempted to build was basically what Facebook Live is today. It came out six years after we started on our Vertical Digital Streaming System.
In the end, we were unqualified for the job. We didn’t have the money to buy the things we needed to, and we didn’t have the expertise to handle a large live streaming operation and all that went into it. I didn’t have the time, either, in that I still had to run a radio station – and for part of the time I was in the process of buying another one – and there’s always the challenges of payroll, taxes, insurance and more.
It was a fiasco, really, except that when Facebook Live came along and did all of the things we wanted to do years earlier, we knew how to take advantage of the technology.
So where does this leave us as we close in on Another Thousand Words. What I’m trying to say is that what I did for my first dozen years in media pretty much mirrors what I did for the first dozen or so years in trading – I tried to predict or even control the outcome.
Yes. That’s really how you lose all of your money trading in a pit. In floor terms, you become “headstrong.” You think you know where the market’s going and you hold out even in the face of conflicting evidence. Same thing with media. You can think you know what the “next thing” is, but the media world can change on a dime and you could lose everything… as I almost did.
What happened in trading was that I realized that I was nothing more than a follower. If the market was gonna go up, then maybe I could follow it up by getting long a few and then hope for the best. Some thing with media – and for the life of me I don’t know why it again took me a dozen years to learn this-: If the ways we communicate are gonna change, then just go with it. Just go with it. You don’t have to be some genius who figured out a new way of communicating. You just have to communicate.
There. That’s a little blog for you on an Easter morning. As the three or four of you know, sometimes I blog to you partly to figure out stuff in my own head. This installment certainly qualifies for that category. Happy Easter. Another Thousand Words.