A breakthrough in black magic
wouldn’t surprise me as much
as a major change in radio.
There are four real truths
in this world.
One is that love beats all.
Another one is that truth
is what you make it.
Beat that with a stick.
A third one is that we all die.
It remains to be seen if
we turn into something
But the fourth truth,
It is true that the words I
spoke this morning are
travelling around space
and will never change,
Just like radio.
It’s midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday. I really should be sleeping, but I’m bothered by thoughts of what radio should be. Or, perhaps more accurately, what I should make my radio to be. It’s not an easy challenge to confront.
At the moment, I own two radio stations, an AM and an FM, and I own an organization that does a ton of Facebook Live and Twitter video. We’re at about 2.5 million views in this.
We also do some podcasts, blogs, and, for quite a while, have been developing an app. It’s a lot of stuff to do. It all starts and ends with radio.
I am stuck in a radio time warp. I’m sitting on my bed writing to you about doing radio, and I could have been doing the same thing 50 years ago. As a matter of fact, a lot of nights I log onto the internet and listen to recordings of radio shows by Jean Shepherd when he was at WOR in New York in the 1960s. He talks about Joe Dimaggio and Juan Pizarro, President Johnson and the space race. Other than changing the names around, Jean Shepherd’s broadcasts could be me talking on the radio in a few hours.
There hasn’t been a lot of change in radio. And I ask why that is. If you think about it, it’s really just radio talking to itself. On the internet, there’s all these people communicating with each other entirely outside of the realm of radio. We Facebook Live message each other. We tweet, instagram, log onto Amazon and leave a review. We capture our kid’s fifth birthday in a video that we post on youtube. Grandma watches it from Surprise, Arizona. Radio is in the middle of none of this. Why?
Maybe it’s because of our own choosing. Or maybe it’s regulation keeps radio between the bumpers. Or maybe it’s just an old technology that should have been discarded already.
Or maybe we’re missing something.
There are 15,330 radio stations in America. Many are just like my two radio stations. People talk live on them. Games air. There’s commercials or at least sponsorships. There’s music and laughter. There’s news of catastrophe and, all the more often these days, there is hate.
But is there advancement?
Not really. Not at all. Any of the three or four of you who read this blog could ride down Kennedy Avenue over the Llittle Calumet River in the morning and turn your radio on to AM 1230 and you’d get pretty much the same thing you got 40 years ago. And 40 years before that.
Forty years ago, a morning host would be sleeping at this hour so that he could wake up at 4am and talk about the Calumet Region. He would do it on WJOB, am 1230. The business phone number is 219-844-1230. The on-air line is and was 219-845-1100. It’s been that way for at least 50 years.
What’s that telling you?
That radio hasn’t really changed… ever. It’s pretty much the same as when it started about 100 years ago. Why hasn’t it changed?
That’s a question I struggle with. My main inkling is that we should allow radio to be relevant. We can’t make it be relevant. That’s a fool’s mission. But we can put radio in a position that if people so choose, they can use our airwaves.
But how would that be?
I don’t have a specific answer to that, other than to say that one way or another radio has to become part of the social media equation. That’s right. The message that you create on the internet somehow has to route through radio.
How could that be? If you create something on the internet, it’s for consumption on the internet. Or is it? What if there was an intermediate step?
That’s what has me up this late. I’m working on an intermediate step. I have no idea if all of this work and cost will ever pay off. Probably not, and I accept that. It’s just that I won’t sit idly by as something I love slowly dies. This is not like your uncle having prostate cancer. You gotta watch him die slowly and there’s nothing you can do about it.
There is plenty that I can try to reinvent radio. I own two radio stations and I’m on a college campus. There’s a community that somehow believes in what we’re doing. They’ll support our efforts. I just have to figure out what those efforts should be. So far, I haven’t quite gotten there. I have the beginnings of some things that put radio in the middle of the social media equation, but my thoughts are, to use a line of “The Graduate,” half baked. When the timer goes off and they’re fully cooked, I’ll let you know.