It’s 3:24 on Friday morning. We are expecting up to nine inches of snow overnight. And snow, as the three or four of you know, makes for a very busy radio day.
It’s not like it was in the past. I worked at WJOB in the mid 1980s, and when it snowed the entire Calumet Region would listen to WJOB to find out if their local school was closed. Now, with text messaging and email, this is not the case. Most people know by 7am if little Johnny’s school is closed. And it’s not from listening to WJOB.
We still do school closings, of course. But the people listening for school closings are doing so to find out if other schools are closed. They’re nosy. Fine with me. More ears, more money.
If it’s not school closings that will drive the extra listenership on the radio and viewership on the live video, then what is it?
It’s traffic. I made the conscious decision a decade ago to move away from being known as the place to listen on a snowy morning to the place to listen if you want to drive to Chicago or around the Region. It’s been a pretty decent decision. We live at the bottom of Lake Michigan. A lot of big highways crisscross our land. And they’re always busy, especially with big trucks.
Do you know how many times people have come up to me – “Hey, you’re the WJOB guy, right?”
“Oh, I remember listening to that station when I was a kid to find out if my school was closed.”
“We’d be huddled around the radio in the kitchen with our fingers crossed, And when the announcer didn’t say our name, we were so disappointed that we had to go to school.”
What the person would really be saying is that he or she doesn’t listen to WJOB these days but did in the past.
“You know, I’m there every morning talking on the radio.”
“Oh, is that right.”
Now don’t get me wrong. A lot of local people listen to my radio show. But my radio show is changing. And to better understand what that means, I have gone back to school. As the three or four of you may remember, I’m studying for my MBA.
Typically, when someone goes to college, they’re storing up knowledge that they can use later in their working life. There’s a delay in the implementation of the things learned.
Not so with me. Last night, in Marketing 620 at Purdue Northwest, we had a quiz. It was on STP. That’s segmenting-targeting-positioning. I don’t understand these things. I have owned my own radio stations and have been in charge of sales at them for almost 14 years. I also don’t know the difference between margin and markup.
So I put on a pair of jeans, some chugga boots because there’s snow everywhere, a hoodie sweatshirt… and I drove the 2.9 miles to Purdue Northwest. I was 90 minutes early for class because I wanted to go to the office hours of the professor, Minoo Ashoori. Her office is on the third floor of the Anderson Building.
I knocked on her office door. No answer. So I did what I would have done 35 years ago in Berkeley – I sat down on the floor outside of Minoo’s office. And I opened up my backpack and fumbled through my notes.
“Okay, so margin is when you divide by the selling price. And markup is when you divide by the cost you paid for the goods. Why is that? What does it mean?”
I didn’t know the answer to that. So I’m glad that I sat outside Ashoori’s office. After a few minutes, I realized what I must look like. For all intents and purposes, I looked like a student. I was dressed quite casually and my hair was a mess. If you walked by and my head was down I would look like any other Purdue student sitting on a cold tile floor waiting to see a professor.
But if I looked up, and you could look into my eyes, you would be confused.
“Why is this disheveled older man sitting on the floor? Is he homeless? Has he been kicked out of his house? He can’t possibly be a student.”
Yes, I am a student. And I can’t tell you how proud I am to say that. Minoo showed up, explained to me the difference between markup and margin. I got an 85 on the quiz, which I am ecstatic about. At four yesterday afternoon, I was ready to drop the class and forget all about going to graduate school for business. I couldn’t grasp the concepts. She explained them so that I could at least bumble my way through the quiz.
But it wasn’t the tutoring that was the important thing out of this visit to the professor’s office hours. It was our discussion about my radio stations. We used them as an example of segmenting-targeting-positioning, which I still have trouble differentiating.
Minoo and I discussed my radio stations. We used them as examples of how you segment a market, target it, and position yourself in it to sell advertising. That was simple enough, until she asked if we offer anything other than radio. Yes, I told her, we do a lot of live, streaming video.
“Aha, you have entered a new segment in the market.”
I never thought of it that way. I have always thought of live, streaming video as an extension of live, terrestrial radio.
“And let me guess, your listeners are older people. And the people who watch your video on their phones, they’re younger? No?”
Hmm. I guess we have entered a new segment in the market. That means there’s new targeting going on.
“But even though there is a great perceived benefit to the client to advertise on live video, I’m having trouble getting clients to understand live video and to advertise on it.”
Every once in a while someone says something to you that makes a lot of sense. Most of the time it’s something so simple that you feel stupid that you didn’t think of it before.
“You have to educate the client,” Minoo said, in her middle Eastern client. “You have to educate your existing clients and the ones who will be your clients.”
Yikes. I thought about it. How many times have I been sitting there trying to get someone to write a check for live, streaming video and I just don’t get why they don’t get it?
“Here’s my numbers for Facebook Live. Write me a check.” That’s basically my client education process. It’s a pretty sucky client education process.
So to circle around, typically you go to school and several years later you use in your job a couple of the things that you learned in college. There is not a hand to mouth use for the knowledge. This is obviously not so with me attending graduate business school. I learn things that I can use the next day.
What it means is that I have to educate myself first about live, streaming video. How are other people monetizing Facebook Live and other video streaming systems? How many people are watching? What is the growth rate? Are they using live commercials like on TV? Or graphics on the screen? Or live endorsements? Or signs in the studio? Or all of the above?
How does live video combine with radio?
“It seems like the people who are interested in live video aren’t interested in radio. And vice versa,” I told Minoo.
“There is a great divide these days between older people and younger people. Those who grew up with ipads in their hands are much more accepting of new technology than older people who did not. You have to figure out how to navigate that divide.”
Now do you see why I went back for graduate school? I’m 56. I look like a homeless person when I sit on the floor outside my professor’s office waiting for office hours to start. It’s humbling but also refreshing.
Do you want to know about other recent humbling experiences? I’ll list a few.
Do the three or four of you remember this? Do you remember Shamari Walker and the HeyJED app?
Shamari Walker is a junior at Gavit High School, which is a couple blocks from the WJOB studios. Shamari writes code. He wrote the code for an app that I have been trying to develop for years. It’s called the “HeyJED” app. The app makes it easy for you to send me up to 22 seconds of audio, which we then use on the air.
After you send the audio and it plays on the radio, your HeyJED comes to rest on a website, where we are developing a social media site for audio.
It’s a pretty cool app that few people are using right now, but we entered it into the Burton D. Morgan Competition anyways. Three times, we drove down I-65 to West Lafayette to take in a lecture or workshop. And then we drove again the other day to give our presentation to see if we move on to the next level, where you can win a lot of money. You also get to present to investors. Many of the people who move on to the next level get funded.
As you can probably tell by now, Shamari and I didn’t move on to the next level. I was pretty much devastated for a couple of days. Shamari and I have been working on this competition for five months. We rehearsed the crap out of our powerpoint presentation and we’ve made a lot of upgrades to the app.
Still, the panel of four Purdue Lafayette professors didn’t buy that we could, as Shamari kept telling them, “save radio.” I was disappointed mostly because I wanted Shamari to win at least something for our efforts. I texted him on Friday afternoon. Here, I’ll show you the texts. And then maybe you’ll remember, like I have, that youth has an exuberance that many of us may have long since lost.
Me – “Shamari… I’m sorry, but we didn’t make the finals. Talk to you soon. JED”
Shamari – “Sorry to hear about that, but it can only get better from here. We are going to do a lot this year.”
That was all I needed to pick myself up off of the couch at the Purdue Northwest Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center, where our WJOB studios are located. His text also made me embarrassed that I had been taking the loss so hard. Was it really because I just wanted Shamari to win? Or was I trying to prove something for myself,?
It’s pretty clear that it’s both. The loss at the Burton D. Morgan Competition wasn’t the only disappointment of recent.
Without going into detail, we have been in the running for another competition of sorts. It’s something that could really help WJOB and the whole Facebook Live video movement. We spent a lot of time and effort gathering the information needed for this. But in the same week that we found out about the Burton D. Morgan competition, we also figured out that this probably isn’t gonna happen. We thought it might. Disappointment number two.
We are finally getting in front of possible sponsors of live video, and we’re starting to tell our story. I get the feeling that we aren’t telling it very well. We aren’t “educating our clients.” But I thought that we had three possible large clients who were gonna stand behind our efforts. None are doing so. Disappointment number three.
I could go on with a couple more disappointments, including a couple of bad news health situations in the family. Just suffice it to say that it’s a good thing I can take a punch.
Actually, it’s a good thing that I like to take a punch. In a weird way, it has for a long time been the disappoinments that have motivated me. The three or four of you know some of my life disappointments.
My dad lost his company. We lost our house. No place to live.
I lost all of my money twice. My mom got cancer and died. Etc.
We all have a ton of disapoointments in our lives. Some are large, like my mom laying in the bedroom on an oxygen machine. Some are smaller but smart anyhows, like missing out on the Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition. I don’t really have any great wisdom or motivation for the three or four of you who take the time to read my story, however painful that may be to do sometimes.
But I do have this for you. When I was at Berkeley, I somehow stumbled on to the boxing team. From the very beginning, I sparred with people. After class in the afternoon, we would put on the gloves and take turns beating on each other.
It was great. I loved sparring. And I loved travelling around the West boxing in matches, although I lost about as much as I won. After a year or so of this, two of the coaches came up to me and said something that I’ll never forget. I can’t remember if it was Jim Riksheim, the head coach, or Floyd Salas, the auther (“Tattoo the Wicked Cross”) who helped out with the team. But one of them said –
“In all of my years, I’ve met a lot of fighters who could take a punch. But I gotta say, kid, you’re right there with the best of ‘em.”
They walked away. And I was left wondering, as I still am today – “Is it good or bad that I can take a punch?”
More than once, a ref would have to stop a fight that I was in. I would be getting pummeled in the corner, but for some reason I would not go down. I guess it was something that just never occurred to me.