It's 8:06 on the Saturday morning of the big Fourth of July weekend and I've been up for almost four hours. That's how it goes when you're a morning radio host. You wake up in the wee hours even on the weekend. Can't help it.
Yesterday, Jeff Strack, head of Strack & Van Til food marts, helped announce on the air with us that our WJOB studios will now be officially named the "Strack & Van Til Studios." This is a big step for WJOB. SVT has 25 grocery stores on the Indiana side and 10 or so more on the Illinois side and they're making a huge investment with us.
In the past half a year, as the three or four of you know, we have
built new studios
bought an FM station
started up live Facebook video
And amidst it all - so we're told - our ratings have gone up on AM 1230. That's a lot of movement forward... but there's still one area in which we haven't moved forward. That's in marketing. We essentially do not market WJOB or our growing Facebook Live video stuff. We still wait for people to come to us for advertising.
I know this sounds absurd and is not good business. But this PMS system, as I've deemed it - the Passive Marketing System - has served us well as we've gone through this period of innovation. Part of why it works is that we keep our costs so low that it gives us a kind of protective wall to work behind to keep innovating. And with all of the young minds hanging around from Purdue and other colleges, it's not all that hard to find things to innovate on.
But now the innovation must turn to marketing. And the one thing that I don't want to do is become Herb Tarlick. Remember him? The sales guy from WKRP? Google him if you're too young and you don't know what I'm talking about. Herb wore a checkered sport coat.
I admire the work that a guy like Herb Tarlick and real radio salespeople have done. It's difficult to convince someone to buy air, no matter how many people are listening to that air. It's an honorable vocation and one that I wish I were better at.
But if I become Herb Tarlick, then I don't have as much time to do innovative things like keep a blog about My American, Radio Life so that future generations could see that there used to be this thing called local radio. I wouldn't be able to work on growth opportunities like building an FM station to complement our AM. I wouldn't be able to go to NYC to a conference to be alerted to the uses of Facebook Live and then bring it back to Indiana and make a big hit with it.
And make no mistake - our new Facebook Live video presence is a big hit. I had a video this week that had more than 10K views... and another one with 3K. And others in the 7-800 range. Harlow the afternoon host had one with coroner Merrillee Frey about heroin use that got 2.6K. That's not a ton of views for national or even regional outlets... but it's a lot for local radio. Especially since Facebook Live video is only a couple of months old.
And if I became Herb Tarlick, I wouldn't be able to work on other stuff like the HeyRadio project or news for the late mornings on WJOB. I'd be pressed to go out to community events like the Munster Fireworks, where we're broadcasting live from tomorrow, or Pierogi Fest, where we're gonna broadcast live on Facebook video from in late July. These things take time. And if I spend my time out selling, then the innovative products suffer.
So that's the conundrum in My American, Radio Life - lots of new things to sell, but no one to sell them. I share this with the three or four of you why? I'm not really sure. Part of it is that I want to be as honest as possible with the three or four of you who have followed me through this blog about what it's like to run and own and broadcast on a local radio station just outside of Chicago. And part of it is that as I write these things to you, I kinda figure out the next step. And the biggest part, as mentioned, is that radio is changing and it will probably not exist, as we know it, in a few years. It' s my job to write a historical document of what it was like today.
I'm not speaking exclusively to the three or four of you. I'm also speaking to your grandkids. Let's do the math. Say there's four of you. And you each have 2.5 kids. That's 10 kids amongst the lot of you. And let's say they each have 2.5 kids. That's 25 potential reader of My American, Radio Life.
So go forth and prosper... and mate.
... If you really think about it, we should probably hire some people to go out into the community and sell our wares. Station manager Debbie Wargo has too much to do. So do I. My sister Jen does our books and isn't the person. Ryan Walsh has his hands full with sports and producing all the on-air stuff. Harlow does the afternoon show, Geno at noon, and Kubic late-night.
There's a bunch of other people at WJOB who are also good radio people, but, like me, none are radio sales people. Maybe that's what we need to hire next, professional radio and digital sales people. I'm sure that at least two of the four of you reading this are thinking that exact thing.
Why not just hire sales people?
Here's my first reaction to that. "Nah."
I don't know why the reluctance to set up a marketing department. We have growing local radio on AM just outside Chicago - and now we have FM. We have a growing video presence. And yet we don't have sales people. I'm kind of embarrassed to even admit it like that to the three or four of you.
But as always... I figure that if I just think about a problem long enough - and write it out either to the three or four of you or in my more private journal - and if I just wait long enough.... that a solution will come. No kidding. That's my method.
Hmmm... there's a problem. Write it out. Think about it. Try some different solutions. If one doesn't work, discard it immediately and try something else. Hmmm, think about it some more. Ruminate. Write. Build a prototype in your basement. Keep trying. A solution will come.
In other words, now that we've built these new products - the FM, the new studios, the video and the online stuff (including this blog) - it's time to reap a little cash from the investments. But how? The Strack & Van Til studio sponsorship is a pretty good sign that more regional businesses might want our product. But how do we get in front of them to show our wares?
That's the question. For now, enough people come through the doors every week to keep up the wall that we innovate behind. But at some time I've gotta release some capital to set up a marketing department... or find another solution.
Quiet... I'm thinking.