It’s 7:47pm on a Monday evening. The NCAA championship game will start in a few minutes. WJOB sports producer Ryan Walsh and South Suburban College head basketball coach John Pigati are doing a final game preview show on Facebook Live and on AM 1230 and 104.7 FM. It’s pretty good.
Both daughters have retreated to their respective cities, Chicago and New York. I drove one daughter to DePaul last night and then drove another to Chicago to Maywood, Illinois, and then to Midway. She’s already in her apartment in Queens.
So since Alexis has to work late, it’s just the three or four of you and me. One of the daughters even took the dog for a few days.
By nature, I crave solitude every once in a while. That comes from growing up the oldest of five children, with 50 or so cousins just around the corner. I spent a good portion of my youth looking for a nook to crawl up in and read Sports Illustrated or page through a Playboy I stole from my grandpa’s stash. There were always people around.
And it looks like there’s gonna be people around again. I hear the garage door opening. That means Mrs. Fun is home. Alexis does not crave solitude, at least not very often, despite growing up in a family of six kids and one bathroom. She thrives on interaction, and if I play my cards right, maybe I’ll get a little of that… interaction.
What I want to tell the three or four of you right now is that I’m as confused as ever about how to brand and organize the AM radio, FM radio, the Facebook Live videos and the podcasting. I fooled around with redesigning the website just now and probably made it even more confusing. But I did put a quote on the front page of wjob1230.com that is either self-aggrandizing, arrogant, confusing or stupid. Or all of the above.
“Facebook Live is the New Radio. So are podcasts. But traditional radio will always be beautiful.” – Jim Dedelow (JED)
Rick Kubic, our latenight host on WJOB, and I had a discussion last night as I drove back from Chicago. Rick says all branding and organizing of our content should go through WJOB.
“It’s like WGN. They have WGN Radio. WGN News. WGN America and so forth. That’s what we should be. WJOB radio. WJOB Facebook Live. WJOB podcasting.”
Rick has a really good point. And I tend to agree. Where we differ is where radio is headed. Rick says that a lot of people just want to turn on the radio and have us be there, so we should concentrate on doing traditional radio shows.
I disagree. The numbers don’t support it. Every year, less people listen to traditional radio and more listen to podcasts and watch Facebook Live videos. Eventually, our listener numbers will dwindle away and we could die as a traditional radio station.
As part of this discussion, I’m trying to get Rick to do a podcast. Several years ago, he used to do a music show called, “Music Underdogs.” Rick played in a band called Madder Rose and travelled the world playing the drums. He knows his music.
But I noticed that every time I listened to his music show – which was about playing music that you might not have heard the first time around – I wished he would tell more stories. He grew in Hegewisch near St. Florian and he travelled the world and he’s got this weird way of looking at the world.
“It’s called ‘observance radio,’” he told me last night. “And don’t you steal it.”
Anyways, I noticed that every time he went to music, I wished that he would continue to talk.
“Hey Rick, why don’t you do a late-night show in which you play a little music but you also just do some stream of consciousness. How about it?”
For some reason, Rick agreed. It’s three years later and you listen to his show. He starts into it with this low, soothing voice at about 10:05 and next thing you know it’s 10:22 and you listened to him talk for 17 minutes about a candy wrapper.
“It’s observance radio. And don’t you steal it.”
In the end, I’m now suggesting to Rick – when he’s ready – to think about doing a podcast. He’s got a studio in his home and he could record it during the day. Or, possibly even more tantalizing, with his wife Kat sometimes. Rick has stories to tell and he tells them well. So does Kat. That’s what a podcast is.
But we also synthesized an idea of how long a “JEDcast” should be. We came up with the idea of a digestible bite.
How long should a podcast be? That’s debatable. A lot of podcasters praise the fact that a podcast could be any length that you want it to be. Good for you. But as a listener, I don’t know about the three or four of you, but I usually fall off after about 25 minutes – no matter how good it is. I really don’t know if that’s how it is, but Rick and I agree that after about 25 minutes agitation sets in.
How long should a radio bit be? With radio bits, you don’t have the total freedom that you get sitting in your underwear doing a podcast in your spare bedroom. With radio, you got about 15 minutes and then you have to play a commercial. You internalize the radio clock and after about 15 minutes you go to a commercial. Your listeners internalize that clock, too.
Radio – 15 minutes
Podcast – 25 minutes.
Now remember, the reason that length is even an issue is that everything we produce, we try to play it in at least two places. If we make a podcast, we try to play it also on the radio. If we do a Facebook Live video, we make sure to play it on the radio… and maybe even make it into a podcast.
So our podcasts have the eventual aim of getting played on the radio. That presents a specific challenge. Many podcasters go over an hour. That might work as a podcast on your phone under your pillow as you’re going to bed. Or on your Bluetooth in your car as you drive to Cleveland. But an hour-long podcast doesn’t work on the radio. A long podcast works if you take the time to cut it up into 20 minute segments, but it’s not natural to listen to an 80-minute show straight through on the radio.
Besides, when doing a podcast, it doesn’t sound natural to remind people who is talking. As a podcast, you chose it so you already know who’s talking. On radio, I teach people to remind listeners who’s talking every four minutes or so. That’s a whole different ballgame.
So Rick and I agree on one thing – that if you’re gonna do a podcast that’s gonna get played on the radio, an appropriate length is about 20 minutes. End of story. I keep hearing a hum like it’s the garage door, but it’s not. It’s the sump pump, which is working overtime since it only rains in northwest Indiana anymore. Alexis did, however, just text me and said she’d be home in a few minutes. That’s gonna have to be it for the three or four of you tonight. I really don’t want her to come in the bedroom to see me typing to you in my underwear.