As always – and I’m guessing that the three or four of you are getting tired of hearing this – radio rushes past me at a frantic pace. It’s just how it is. Maybe I am not necessarily addicted to radio, or trading before it, but to the pace of both.
This week has been dominated by the flood...
So when the perfect storm hit this week –
- 3 inches of rain
- 16 inches of snow melting in a hurry
- frozen ground
people tuned to me on the radio and on Facebook Live.
But a curious thing happened. Someone else became the flood guy. His name is Rick Kubic. He hosts “The Frunch Room” on Fridays, 2-4pm. And he does all of the editing and recording of our spots. And sometimes he subs for me in the morning. Rick is a man of many talents.
Kubic was everywhere this week. He was on Hart Ditch. He was at the closing of the Kennedy Avenue bridge. He was at other bridges over the Little Cal and he was driving around commenting on the rain. He earned many thousands of views on Facebook for us. He also took pressure off of me. Thanks, Rick.
There’s other things going on in My Radio Life this week. Of course, I also did Facebook Live videos of flood stuff. Mine were real early in the morning or late at night. And I did my show in the morning, which, as you can guess, was mostly about the rains and the high water and the traffic that resulted from it.
But I also got to have my nephew, Craig Dedelow, on the show this morning. He got drafted in the 9th round by the White Sox last summer. On March 6th, he heads to Phoenix for spring training.
Craig has been avoiding me for a while. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to come on the radio with me. I shouldn’t say “for whatever reason.” That is not accurate. I know why. Craig knows that I am quite capable of making fun of him, embarrassing him.
I could have done that, for sure. But I have been duly warned by people like my wife, my daughters, my sister, cousin Phyllis and other hardheaded Region women who think they can have a say in what I do.
For whatever reason, their admonitions that I not make fun of Craig worked. We did a very sedate, professional 20 minutes of radio this morning. It might have been a tad boring. But Craig is searching for his voice. He may need it. Also, I didn’t want to draw the wrath of angry Region women.
Also, I am continuing my academic career. I taught Sports Broadcasting twice and went to graduate marketing once. As a matter of fact, I just got back from taking a quiz in Marketing 620. It was a quiz on CLV – Customer Lifetime Value. And I aced it. No kidding. I got a 40 out of 40. It’s probably a bit childish, but I’m pretty happy about this. I worked until about noon, took a three-hour nap, and then studied for a few hours. Then I went to the office hours of the professor and she explained a couple of things like “churn rate” and “acquisition costs.”
I’ll get back to marketing later. I’m doing an experiment, and I’ll tell the three or four of you about it later. For now, let’s talk about another experiment.
As the three or four of you may remember, I brought the ten students in my Sports Broadcasting class out to the Ashland University at Purdue Northwest basketball games on Saturday. The students broke down into pairs and announced the games into a tape recorder. That’s not what they call it these days. It’s a “digital recorder” now, but it does the same thing as the old cassette that I used to carry around as a cub reporter in the 1980s.
Anyways, the students all said they loved the experience. They did a helluval lot better than the first time they announced games. That was in the studio. We played the game on a big screen and they announced it. They almost all, to a tee, sucked.
But fast forward to Saturday. They all did not suck. As a matter of fact, they all improved greatly.
“I really liked the feel of a live game,” one woman said.
“It was a lot easier. You’re kind of carried along by the energy of the action and the crowd.”
They had challenges, for sure. Ashland University women are #1 in the country. They play a very up-tempo style of basketball. They run and they run, which doesn’t give the play-by-play announcer and the color analyst much time to reflect on what’s going on.
The men’s game was easier. The Ashland men play a slower brand of basketball, which is, I guess , a little odd in that someone at the game told me a wife coaches the women and the husband coaches the men. You’d think they would play a similar style of basketball. It must be a function of their differing personalities. I wonder how that goes at night before bed.
“How’s your team going?”
“Oh, we’re number one in the country. And you?”
In the end, it was an experiment to bring out the students to announce a live game. It worked. It certainly did not work when we tried it in the studio on a big screen.
So I’m going to extend the experiment. Class next week will be at high school sectionals. In the opening rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, they’ll get used to being at a crowded high school tournament game. They’ll keep stats for the announcers and help with the cameras. They’ll also monitor sound and even run the switcher and put up graphics on the Facebook Live video.
And then for the semifinals on Friday and the finals on Saturday, they’ll announce a whole game into a “digital recorder.” I’ll grade it and everyone will go on to the next thing. I hope it works. It worked in the relatively controlled environment of Purdue Northwest’s Fitness and Recreation Center. I wonder if it will work at the Hammond Civic Center, Whiting Memorial gymnasium and Lake Central. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. But in the end, we’ll all learn something, which is I guess is the purpose anyhows.
I’m doing a lot of learning these days. Marketing class. I'm leaning how to teach Sports Broadcasting. And I’ve developed an app with Shamari. We’re learning that it's a lot more work than you would have ever thought.
There’s also a big experiment regarding high school and college basketball and video.
As the three or four of you may have noticed, WJOB teamed up with the Region Sports Network to cut a deal with the IHSAA to broadcast a whole bunch of boys basketball tournament games. It’s mostly on Facebook Live video, with a few games on radio We had to pay the IHSAA a rights fee to do it. We gotta send out camera crews to several sites, all at the same time. This is a big undertaking. I want to come away from the deal learning a few things.
In the midst of colossal change in broadcasting – which is partly what this blog is all about – you can go it alone or you can look for alliances. Chris Ramirez of the Region Sports Network and I came together to put the tournament on the radio and on Facebook Live in video. The idea is that we can
- give more kids coverage
- cut costs
- increase revenues
It really is in that order of importance. We won’t be duplicating efforts at the various sites. Ramirez and his guys will go to Chesterton for that sectional. It’s the biggest schools and will probably have the most fans.
We’ll take the other three main sectionals around here – Lake Central, Hammond and Whiting. We will do almost all of the games from all four sites on Facebook Live in video. Many of the games will also be on my radio stations, AM 1230 WJOB and 104.7 FM.
There is a logistical challenge in that the Big Ten tournament will also be going on. We just don’t have enough open air time on the radio and we really don’t have enough bodies to broadcast all of the games. But, as I tell the three or four of you and my wife and anyone else who worries – it’ll work out.
Part of the experiment is just to see if it is better to work with another media outlet or not. I have never really done it. I’ll keep you updated how Ramirez and I get along, how the public accepts the project, how advertisers do and so forth. It’s a test of - can media outlets who have often competed come together to stem the tide of money that leaves the Region to go to Chicago to advertise on their TV. I don’t know.
- High school games
Everyone is learning how the new world of media works, the Indiana High School Athletic Association included. Facebook Live and other streaming video have changed everything.
And the IHSAA’s response to the challenge is to try to get as much money as possible out of local media companies. I respect the urge to rake in dollars. We all have the urge. I am not convinced that it makes good business sense for WJOB to pay the big rights fee and broadcast a ton of high school games in video on Facebook., Twitter, YouTube or wherever.
That’s where another experiment comes in. I want to:
- see how it is to negotiate with the IHSAA on video
- see if we can make any real money doing IHSAA games in video
For the past several years we have not been able to make any real money broadcasting high school games of any sport on the radio. There just isn’t that much interest in listening to high school games on the radio.
There is still interest in listening to college games on the radio, at least major college games. It’s like this. I only have so much airtime on the radio in the winter. Almost every night we air a basketball game of one type or another. It’s a mixture of:
- high school games
- small college games (Purdue Northwest and South Suburban College)
- major college games (Purdue and Indiana)
There is a huge difference in airing a high school game and a college game. The biggest difference is that colleges pay us. With high school games, we have to one way or another pay the IHSAA.
For high school games, we send crews out. For radio only, it’s usually two announcers and an engineer. For video, it’s a lot more than that. For high school, on top of producing the broadcasts, we also have to go out and sell ads.
For the small college games, we send out crews to do the games. Just like with high school, it used to be a much smaller crew when it was just radio. The colleges help us with the broadcasts. It’s much easier to do than a high school game. Another big difference with small colleges is that they pay us to produce and air the games, whether it’s radio or Facebook Live video. We don’t have to go out, as with high school, and sell advertising. The revenue is built in.
Now move on to the Purdue and Indiana games. We don’t do any video because they have the Big Ten Network. All that we do is program our computers to pick up the Learfield satellite feed at the appropriate time. The games air on radio to about 500,000 people in Indiana and about 2.5 million people in Illinois. Learfield pays us handsomely to do this.
So break it down To do high school games, we have to
- deal with sometimes unwilling athletic directors
- pay the IHSAA
- sell advertising
- send out a radio crew
- send out a video crew
With small colleges, we deal with willing administrations who pay us. They have people on site who are there to help us.
And with Purdue and Indiana, we have no added cost. We just cash the checks.
Do you start to see how it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a business case to broadcast high school games. With this post-season, I’m measuring how much time I put in to do the Indiana high school tournament, how much time Debbie our station manager and Ryan our sports producer put in. I’m measuring how much we spend and how much we take in.
I just want to know something. I already know that it would be a better business decision to simply sell time in the evenings to colleges to air their games. It would be a lot less work and a lot more money.
But as the three or four of you know, I played high school basketball in Indiana. So did my brother and a bunch of other relatives. Some are playing now. I love Indiana high school basketball. This love effects my business decisions when it comes to high school basketball.
So here’s what I want to explore this tournament. I already know that it costs me money and hours to indulge my sentimental notions of high school basketball in Indiana. I just want to know how many dollars and hours.
I’m in graduate business school. I got an A on my marketing quiz this evening. There has to be a way to quantify how much my love for high school basketball is costing me and the stations.
As the three or four of you know, part of the reason I write 5-10,000 words a week to you is to record for historical purposes what it’s like to live a life of local radio. We may have a little fun along the way, but ostensibly the purpose is to preserve a record of what a radio life is like.
May I add a corollary at this point? Can I write for a couple weeks just because I want to learn something?
As mentioned, I want to learn what it’s like to collaborate. And I want to answer the question – can I make money doing high school games?
Another question is this – will advertisers react better to an ad package that is mostly Facebook Live video? Will clients finally accept the new technology of Facebook Live video? Will they pay to be on Facebook Live? Will they accept Facebook Live better than they have radio games for the last few years?
So far, the answer has been “yes” to all of these. It was only really yesterday when we finalized the deal with the IHSAA. Ryan, Debbie and I picked up the phones immediately and now we’re nearly sold out.
That’s enough for tonight. I'll tell you more about this basketball deal as it unfolds. Right now, it’s after midnight. It is now Friday, February 23, 2018. Another day of radio coming. Rest up.