It’s 2:15pm on a gray and frigid Thursday. I did the morning show with a couple of guests – Mark Mybeck of the Nomad Planets band and Kevin Brinegar of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. It would be difficult connect these two guests. I can’t imagine what they have in common. So there wasn’t a theme to the show.
Unless, of course, you consider crime among 15-year-olds a theme. The three top stories of the morning were:
With Eric Krieg, if the plea deal is right, he went from Munster family man with a good job at the BP Whiting refinery to a pipe bomb terrorist. How did this happen? What turned this man?
Callers have been blaming social media. Maybe they’re right. Maybe a certain percentage of people, once they’re exposed to free yet hateful speech on social media, are going to radicalize. Perhaps it’s like heroin. A certain percentage of people, after their first intake of heroin, are just done. Terrorism. Heroin. Percentages. Done.
You figure it out. Now, with the Hammond sophomore who was shot in the head… I don’t even know what to ask. His family is saying that Hammond police are using young black teens as target practice and that they used unwarranted force. Who knows, at this point, what the real truth is. Perhaps it will unfold on the air at WJOB, like a lot of other local stories do.
Speaking of that, a guy named Dave, who works at the city of Hammond, called in today and identified himself as Victim 3 of Eric Krieg. What caused Eric Krieg to radicalize? His story is not unlike my story or my brother’s story or brother-in-law Mark’s story or Andy Qunell’s story or Dave Kusiak’s story or Bill Baker’s story… or, maybe, one of the three or four of you.
One day you’re walking around at your kid’s soccer game in Munster. We all share this story with Eric Krieg. Where our stories diverge is that a few days later, according to reports, Krieg’s making pipe bombs in his basement. Then he mails one to a guy he has a beef with. A few months later, he’s asking Judge Von Bokkelen for 29 years in prison.
How do you make sense of this stuff in a two and a half hour radio show? Don’t even get me started on the stabbing in Biology class at East Chicago Central. The mom of the victim says it was inches deep and almost killed her son. Send your kid to school, you expect him or her to come back home later for some Cap’n Crunch.
So that’s where I sit on a Thursday afternoon at the end of November. I tried very hard to make jokes and have fun this morning. And if you watch the video of the show on Facebook Live, you might even say I succeeded.
But not really. By the time 8am rolled around, I couldn’t wait to get out of the studio. I headed straight for the counter at Round the Clock restaurant for two eggs scrambled. I read the Sports section in the paper (why are the Raptors so good?) and then came back to the office to run a media company.
Our biggest dilemmas these days is:
We have been streaming video on Facebook Live for two and a half years. We’ve amassed a total of about six million video views. That’s a lot. The challenge is – how do you make money on this?
It’s a challenge on Facebook Live, that’s for sure. You’re not supposed to run TV commercials within your feed. Also, if a copyrighted song slips onto the air, say, on the stereo at a high school basketball game, Facebook can take down the game. If it happens a couple of times, Facebook can shut you down completely. You’re out of business for a month or two. Facebook can unilaterally decide to do this… even though you’re a radio station that already pays for the rights to play music.
Then there’s Over-the-Top video. Think of Roku, Hulu, Amazon, Android TV, Apple Tv and others. On these services, you can build your own streaming television network for distribution on people’s smart TVs. And everyone who buys a TV these days is buying a smart TV.
The dilemma is – do we continue with Facebook Live or build our own OTT network?
This is not an easy question to answer. We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to stream video live. Our numbers are solid enough on Facebook to attract sponsors. Plus, our high school games run on the IHSAAtv.org website and on their Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick and more.
But if we switch all of our programming to Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, etc., we risk two things:
Let’s talk money first. My method has basically been to plow every dollar of profit into technology. I’ve been doing this for years. Every time we get a little bit ahead, instead of taking that money off the table, I plow it back into technology.
This comes from experience. As the three or four of you know, I traded at the Chicago Board of Trade for 18 years. I stood in the pits and yelled for money. When computers replaced open outcry, I didn’t adapt. I pledged that no matter what I did for the rest of my working life, I was gonna adapt to new technology.
So here we are. Enough local advertisers want to be part of our streaming video that I could build profits in 2019 and perhaps take some dough off the table. Or I could plow more investment into the unknown. In this case, it’s OTT TV. I have no idea which direction to go. That’s the beauty of it.
Let’s also talk audience. Sure, if you make your network available on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick and more, you will gain tech-friendly millennials who want to watch Munster-Valpo game. But is it enough to replace the many who may not take the extra step to find you on the WJOB Network, either on your website or on a connected TV app?
This is where the risk comes in. Sure, the advertiser gets a TV commercial in the middle of local programming – where there has really never been commercial local TV programming before – but is the shift to OTT happening quickly enough from cable to sustain a local TV network?
I have no idea. These are the kinds of things I think about on a day in which the talk of the day was a shooting, a stabling and a pipe bomb. You’d feel a bit heavy, too, if it was your mission to lead a discussion on these topics. Try it some time.