2:37am on Wednesday
You're in a deep sleep in the middle of the night and all of the sudden you roll over and your eyes open and even though you can hear the gentle hum of 80/94 outside your window, you know that you're awake and will stay that way until it's time to go to work. Such is the plight of the radioomniac.
There's a transition going on right now, as the three or four of you know. Radio has declined in listenership and importance in America over the last 20 years. Our impact has plummeted, if you can say it that way. The internet took over and, to many, we've been left in the dust.
I don't look at it that way, though. I look at it that we're in a period of transition. Yes, traditional AM radio like I do every weekday morning for four hours is fading. It hasn't gone away, as many have predicted... but as when television came along, we in radio have suffered but endured.
It's difficult to say where next in radio. Is it simply podcasting? Post two to 90-minute podcasts and people can listen to your content on their phone while they're driving through a snowstorm in the Sierra Nevadas. Is that now radio?
Or is it the live stream that you send out on the internet of the show that you do on regular, terrestrial radio. Is that radio?
Or is it HD radio? That's the HD signal that you can send off your tower around your existing signal that gives you a clearer sound. The problem is that very few people have HD receivers. It's a technology that works but has no traction and may or may not be part of our future.
It may be that New Radio is a combination of:
1. your traditional AM and FM signals
2. your podcasts
3. your live web stream of your programming
4. HD radio
But is there another possibility. What if radio morphs into something altogether different? That would be sad for the radio purists, which up until the past few days I have considered myself to be. But as a good talk show knows, you gotta let the show unfold in front of you and then just kind of tag along as it matures into something you never thought possible.
That happened yesterday, by the way. Co-host-for-a-Tuesday Verlie Suggs and I started talking about the Trump phenomena again. Verlie said that comment that she is now becoming well-known for:
"You no longer need a Confederate flag or a Ku Klux Klan cross. You can just put a Trump sign in your yard."
And then that sent us on a whirlwind that I still haven't come down from. Watch the Facebook post of this radio. Caller after caller - mostly white males upset with Verlie's accusations - lit up the airwaves with a raw burning that only happens once in a while in radio. It never, ever happens when you try to make it happen. Great radio - raw, real radio - only happens when it wants to and not when you want it to.
Anyways, there's a couple of ways that you can take in that content from yesterday morning. You can go to our podcast page and listen to portions of the show there. Or you can go to iTunes and pick up our podcast there. You could have listened live on WJOB AM 1230, as I certainly hope that the three or four of you did, and you could have listened to the web stream on the TuneIn app. Or you could have listened to it last night on WJOB during the "Region flashbacks" segment.
Or you could have watched some of it on Facebook. That's right. About halfway through the segment, I picked up my smartphone and streamed the show to Facebook live. This is a new service offered by Facebook. It's about a month old. And if I had to guess, Facebook live may very well be part of the future of radio.
Since Friday of last week, I've been streaming through my phone to Facebook my live radio. You should watch it, as thousands have already. Maybe it's because I'm one of the first to use Facebook live to stream live radio... and then to talk to the camera during the radio breaks, giving a kind of behind-the-scenes look at traditional radio.
Or maybe Facebook live is part of New Radio.
Take a look, the three or four of you, at the Facebook live post that Verlie and I did yesterday. There's some pretty good radio mixed in there, with a rawness and ferociousness that you donjt get on sanitized national or regional broadcasts. But it's not the content that happens on the air that is most interesting. About halfway through, Verlie and I go to a break... and then we talk to each other about radio, racism and the relationship between us and the listeners and the callers. It's a candid moment of two long-time radio people.
And it's revealing. Verlie expresses doubt. She says that she doesn't want my station to be known as the racist "Verlie Sharpton" station. In the meantime, you can tell by my yellow-toothed smile that I'm having the time of my life.
Why? Not because I necessarily enjoy talking about racial strife. Or that I like when people yell at each other. I'm smiling in the Facebook live post because it's good radio, and when that happens I'm happy as a clam.
It's this candid moment that makes the Facebook live post radiate. And it's that moment between Verlie and me during the break that makes me sense that somehow Facebook live could be part of the future of radio. At least part of my future in radio.
So I've ordered a dual-pronged stand from Arkon.com to hold both my iPad and my smart phone, which for now is an Android but I'm thinking of switching to an iphone. And we updated our Wirecast system so that we can broadcast straight from this studio management system to Facebook. Both of these things took a ton of research and some money... but even though it's only been a week since Mario Armstrong showed me the way at the Streaming Media East conference, I still know that what we've discovered is real. You can't tell me otherwise.
So it's 3:15 in the morning and I think about radio. Not about sitting behind a desk and a microphone and a computer and a stationary camera. I don't think about what I'm gonna say in that setting. I think about what I'm gonna say in a couple of hours when I put on my wireless Hammond Marina microphone and walk outside into the parking lot of the Purdue Northwest Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center and start talking while the semis go by. That's what I've been doing for the last month or so.
Listeners seem to like it when I just stand outside and horse around with the sound of traffic in the background. It's real, and real, as the three or four of you know, is always good for radio.
But it gets even realer when I pick up my smartphone and also talk live to the people on Facebook. I started it Friday and by Tuesday I've had thousands of views of my little videos, either live or as recorded video on Facebook. Those are numbers that would take me weeks to get to with my podcasts and weeks to get to with my live stream of audio and with my posted videos on youtube. There's a demand out there and I intend to meet it.
... So I bought the Arkon stand that Mario suggested, and since wire cast is the first video streaming software to partner with Facebook, and we happen to have several licenses of wire cast, I had Christina update that system. I'm gonna go in to the station in a little bit to see if, after the update, we can actually stream from the studio through our board and all the studio cameras to Facebook. If so, it could be a historic event, at least for us. The first studio video stream of live AM radio to Facebook. I wonder if anyone else has done that. Probably somewhere but it can't be too many radio stations. Facebook live just started a month ago.