As discussed, president Trump’s “shithole” comment illustrates the disadvantage that radio faces in debating public issues. Cable and internet and even NBC can say “shithole,” but the 15,000 radio stations in America risk huge regulatory discomfort if we say “shithole.” This is a distinct competitive disadvantage.
- Facebook changed its News Feed. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook has a new “strategy of promoting content shared by friends and family over posts published by news outlets.”
- North Korea threw a nuclear bomb at Hawaii. Oh, wait, False alarm. Someone made a mistake and sent out a false alert to thousands of phones. This caused bedlam in Hawaii and around the world.
As far as changes to Facebook’s News Feed, you might not think at first that this effects radio and WJOB. But it does. Make no mistake about it. WJOB has changed. We used to be the little radio station that could. Now, we are the local leader in Facebook Live video.
In 2017, we earned 2.5 million Facebook Live video views. In the first two weeks of 2018, we have earned 150,000 views:
- We did a high school game between East Chicago Central and Calumet on Thursday that got 7,200 views.
- Rick Kubic did an on-site video this week of the demolition of the Town Theater on Friday that got 9,000 views.
- My interview with Olivia Longo about how she wants to meet Taylor Swift got almost 30,000 views.
WJOB has changed. Facebook Live video is a big part of what we do. So when Facebook says they’ll highlight in people’s feeds what friends and family say over what professional news organizations say, I had to figure out what was going on.
One of the people who is being most outspoken about this change is Audrey Cooper, editor-in-chief of The San Francisco Chronicle. Audrey wrote a letter:
Letter to Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook News Feed change hides news, hurts nation
Cooper tells Zuckerberg how over the years “advertising dollars flowed out of our companies and over to you.” Cooper says that the Chronicle accepted this:
- “We were successful in getting people to “like” our news, and you started to notice. Studies show more than half of Americans use Facebook to get news. That traffic matters because we monetize it — it pays the reporters who hold the powerful accountable.”
The Chronicle, which is big, and WJOB, which is little, did essentially the same thing. We followed people to Facebook.
Here’s where the game changed. Somewhere along the line, the Russians used Facebook to put up stuff that may have helped Donald Trump get elected over Hillary Clinton. According to the Journal:
- “Facebook, Twitter and Google were called before Congress to explain how their platforms had been utilized to spread misinformation and influence political events during the election cycle. Facebook conceded at the hearing that an estimated 126 million users were exposed to posts during the last presidential election cycle that were made and promoted by Russian-backed hackers.”
You know what a big deal it is that Russia may have had a hand in electing our president. That’s what the Mueller investigation is all about.
But what does it mean to all of us when Facebook, which is the largest media company in the world, says that they’re gonna put up more baby pictures and less news from legitimate organizations? Cooper has an answer:
- “my relatives will still share fake news on Facebook, and it will show up in my “news” feed under your new rules. I’ll still see the partisan opinion pieces that my friends share. But I won’t see posts from responsible news outlets…”
- “The San Francisco Chronicle won’t go out of business because of this decision. But smaller publications very likely could, and virtually all news organizations will lose money that pays for reportage. Efforts to band news organizations together to address this could violate antitrust laws, so many of us feel helpless.”
This is a real crisis. It’s not one that’s getting a lot of attention right now. But I am telling the three or four of you who read my blog this – If we don’t address the rules regarding media, and do it soon, we may be in a heap of trouble.
What I’ve been bitching about of late is that radio is shackled with all sorts of rules that Mark Zuckerberg is not. I propose that we level the playing field. Put it this way – who do you want making decisions about what information people in the Calumet Region see, me or Mark Zuckerberg?
That’s a question you will have to answer for yourself. But I put forward my more than 30 years of being in the media and my dedication not just to WJOB but to all of the Calumet Region. Release the shackles – all of the shackles – so that I can compete with Mark Zucerberg and we can have a say in what we see and hear. I pledge to you this: If you release the shackles, I will find a way to build a media that is ours and that is paramount in your life.
Not that we’re not paramount in your life right now. Our mix of AM and FM radio, along with Facebook Live and Twitter video, works well. We’re growing. But as the three or four of you know, I’m getting pissed off as hell that I have to do a bunch of things that Mark Zuckerberg does not.
And as anti-trust stuff… what would happen if The Times of Northwest Indiana and The Post-Tribune and WJOB all got together?
There very well may be anti-trust lawyers dragging us to court. And it is working together that may ultimately be the best way to keep local media strong. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Release the anti-trust issues and all of the shackles. Let us decide if we want to cooperate.
I have to keep coming back to Cooper’s letter to Zuckerberg. She says it way more eloquently that I could ever:
- “You can do better than this. Each decision you make that limits the reach of our journalism hurts our ability to effect positive change in our city and state. Eventually, you’re going to realize that’s not good for anyone.
So amidst the shit-storm surrounding Trump’s “shithole” comment, wildfires gone wild in California, and a fake nuclear attack alert in Hawaii, Facebook slipped it in that they’re going to favor baby pictures over legitimate news posts.
So what does this mean for WJOB?
It’s hard to say. We differ from the San Francisco Chronicle in a fundamental way. The Chronicle, as far as I can tell, posts stuff on Facebook to lead people back to the Chronicle’s web site. That’s where they can make money off of the content.
We don’t do this. We don’t even put news posts per se on Facebook. We almost exclusively post live videos. Some of our talent posts previews of what is coming up or links to content that is elsewhere, such as a podcast. But I have attempted to keep them from doing this I sense that if I was Facebook I would want our live video content and would give it favor in the news feed algorithm.
We post mostly live video with people talking or doing something in the community. It could be an interview in the studio or a man on the street presenting a giant pierogi drop along 119th Street. Or it could be a high school basketball game or, now, a reality segment that people like Christina Cortez, Rick Kubic, Tony Panek and even attorney Dave Gladish are doing.
Ultimately, we give our content to Facebook. There’s no link back to our website.
It has been difficult to monetize the content that we hand over to Facebook. But, recently, there’s been a surge of interest in advertising with us because of our Facebook presence. It turns out that local businesses want local hosts to look at the camera and say how great their businesses are. And advertisers want to be part of televised broadcasts of high school basketball games. There is tremendous upside to using Facebook Live video for a local radio station. Just keep costs low and insert sponsorships dexterously.
Whereas The San Francisco Chronicle is trying to get people back to their website, WJOB has basically made Facebook Live our website. It hasn’t become my personal website. I put my blog on JimDedelow.com. You can go to Facebook to find some of my blog, but you have to refer back to JimDedelow.com to read the full post. In that regard, I’m more like the Chronicle than WJOB.
I side with Ms. Cooper in her letter to Mark Zuckerberg. It is possible, however, that the changes in the Facebook algorithm may actually increase WJOB’s Facebook presence. Facebook has to find a better way. Or, guess what? They’ll wind up with the same regulators who look over our shoulders looking over theirs. And maybe that’s how it should be.
…. There is another major thing going on in the world that pertains to radio. And that is the fake alert of a nuclear attack on Hawaii from North Korea. It was an alert sent to phones. As far as I can tell, the fake alert wasn’t based on radio stations using the Emergency Broadcasting System.
Lost in much of the discussion of the fake nuclear attack is this – if we’re going to use our phones for news of our demise, then what the hell do we need radio for? Why is there so much regulation and expense regarding the Emergency Broadcasting System while there is very little regulation and, hence, expense regarding alerts sent out to phones? I don’t get it, but I pay for it. And because I pay for the Emergency Broadcasting System and so do 15,000 radio stations across America, we have less money to pay for things like local shows and games. It’s a competitive disadvantage that I will live with and so will my compatriots. We want America to be safer because radio stations across America have a system.
Once again, there has to be a better way. Either make all emergency communication go through the emergency system on radio that was designed to handle it . Or regulate the new system on people’s phones so it too can have the kind of oversight necessary to get it right.
… That’s all I got for you this morning. It’s 8:06 now on Martin Luther King Day. I don’t do the morning show on Monday holidays. A bunch of texts are coming in. You don’t even want to know what they’re about. But I can tell you this – there may come a day when if I’m gonna do a controversial interview that I may turn the radio off.
Think about it. If I had a on a rapper or construction worker who swears a lot… or a politician who is very controversial… I might think about turning off the radio and just doing the interview in video on Facebook, where there are a lot less rules.
What would I run on the radio while the interview was going on?
“Hello everybody. This is Jim Dedelow. Right now, I am interviewing so-and-so on Facebook Live. Please go there to watch and listen to the interview.”
I could play that over and over on my radio stations… just to avoid the shackles.