Facebook = freedom.
I’ve been bitching about this for years. I’m the local radio guy. I’m the local Facebook Live guy. Give me some credibility on this.
What it boils down to is that I can do just about whatever I want on Facebook Live – except, of course, play copyrighted music.
But when it comes to radio, I’ve got to abide by a ream of rules a couple inches thick.
Indiana high school basketball – what once was radio is now Facebook Live. This week, we are preparing to video up to 20 local sectional basketball games on Facebook Live. It has been a tradition for 90 years in northwest Indiana and the south suburbs of Chicago to drive around during the first week of March and listen to the high school tournament on WJOB. This year, you can watch the whole thing on your phone on our Facebook feed.
This is a massive change. Of all of the things that we’ve done with Facebook Live, this tournament represents the biggest shift. The most important question is - Will advertisers buy Facebook-first coverage of Indiana high school basketball?
The answer is a resounding, “Yes.” We sold out in two days.
As much success as we’re having with Facebook, know this. It’s still dangerous. There is an imbalance. You have radio and TV stations that are regulated to the hilt. And you have social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google that have almost no rules at all.
Finally, this topic made it to “Meet the Press.” Every Sunday, when we can, Alexis and I wake up, start some bacon, and watch “Meet the Press.” Chuck Todd hosts what is arguably the most traditional news program there is. During commercials, Alexis comments on what’s going on. I memorize everything she says so I can regurgitate it on my morning show, sounding as if I give a shit about the latest buffoonery in Washington.
So imagine my surprise when Chuck and a Senator named Klobuchar from Minnesota actually spoke about a topic I care about.
“Should Facebook and Twitter be fined…. “ It doesn’t matter how Sen. Amy Klobuchar calling in from Minneapolis finished that sentence. It’s a question that never gets asked about Facebook and Twitter.
Sen. Klobuchar is basically questioning if we should police Facebook and Twitter on political stuff, which we are not doing now.
“Chuck, your TV station has rules, and so does radio, why can’t we do the same….?”
I couldn’t write fast enough to take notes on the end of her question. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that for the first time I’m hearing someone in national media talk about a topic that I care about a ton.
Facebook = freedom.
Radio = chains.
We are going into the primary season. I have to record succinctly who buys political advertising with WJOB. I have to say how much, who’s paying for it, when their spots or paid shows run, and I have to make it all available in a “public file” for everyone to see.
To make the reporting more onerous – or less, depending on how you look at it – we’re under a March 1 deadline to put our public file online. In the past, if you wanted to view all of this recordkeeping, you could just stop by the station and we would have to not only have it already prepared, we would have to show it to you.
And the whole time you’re doing all of this recordkeeping and all of this research to make sure you’re complying with every regulation, you’re living under a cloud. It’s a huge fear in the sky. It can come down on you at any time and take away all that you have worked for.
It’s called the FCC. In radio, you are taught that you must know, comply and record all that you do so that the FCC doesn’t walk in your door and take your station away. Don’t even shake your head that I am exaggerating. I went through this once. It cost me 50 grand and it wore a hole in my stomach that I’m still dealing with.
The whole time I was dealing with the FCC on what turned out to be a spurious complaint, I kept thinking –
“Could the FCC ever do this to Mark Zuckerberg? Could one person send a one-sentence complaint to the FCC and then Mark Zukerberg would have to hire investigators and supply correspondence and hand over tapes?”
Hell no. We live in a ridiculous time when it comes to media. You have, on one hand, traditional media that is extremely overregulated.
And you have social media sites like Facebook and Google that aren’t regulated at all, or very little.
It is an imbalance. So imagine my excitement when I’m laying there on the couch after a big breakfast. The sun, after being gone for over a month, had just come out. This foreing object splashed yellow, warm light over our living room. And then, like a wish come true, Senator Amy Klobuchar and reorter Chuck Todd were talking about something I figured would never get talked about.
The regulation of Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Chuck and Amy expressed concern that Facebook Google and Twitter are fanning the flames of divisiveness in this country. If you live in a blue area, you get fed liberal news outlets. If you live in red state, you get Breitbart.
They’re also expressing worry about how the Russians were able to use Facebook to possibly sway the 2016 presidential election.
“Should there be policing of digital ads on Facebook?” That was the lead-in to this rather short segment near the end of “Meet the Press.”
My excitement comes from the fact that it’s not just me typing in my underwear on my bed about the imbalance of regulation between traditional and social media. There are others who notice.
I notice because I own the two local radio stations and have started a pretty big local Facebook Live, Twitter and YouTube streaming video operation. On Friday, Hammond mayor Tom McDermott took notice on the air.
“I have to congratulate you and your team. With Facebook Live, you patched together something that Northwest Indiana didn’t have – our own television station.”
This is true. I went to a conference in New York City a year and a half ago. A guy gave a speech in one of the off rooms about this new technology – Facebook Live. It had just come out. There were only about a dozen people in the room. The speaker said he was gonna “Facebook Live” his presentation.
He pointed his phone at himself and then said to go to Facebook and look at him. There he was in front of me. There he was live on my phone.
I left the conference, flew home, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a Facebook Live video network.
“Facebook Live is the new radio,” I put at the top of our website.
We are grateful to Facebook for developing something that we had been trying to do for six years. I spent a lot of money and time to build at WJOB a streaming video backbone. We just couldn’t buy enough internet to take in all of the people who wanted to watch our stuff. Their screens froze a lot of the time. We also couldn’t archive the content. I realized halfway through this that streaming video was the answer to radio’s challenges, but I also realized that it would take millions, if not tens of millions, to build a platform to get it done.
Then Facebook Live came out and I literally went to the back of our 93-year-old radio station to our servers, unplugged them, and told everyone –
“Start Facebook Living everything. Now.”
In our first full year, 2017, we had 2.5 million views. In January of this year, we had 370,000 views on Facebook alone. Now, we’re also streaming on Twitter and YouTube. As mentioned, we’re gonna do this Indiana high school boys basketball tournament on Facebook Live.
I’m doing the boys tournament as an experiment. If you can transfer the energy of the Indiana high school boys basketball tournament from local radio to Facebook Live, then you can transfer anything.
I’m starting to wonder if it will ever come to the point where you will tune into AM 1230 WJOB and 104.7 FM and all you will hear, over and over, is:
“Thank you for checking in with WJOB. Don’t be frightened. We are still the same WJOB where Frank Reynolds and Jean Shepherd got their starts. It’s just that we distribute all of our shows and games in the relatively free space of Facebook Live video. Please go to the WJOB Facebook feed to watch and listen to exciting local programming that is going on right now.”
It could come to this. I’m telling you this as someone who owns two local radio stations – the two main local radio stations – and who does a ton of Facebook Live video. If things keep going the way that they are, with
Radio = chains
Facebook = freedom
then there could be no reason to broadcast over terrestrial airwaves. Go where things are free and open, not where someone’s looking over your shoulder the whole time.
It’s no accident that many experienced investors reject radio entirely. Here’s what one guy told me:
“JED, you’re a talented guy and you’re doing a lot of good for the Region. But I wouldn’t invest a dollar in an industry that’s as federally-regulated as radio is. Shoot me if I ever do.”
That’s a bit extreme, but the message is well taken. One industry - radio and TV – is regulated. The other – the internet – is not. Send your money where they don’t have to fill out paperwork when they sell an ad. Go where you don’t.
Back to Chuck Todd and Amy Klobuchar. Chuck obviously has been thinking about this. You could tell that he slipped this topic in by his producers.
“Let Chuck have his rant about the power of social media and then let’s get back to Trump and the Russians and gun control.”
Chuck pointed out the power of social media –
Amazon is bigger by market value than the 15 biggest retaliers combined. Places like Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Target and so forth.
Google and Facebook have a larger market value than the combined:
- 5 largest advertising companies
- 5 largest communications companies (Verizon, Comcast, etc)
- 5 biggest media companies (NBC, Disney, etc)
What does this tell you?
It tells you that Chuck Todd shares my pain. Not only is he looking out for radio and TV, he is looking out for America.
You can see it now. Russian hackers used Facebook to possibly decide who our last president would be. Donald Trump may have won because Russians used Facebook to sway us.
The Russians didn’t have to sit in the WJOB foyer to fill out forms. They just did it. And you can’t go to Facebook’s headquarters and ask to see how much they spent and where their ads ran and when.
That’s because most of what they did didn’t require spending anything at all. They just made up identities and acted like Americans. They hijacked our main communication system, which, make no mistake about it, is Facebook.
There is so much wrong here, I don’t know where to start. What it boils down to is that if we don’t get a handle on things, we could be in grave danger. You’re hearing this from the guy who has a special peek into how it works. I own radio and I own a company that sees Facebook Live video as the future.
Radio = chains
Facebook = freedom.