XLR chords and marketing pamphlets.
Tom Petty, Grateful Dead and now
Facebook Live, Twitter Live and
A new surprise.
All radio is good.
Just some is better than others.
Most Facebook Live video is bad.
But it’s getting better.
But I have to change that – Media is moving quickly these days. It is sweeping me away.
Every once in a while, you notice the change. Whereas once we were a single AM radio station fighting the game of radio, now we are AM and FM radio stations fighting the game of Facebook Live video. The change is accelerating, and as the three or four of you know, I love to be immersed in whatever I do. For 13 years, I have been immersed in radio. For 18 years before that, I was immersed in floor trading. And for a good 10 years before that, I was immersed in drugs, sex, beer and rock and roll.
Something is happening, and, to borrow from Stephen Stills, what it is ain’t exactly clear. Yesterday, WJOB station manager Debbie Wargo, sports director Ryan Walsh and I were trying to figure out how to broadcast from Pierogi Fest this year.
The three or four of you know what Pierogi Fest is. It’s the biggest festival every year in Northwest Indiana, and every year we broadcast live radio from the Fest in various forms. Recently, we’ve had a booth right in the middle of the Fest and we’ve had people there all day long giving stuff away. We have speakers at the booth to blare out whatever it is we’re saying, and we play Polkas and Jimmy Cliff songs. Everbody wins. Pierogi Fest gets exposure to local people, and so does WJOB. And local people can feel good about having something so cool and pure as Pierogi Fest and WJOB.
Also, every year, I put on a dress and a wig and some black socks and push a lawnmower through a hundred thousand people. Don’t ask. It’s indescribable what a weird and mass scene it is.
But this year, we have Facebook Live to deal with. Last week, when we broadcasted the big July 3rd fireworks from Munster, we did a little bit of radio on AM and FM, but mostly we just did Facebook Live videos live from the site. I believe, all tolled, we had about 10,000 views of our content that night, which isn’t great but not too bad for doing it the first time.
Now, we’re trying to figure out how to best cover a hundred thousand people sweating their you-know-whats off along 119th Street in Whiting, Indiana. One of the things to consider is that when we broadcast live video on Facebook, we can’t play music. This may sound nonsensical in that we’re radio stations and we pay a ton of money for the rights to play music. But if music slips onto a video on Facebook Live, they take it down and send us a nastygram.
So we’re limited on what we can do while Facebook is streaming from the site. There is music all around us at the booth. Other radio stations, from Chicago mostly, also come to the three-day celebration of Polish heritage (I’m half Polish). Oh, and I forgot to mention, we’re helping to promote this year a “Polkaniera” on Saturday at 5pm during Pierogi fest. It's a cross between a "quinciniear" and polkas. It brings the Hispanic and Polish populations together like never before.
Actually, I have this theory. If you put 50 Mexicans and 50 Pollacks in a gymnasium for breakfast, by lunch half of them will be f---ing., and by dinner they’ll have babies. There’s an unnatural sexual tension created between tamales and charnina, between being late and arriving early, between brown skin and kinda brown skin, between hairy bodies and hairy bodies. In other words, there are a lot of Mexicans and Pollacks who have come together to create babies around here. My kids are “Pollicans.” Kusiak’s kids are Pollicans. So are Koliboski’s. And, I learned when I interviewed her a couple of times, even the 10th ward alderwoman from Chicago produced Pollicans.
Pollicans are everywhere in the Region, and we’re gonna celebrate that by playing Polish and Mexian polkas and then dancing. Hopefully, couples won’t be pairing off and having sex in the bushes, but you never know. Officer Sopo better be on alert.
The point I’m trying to get to in all of my rambling is that halfway through the meeting with Debbie and Ryan and Jimmy Mullaney, Debbie interrupted.
“Let’s not even cover the parade live on the radio. Let’s just do the whole thing on Facebook Live.”
Silence. I didn’t say anything at first.
“Say something,” Debbie said.
“Here’s what I’ll say. Do you know how long it has taken to get to this point? I have been pressing you guys for a while now to think in terms of Facebook Live first, before radio. Finally, it happened. You just did it.”
“I guess,” Debbie said. And we all acknowledged the moment.
There is a change afoot. The three or four of you know that. What it is ain’t exactly clear, but at least a couple of radio stations out of the 12,000-plus in America is undergoing a sea change when it comes to how we distribute our content.
And this sea change has prevented me from writing this blog to the three or four of you for a few days. I have simply been too busy.
- We signed up a couple of big clients, and, you know what? The sales had to do mostly with live, streaming video. That’s what these companies want of ours. They love the radio and the brand, but they crave the video. There’s a difference.
- We’ve been given sponsorship money to buy robotic cameras, and, soon, will be given sponsorship dough to buy a whole new lighting system at our studios at Purdue. I design this stuff. It’s taking me a ton of time to research it and to work it all together.
- As the three or four of you know, we broadcast from the “Strack & Van Til studios on the campus of the Purdue Northwest Commercialization Center.” And, as you know, the parent company of SVT has been in bankruptcy. In a dramatic turn of events, Jeff Strack and the Van Til family on Tuesday actually won an auction to buy back their grocery stores. This has taken up some of my focus. It’s great news for the Region.
As a matter of fact, yesterday, Ryan lined it up for Jeff Strack to call in and talk to me and Joe Pete, the business writer for the Times of Northwest Indiana. The only problem was that there was a huge thunderstorm going on and the lighting had cut off Comcast at our studios at Purdue… but not at our old studios behind Smith Chevrolet.
So we had about an hour to set up to not only go on the radio with Strack and Joe Pete, but to also set up at least a rudimentary system to Facebook Live the interview. We pulled it off, with the calm assistance of Jimmy Mullaney, Debbie and others, but, believe me, it was a Chinese fire drill for a good 50 minutes.
It felt good to be in the old studio, but I realized that I hadn’t broadcasted from there in a couple of years. Joe Pete kept asking me if we’re gonna turn it into a broadcast museum. There’s so much radio history in that old building at the base of the tower. And when it came time to either put a new roof on it or tear the building down, I chose the former, partly because at one point I wanna make a broadcast museum. We just can’t tear down the building. No way. I worked there in the mid-80s right out of college. Felicia Middlebrooks, Frank Reynolds, Jan Gabriel and more all worked there. Can’t tear it down. Gotta make a museum. Not now, but someday.
These are just some of the things going on as we transition from radio to something other than radio. As a matter of fact, it’s going at such a non-stop pace that I am not doing my morning show today. Sam Michel, the 24-year-old kid from Highland, is hosting it. My producer, Ryan, insisted on it.
“You need to catch up.”
These are good challenges to have. Our media is moving swiftly. Are we moving it in the right direction? Nobody knows, not even you. Talk later.