It’s Tuesday night after Memorial Day. 10pm. As usual, it’s storming outside. In between bursts of thunder and flashes of light, I can hear the familiar hum of the Borman Expressway, 80-94.
This morning, I interviewed the governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb. We talked, among other things, about highways like the Borman. The governor reiterated his commitment to improving the roads of Indiana, which is known as the “Crossroads of America.” Holcomb used this term several times.
As the governor talked Crossroads, I thought of this moment, this hum, this rush of engines merged into a symphony. I live now exactly the same distance from the Borman that I did when I was a kid. It’s a different house, but the same amount of love. It wasn’t the Borman then. Frank from Crown Point had yet to travel to the moon.
… More thunder. It shoots enough sound to cover up the orchestra. Back then, lying in bed as a kid, you could make out distinct engines on the Borman. Not as many people had mufflers on their cars and motorcycles. As a matter of fact, almost no one had one on a motorcycle. It was cool to drive down the street in a jean jacket and long hair on a loud as hell cycle.
First thing I did in California when I graduated and started working at a garment factory in downtown LA was to buy a motorcycle. I became, you guessed it, a young man riding down the road in a jean jacket and long hair on a loud as hell motorcycle.
There goes the lightning siren. Kids playing the late game at Munster Little League were just forced off the field into their parents’ cars. Back then, in the 70s, you’d just keep playing until it actually rained hard. Oh well. Governor Holcomb also talked about the little dustup he had with Hammond mayor Tom McDermott, hate crimes, education funding and how much he loves the Region. He’s a politician. I’m jaded. They all sound the same after a while.
I did get an interesting text from my cousin, Scott Francoeur, who coaches basketball for a living in South Bend, Indiana, the town where future president Pete Buttigieg lives. Scott texted this:
“Just an observation… you have become a hell of an interviewer… I just hate listening to interviewers that are – unprepared – enamored with their own voice… 45-second questions…. You always sound prepared and when the question is over, it’s over.”
Scott rarely complements, so this stopped me in my tracks.
… In other media news, station manager Debbie Wargo and I are having a difficult time trying to figure out how to market what it is that we have.
As the three or four of you know, we were once just an AM radio station. WJOB AM 1230, the Voice of the Region since 1924 (or 1923, depending on which historical documents you believe).
In 2016, we added an FM station, 104.7 FM. And we started streaming radio on the TuneIn app. We also were one of the first radio stations in America to start streaming video regularly to Facebook Live. Now we have our own Roku, Apple and Amazon channels.
We may be reaching more people now than WJOB has in decades. If you add it up, we broadcast to seven different places. Three radio channels and four in video. This is difficult for many potential customers to understand.
As the three or four of you know, this blog isn’t only for you. It’s for broadcasting students 50 years from now who stumble on my writings. They will ask:
“How could it be confusing to send the same content to different audio and video channels?”
By 2069, the same feed may go to a hundred different distribution outlets. That’s fine. But now, in 2019, people who buy media advertising are used to buying single lane media. Radio is radio. When a woman calls from an agency or a local business, she wants to know how much radio spots cost. When we try to explain that they are not just spots on an AM radio station, that they are a whole bunch more, she doesn’t understand and doesn’t care.
Therein lies the conundrum. We have created too many broadcast outlets. It’s confusing to the potential advertiser. When they call, I can hear Debbie trying to explain the TuneIn app and what Facebook Live video does. If you mix in the Roku streaming video app, all hell breaks loose.
That’s where it sits as the rain starts coming down hard. This is the point at which, as a child, I’d be riding my bike home past Yankee Doodle in the pouring rain… thunder loud enough to make you cup your ears, lighting bright enough to read a book by. There would be no thunderstorm sirens anywhere.
… Anyways, Debbie, Ryan and I have been struggling for a while now on how to bundle our offerings together to make it simple for the potential advertiser.
“I’ve been looking all around the internet at other radio stations to see how they handle it, but we’re really the only ones who do what we do,” Debbie said today.
“And what is that we do?”
“That’s the problem. I don’t really know.”
Do you sell radio and bonus out the video? Do you sell AM and FM radio separately? How much do you charge for a Facebook Live TV commercial during a high school sectional game?
How do you sell digital broadcasting advertising that’s also on radio? Do you call people and then write them up a fancy proposal and then go back and forth on negotiations of price and quantity… all of this after you spent hours explaining what streaming video is and the TuneIn app and told them that you bought an FM radio station?
This takes a lot of time and cost.
Or do you try to sell digital video and radio advertising on the internet, as a commodity, like Amazon does?
The latter is where I’m leaning. For whatever reason, there is a decent amount of demand for what we do. People call us every day curious about how to advertise on WJOB.
But it is so laborious. Many people who call are older and aren’t even on Facebook. And they don’t own a smart TV. They have never heard of a TuneIn app. We spend a ton of time educating, and then we have to sell the old fashioned way with proposals, visits, and negotiations.
There has to be a solution. We have a lot of customers. We often sell out in the morning. As a matter of fact, we’re thinking of expanding me to also do an afternoon show.
Another quandary is – is it the WJOB brand and all of the technology… or is it me?
I’m not kidding with this. It deserves what is known in marketing classes as an A/B test.
Here’s only a few of things we need to determine:
The HeyJED app?
That’s another story for another stormy night. It’s raining like hell in the Calumet Region, as it has been for the past eight months. If not snow or rain then certainly clouds. Alexis and I came out of a restaurant tonight –
“Oh my god, it’s cold as hell. It's like November.”
… Thank you to the three or four of you for holding my hand during a storm. As noted before, I don’t just write this blog for the three or four of you and for broadcasting students 50 years from now. I also write it because I am confused and by writing long diatribes I can come out on the other side a little less confused. Not this time, but often.