Monthly Archives: January 2018

Trust and The Truth

Have you noticed the trust people put in Wikipedia?

Country music artists have told me fans believe everything in their Wikipedia profiles.  When the Wiki data contradicts the official online posting:  fans believe Wikipedia.

This happened to me a few years ago when a fan started telling me about the origin of my radio station’s call-letters.  Without being a DB, I let them know the real history of the calls.  They didn’t believe me.  That’s not what is says on Wikipedia …

I love Wikipedia and use it to learn about places I visit and to research people from history.  But I always keep in mind that crowd sourced means just that – written by someone who’s objectivity is already tainted by their desire to write on this subject.

This isn’t new.  Years ago I was in a job interview and the GM asked me about my time at a certain radio station.  When I told him I had never worked there, he looked stumped and called-up a Wikipedia page with a list of the station’s alumni.  There was a Bob Walker there, but I’m positive it was not me.  But in parentheses after my name, it said current program director for (station).

Yup.  That was me.  Except it wasn’t.  

Someone editing the page had confused me with the other BW. At that point, the GM seemed almost irritated that I was questioning what was online and I’m sure it ended the interview (for the best … thank you.).

When I was in Milwaukee, a local blogger (who posted on the site of a legitimate media outlet) cited a reason our long-time morning talent at  WKTI was retiring.  Being there at the time, I knew it was not true.  Yet the local paper picked-up on it and probed me about it during their piece (I was the PD).  The more I denied it, the more the reporter thought I was hiding something and became aggressive.  A year after the event, I saw it in Wikipedia as if it happened.

Fake News!

Fortunately, Wikipedia can be updated and the entry has been changed.  This is not true for a YouTube video or other media stories that may live forever in cyberspace to collect hits and views.

The fake news we hear about today is politicians and media duking it out.  They both have it in for each other and the public is left to sort it all out.  Politicians tell bold lies.  The media tells the story from a point of view that attracts the biggest audience.  The the Russians step-in with RT and fuel the fire to the point of explosion.

Yet fake news is also allowing one small, tinyJason Aldean - THE TRUTH
misrepresentation to be accepted as truth … eventually growing and changing the dialogue of the conversation.  With crowd-sourced media exploding in popularity, I’m not sure we can fix it – especially with nobody going on the record anymore.

My radio talent knows to ask an artist – before the interview – about something they saw in Wikipedia.  So many times that artist is grateful because Wikipedia may be 98% accurate:  but it’s that 2% inaccuracy that can fester and cause P.R. problems.

Where does this leave the truth?  As one super-start artist told about his Wikipedia inaccuracy:  he’s been hearing it for so long:  he sometimes is convinced it is the truth.

Is this a trust issue?  People do not trust “official” anything.  When there is tension in your sports team’s clubhouse – who do you trust to explain it?  Team officials or bloggers and talk-show hosts?

Official entities have been spinning facts for so long, that the public assumes it’s all spin.  Guilt by association.

Talk-shows and blogs are also spin (to attract an audience).  But when a master story-teller lays it all out:  it feels real.  And when you are hearing it from a point of view that matches your own:  it becomes real.

A long-time colleague told me last year that you never know how inaccurate the news can be, until you read/watch/hear a story of which you have first-hand knowledge.

I can think of at least three times in my life when that is true.  I have watched news in total disbelief.  Yet I am not going to source any of this because I am not purporting to tell the truth.  This is my opinion.  Take it … or leave it.

If you trust me, it is the truth.

That is media 2018.

It’s About Content … Still!

Huddled in my living room on a bitter cold New Year’s weekend, I watched a discussion of the movie theater business on CNBC.  Insiders were pointing to “usage” as the reason for a dismal season at the box office.  The premise being it’s easier and more convenient to grab a Redbox or watch Netflix from the comfort of one’s living room.

True.

Yet – everyone on my street has seen Star Wars at the theater, abandoning the warm comfort of their living room for the theater … on the coldest, most miserable stretch of winter we’ve seen in years.

Being the consulate focus group moderator, I started probing.  A couple of consistencies:

  • Star Wars was something I wanted to see
  • Everyone is talking about it
  • It was the only time I went to the theater in the past 6 months

Plus –  all of the families had someone in the home watching Stanger Things on Netflix.  Wait:  Everyone on my street has Netflix?  Wow.  That’s the real stunner.

A little more probing convinced me it wasn’t all about the convenience (although that was a major factor).  It was the compelling content.  Most agreed that if Stranger Things concluded with a major movie released to theaters … they would go see it.  No issues with ticket prices, finding parking, leaving their homes, etc.

We asked the same question to fans of our large market radio station.  Same answer:  Yes, they would go see a Stranger Things finale if it was at the theater.  But other than Star Wars, there was nothing else really worth seeing on today’s lineup.

The Parallel In Our World

As smart speakers and personal assistants flood the consumer market, those of us in the mass media Alexa DOT (transparent)are rushing to get our content available to Alexa or Google Home.  That’s not enough.  There are thousands of “12 in-a-row” less talk, ,#1 hit music stations.  Yet there is only one Matt Siegel, Eric Ferguson, or Jagger & Kristi.  They are Netflix caliber content.

“12 In A Row” on the radio is the equivalent of The X Factor on TV … easy to miss.

This year, several hyper-local radio station were purchased by EMF to find a home for their K-Love brand.  The stations had full signals and were stand-alone properties … ripe for picking.  The K-Love brand is very well programmed and compelling, but 180 degrees from what several were programming including The Sound in Los Angeles and WBRU in Providence.  Fans of these stations literally held a wake to mourn the loss of the brands.  Can you imagine that happening for the “12-In-A-Row” #1 Hit Music Station?  No.  For the same reason we can’t imagine a “Save The Voice” campaign if Adam, Blake and the rest called it quits.

Usage is important and it’s imperative our product is easy to use.  But it’s still content that drives loyalty and builds a fanbase.  Fanbases usually mean strong ROI.

Content is expensive.  I get it.  But Netflix isn’t crowding their platform with The Jersey Shore.  Hulu is the online place for reality re-runs – which is why Netflix is building Apple level fandom while Hulu is an afterthought.

My goal is to one day have people on my street speak as passionately about one of my radio stations as they do about Netflix.  A boy can dream … right?