Today marks the 13th year Jacobs Media has been blogging. The JacoBLOG was started on this day in 2005. Today’s post is modified, updated, and an adapted version of last year’s version. And that’s the good news, because I can tell you that without a doubt, I get a little smarter and a little better with each passing year. And BTW, we appreciate you reading the blog. – FJ
It’s official. This blog has just turned 13 years old. In the Jewish faith, it’s the Bar/Bat Mitzvah year, but please don’t send any gifts or start thinking the “sweet table” should be opening soon. Its not that kind of celebration.
For the last 13 years, we’ve posted content every weekday. Now, it’s true I get a little help from my friends – outside contributors who write occasional guest posts. And I typically take the Monday of a 3-day weekend off. And we move to “Best of” mode around Christmas time through New Year’s Day. But a little cocktail napkin math will tell you that since 2005, I’ve written in the neighborhood of 3,200 posts. That’s a lot of writing.
The blog was born from a suggestion (OK, goading) from Tim Davis, who served as our Director of Digital back in 2005. We were wrapping up our first Techsurvey, YouTube was coming online, Facebook was still for college students, the iPhone didn’t exist, and Howard Stern was still on terrestrial radio. There was a lot going on, and there was a lot to say.
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As I grappled with the blogosphere, I asked Tim how often I should post. He told me successful blogs put up content on a regular basis, but there was no right answer. In my mind, regularity translated to “every day,” and that’s how we’ve done in over these past 12 years.
I’ve learned a lot about you, me, the radio industry, and our digital world during this time. I’ve made a few mistakes, hit a few home runs, and created something that appears to have value to both of us. That’s not just based on the metrics that grow every year, but on the anecdotal “blog bumps” that happen on almost a daily basis. That’s when someone – a client, a friend, a colleague – mentions that today’s post or maybe one from a year ago was interesting, insightful, thought-provoking, or dumb. That tells me the blog has impact, and the right people are reading it.
For example, last week, I found myself roaming the halls at Hubbard Radio in Chicago, and walked past Dave Karwowski, WTMX’s marketing director. The picture at the top of today’s post is worth 1,000 words (OK, maybe 750), and it encourages me to “write on.”
So, thinking about these last 13 years of JacoBLOG, here are some ways it has changed me and our business. And perhaps there’s something in here for you. The best day to have started a blog like this was many years ago, so it would now be popular and established. The second best day to start your own blog is today.
Here are 13 things I’ve learned from blogging, and why I do it.
1. It makes you more disciplined
Doing anything every day – working out, playing a musical instrument, or a sport – shows your commitment. Not just to writing a blog, but to everything. Some days it’s easy; other days, not so much. But when you know you have to do it because you’ve made a commitment to yourself, you find a way. It can get especially challenging on a day you feel like crap or you’re on the West Coast, or you’re just jammed up with other stuff. But you make time, and you do it. That ends up translating to everything you do in life, and that’s a good thing. As Seth Godin says, “The writing isn’t the hard part, it’s the commitment. Drip!” Yup.
2. It makes you a better writer
I thought I was a pretty decent writer before the blog started. I had been consulting for more than two decades, and that entailed a lot of memo and letter writing to clients and to staff. And before that as a programmer, I wrote a lot, too – copy, imaging, memos, etc. But nothing compares to banging out a respectable blog post every weekday. You can’t help but get better at the craft of writing.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote that to become truly skilled at something, you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it. So if you go back to my cocktail napkin math and you figure it takes a couple hours per post, I’m only at 6,400 hours. Getting close, but I still have a way to go. Actually, that’s a sobering thought.
3. It makes you more creative
No, this isn’t improv comedy, nor is it like doing a morning show. But daily blogging forces you to find your creative energy and focus. And unlike standup or radio, I get more reliable “ratings.” Every day, I’ve got metrics that tell me how many of you are reading the blog, as well as the prodding of Seth Resler to keep me on-point with my titles, my keywords, and my subscriber emails. Of course, not every post is designed for mass readership. I’ve learned there are some topics that will never reach thousands of you, but they contain important messages aimed at the right people. After all these years, I’m figuring out that creative balance.
4. It provides you with a platform
Over the years, I’ve learned I have a lot to say, and there’s a lot going on. These past 13 years have been disruptive, tumultuous, and exciting if you’re in the radio and media business. I think this period will one day be thought of as transformative as the days when Marconi figured out the technology, and Wolfman Jack learned how to connect with his young audience.
I’ve found there’s no shortage of stuff to talk about. I had always believed that, but it’s never been more true than right now, whether it’s the world of radio, technology, or politics. If you have something to say, there’s no better place to say it than a blog.
5. It gives you a voice
That is, if you take advantage of it. And a blog is very different than the industry trades that tend to be more factual. I read Tom Taylor, AllAccess, Inside Radio, RadioInk, RAMP, Jockline Daily, FMQB, and others religiously. They’re great at thoroughly reporting the stories happening in the radio business. But they aren’t like a blog that has a definite angle to it – or what I think of as a voice.
It took me a while to find mine. JacoBLOG is hopefully different than what you read from Mark Ramsey, Jerry Del Colliano, Dick Taylor, Steve Goldstein, and others who have started blogging in recent years. Everyone has a different angle, a different POV, and yes, a different voice. I respect all those guys, especially the ones who have done it for a long time, and who have staked out their own turf. I think the industry is better for it.
6. It’s a conversation starter
Some of those conversations I’m aware of because the blog has turned into a way for people to connect with me when I meet them at a conference or when I’m speaking to a client, a colleague, or someone I just met. If they mention today’s post, one from last week, or even months ago, it’s a way to begin a dialogue. I am told JacoBLOG is often forwarded within companies, clusters, and organizations. It’s a flattering thing when something you write resonates and kindles conversations in all sorts of places. That tells me it’s doing its job.
7. It keeps you current
You simply cannot write a daily blog without being plugged into what’s going on. I’ve become a voracious reader, and JacoBLOG has forced me to be aware of everything around me. You’re always looking for tomorrow’s post, a new angle, something relevant and hopefully interesting. I suppose it’s a lot like prepping for a personality or talk show. You’re always trawling around for something that resonates. If you work hard enough at it, you can do it on most days.
8. It helps you connect the dots
This has been a big one for me. As a consultant, I’ve always been pretty adept at taking an idea – yes, even one that’s not my own – adapting it, riffing on it, turning it on its side, and maybe making it into something better. I do that a lot with this blog – take a piece of research, an article or a story, and maybe even something from well outside the business – and find ways to bring it home, make it interesting, and applicable to what we all do every day. There’s a lot to learn about radio by spending time outside radio.
9. It teaches you about content marketing
Truth be told, I didn’t figure this out until I started hiring people with skill sets well beyond my own. (That’s good advice, too.) It started with Tim who got me going in the first place. Then Lori Lewis came along and taught me how to use social media to more effectively share and communicate the blog with others. And later, Seth Resler – Mr. Content Marketing – elevated my game by showing me how the blog could be amplified with search and other tools, and also how it could lead to growing our database, our reach, and our companies. I only had a very rudimentary knowledge about how to connect all these moving parts going in, so it’s been helpful to have people around me with a better understanding of how to better use and move the content.
I think the basic daily product we put out has been pretty consistent. And yet, when you look at the metrics, the last three years have ushered in a meteoric rise in the blog’s reach, subscribership, and influence. So, I have to attribute that to Seth who understands the fine art of using all the digital tools to strategically share content. If you’ve never had that conversation with him, you should.
10. It’s a way to acknowledge deserving people
From time to time, I’ll use the blog to go off about something (and very occasionally, a company or a person). But more often than not, I like to point to positive examples of people, stations, and organizations doing it right. Or taking chances and risks that are worthy. Some of these things never show up in the ratings, spreadsheets, or the trades, but they matter because they make the industry better. Not everyone can make the “40 Most Powerful” roster, but that doesn’t mean radio isn’t loaded with all-stars who just don’t happen to (or want to) sit in the corner office. We started our “Radio’s Most Innovative” series a few years ago for just that purpose. It’s important to acknowledge people dedicated to uplifting the industry whether they’re clients or competitors.
11. It’s great for business
I sure wouldn’t have suspected this in 2005, but I believe it today. JacoBLOG has opened the doors for both our companies, Jacobs Media and jācapps. It has introduced us to people in businesses we never knew, but they feel like they know us from reading the blog.
And yet, there are no ads, subscription fees, or anything else. On a spreadsheet, it’s a stone cold loser. But I would argue the blog more than monetizes itself, but in ways that are more subtle but nonetheless important. In an age where everyone hungers for attribution, JacoBLOG has absolutely none. There’s no way to draw a line that connects it to new business.
But I’ve been doing this long enough to have learned the signals and signs that tells me someone new I’ve met is reading our posts. And when we get a client inquiry, we’re often talking in shorthand because as a result of the blog, many already have a pretty good idea of how we think, how we view the world, and how we respect and value radio.
12. It is a wonderful form of sharing
It has been said that sharing knowledge makes us better – as people, as professionals, and as an industry. I dearly believe in that philosophy. When I first got into radio decades ago, there was very little sharing, aside from an occasional convention or talking with a smart person or peer on the phone. It was especially challenging to determine what out-of-town stations were playing and saying. In short, most radio programmers and sales managers were very market-centric. You knew what was going on in Detroit, Decatur, or Des Moines – but that’s pretty much where it stopped.
Blogs are just one way we share information with one another. But it’s an important one, because most are based on thoughts and ideas – two resources that are often in short supply. I love to engage people in radio in conversations about the topics we write about in JacoBLOG, but like it even better when they engage me.
13. I enjoy it
Why else would I still be doing this? Yes, there are tough days when I’d rather be doing something else. But more often than not, the blog has brought me pleasure and gratification. The fact many of you read it, think about it, comment on it, and talk about it goes right to the heart of why I started doing it in the first place. I’m flattered that so many of you find it worthy of your time.
I could go on, but as several have told me over the years, JacoBLOG would be better if it was shorter. That’s probably true, and it’s something I continue to work on. But I love to make lists, and if you’ve gotten this far, you have a better understanding of why I do this blog and why blogging is such a great tool for both personal and business reasons.
Looking back on this journey, I am so thankful I did it and continue to do so. And I’m appreciative of those of you who read it, talk about it, and share it. It means a lot, and it encourages me to keep going.
P.S. A short note that Tim Davis – the guy who urged me to start JacoBLOG – passed away last year. I think about him a lot, especially when I’m reminded that people find this blog an interesting read and a smart idea.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.