As a kid, the popular building toys I played with were Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets. Those creative pastimes probably produced a lot of engineers along the way. But despite some of my amazing structures, I went into radio.
As my own children were growing up, the emphasis shifted to Legos. And in our household, Legos remained the toy of choice for more than a decade. I lost track of how many Lego kits we bought – the pirate ship, the black knight's castle, and of course, the Millennium Falcon from the “Star Wars” movie.
But the most fun part of Legos was our own creations. I remember working with my family to create our house – including all us family members (my wife on the treadmill, my son watching TV, etc.). My son put together some amazing structures with these colorful blocks.
So, while on Facebook the other night, I ran across this post from fellow broadcaster Matthew Maneely from Malone, New York.
A Lego radio station? Amazing, right? It's Matt Maneely's dream for the powers-that-be at Lego to approve his concept and actually “sign on” WLGO.
No doubt I would have purchased one of these, 20 or so Hannukahs ago, had they existed. I suspect that among radio professionals, this would be a popular stocking stuffer today. But what about the rest of the population? Would there be interest in WLGO?
I reached out to Maneely. It turns out radio is in his DNA – literally. His grandfather, Don Paye, was a household name at 1490 WICY for more than three decades. Matt's mom was on the air, his brother was a long-time DJ, and he's been in the business for more than 20 years – working in the same building as his grandfather.
Here's the inside story on Matt's quest to get a “construction permit” for WLGO from Lego:
FJ: How did this Lego idea come about. Are you a huge fan? Or were you as a kid?
Matt Maneely: Radio, you could say, is the family business. I am honored to be able to walk the same halls and grace the same airwaves that my grandfather did. So, radio has always been a very important part of my family, as well as Legos.
Like many other kids, I grew up playing with Legos for the majority of my childhood. And that has evolved into me being an adult collector. I still enjoy collecting Lego sets. And now my kids do.
I have always been a huge fan of Legos and have a deep appreciation for original set designs. It’s not as easy as it looks, trust me!
FJ: Did you actually “build” a radio station out of Legos to demo this idea?
MM: I did not build a physical model, I used Lego Digital Designer Software to design and build my WLGO radio station. I will eventually build a physical model. I am working on a “vintage” radio studio next, a very old school studio from the Golden Age of Radio.
FJ: Why do you think this is an important thing for Lego? And for radio?
MM: Lego sets are fantastic at sparking imagination. I know there are many kids that have an interest in radio. My hope is this set would help fan those flames of imagination to get them started on a path that leads them to radio.
As unfortunate as it is, public opinion of radio is that it is a dying industry, when that could not be farther from the truth. Again my hope is this will ignite curiosity and appreciation for this industry and hopefully change some of those opinions.
FJ: What is the process for getting your design approved?
MM: With the help of friends, family, co-workers, and a whole lot of radio peeps, I was able to reach the first stage: gather 100 supporters on the Lego Idea website in 50 days.
Now, I have 365 days to gather 1,000 supporters. When that happens, another six months to gather 5,000 supporters, another 6 months to reach the ultimate goal of 10,000 supporters.
Product ideas that receive 10,000 supporters are evaluated in a “Lego Review” that takes place three times a year. The Lego Review Board then chooses which concepts become actual Lego Ideas products. They determine whether an idea meets their high standards for what it takes to be a Lego product. The Lego Review Board looks at factors including playability, safety, and fit with the Lego brand.
So, what can YOU do to make WLGO a reality?
It's simple. Go to the Lego Ideas site, register (no fee), and become a “supporter.” As of the time I finished this post, WLGO was sitting at 134 supporters, so there's a long road ahead. I'm thinking that between this blog and some social sharing on your part, we can move the needle.
Matt's initiative is fascinating. It shows there are ways to reach Gen Z that may have nothing to do with smartphones, Twitch, or YouTube. Becoming ingrained with the youth of America via the toys they play with is a smart and savvy strategy. It's why Amazon developed their Echo for Kids product – a way to teach young children how to speak “Alexese.”
The WLGO Lego concept could spark a lot of young imaginations. Think about a Lego airstaff (perhaps Matt will be able to submit actual radio personalities for his kit), the sales staff, the street team, and “the boss.” And I know what some of you left of the Mississippi are thinking: why not a KLGO version?
Matt's effort also proves you don't have to be a CEO or on a board to make a difference in the radio industry. Here's a guy working in an unrated market in upstate New York with a population of fewer than 15,000 people. And he has the chance to reintroduce broadcast radio to millions of kids all over the world.
Perhaps WLGO will have a scene in the next Lego movie.
And if Lego produces some WLGO merch, I'll be happy to purchase a t-shirt.
Congratulations and thanks, Matt Maneely.
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.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.