Local radio icons Big John Gillis and Jeff Pibeon will be broadcasting live this year from the Indiana State Fair. But you won't find their show on any radio station.
Gillis and Pigeon have been hired by locally based Compton Strategies to create audio-only, Internet-based shows for area events, companies and entertainment venues.
"There are no boundaries," said Compton Strategies President Ray Compton. "We are open to working with anyone."
Locally based Platinum Broadcasting will handle the production and engineering for Compton's broadcasts, which will be hosted on the client's Web site.
Last month, Compton Strategies signed its first deal: a contract with the State Fair for four, live, two-hour shows from the fair's main stage. The shows will include live interviews with fair-goers, exhibitors, vendors--and, naturally, a few corporate sponsors. Compton thinks he can sign a sponsorship deal with a major local insurance company for the fair show before the first broadcast.
Compton has also signed a deal to Webcast the Marsh Indiana Invitational--four high school football games Aug. 23 at Lucas Oil Stadium. He also hopes to sign a deal to broadcast live from RibFest over Labor Day weekend and wants to pursue events involving the city's professional sports teams.
"Before, these events had to rely on the coverage they got on radio and TV," Compton said. "We think we offer a very affordable way to take charge of their own show, to take things in-house. It's a good way to add value for existing sponsors and attract new ones."
Compton said his company can produce three to five shows for less than $3,000. Compton, who previously worked stints in marketing for the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Ice and Indianapolis Colts, will help clients market and sell sponsorships for the Webcasts. Compton said sponsors can buy ads on several shows for $1,000 to $2,000. Compton's firm and clients will split the proceeds.
State Fair officials think the Webcasts will have solid short-term and long-term effects.
"We want to expand our market, and this made good sense," said Andy Klotz, State Fair public relations manager. "This will connect people to the State Fair even when they're not able to get out to the fairgrounds." The fair begins its run Aug. 6.
State Fair officials will market the shows through their Web site and signage at the fair, said Klotz, who thinks archived audio of the shows will draw listeners well after the event is over.
Compton hopes this year's test run will lead to daily broadcasts at next year's State Fair.
Compton brought in Gillis and Pigeon, who made a name for themselves on WIBC radio, to add credibility to the initiative.
While the well-known duo have other business opportunities they're working on, Gillis said they're fully committed to Compton's initiative and will put in whatever time it takes.
"The three of us went into a restaurant recently to talk about this, and you'd have thought I walked in with Barack Obama," Compton said.
Gillis, who has more than 40 years of radio experience, said he was attracted to the initiative by his long-burning desire to be involved in Internet radio, which he describes as "the next frontier."
"Ray Compton understands how things work, and I thought if anyone could make this fly, he could," Gillis said. "I look at this like the emergence of FM. It's a new venue, but it's still about telling a story and getting the right people to talk to."
Gillis is aware of the need to turn a profit on the effort.
"People always want to talk about the number of listeners," Gillis said. "It really doesn't matter how many people are listening. What matters is how many people you can spur to action."
A big part of that, Gillis said, will be not only interacting with people at live events, but taking phone calls and e-mails from listeners on the air.
"This is all about being interactive," he said.
Internet broadcasts are better equipped than traditional radio to track listeners and their habits and offer them immediate ways to act, Gillis said.
"People are increasingly getting their information through desktop computers, laptops, iPods and cell phones. That's where this is going, and I think Ray is on the front end of it. I think the potential of this new initiative is limitless."
Gillis is promising compelling shows from the fair--which will air Aug. 7, 11, 12 and 13.
"We see this like a 'Prairie Home Companion Show' live on stage from the Indiana State Fair," Gillis said. "We'll also do a fair bit of roaming around, talking to different people."
Hitting the target
Though the idea of Webcasting isn't new, launching a company specializing in the offering with headliners such as Gillis and Pigeon is unique in this market, said Jason Acquisto, director of MZD Advertising's Interactive Division.
"As the market becomes more splintered, I think there's definitely an audience for this type of programming," Acquisto said.
Gillis and Compton insist the broadcasts won't be one big infomercial.
"This is about information and entertainment," Gillis said.
Acquisto doesn't think mixing messages will be a problem.
"The traditional model is changing," he said. "Partitions are breaking down and advertisers' and sponsors' messages are more built in these days."
Selling enough advertising to cover costs and turn a profit on such initiatives shouldn't be a problem, said Bob Gustafson, Ball State University advertising professor.
"Micro marketing is on the rise," Gustafson said. "With these productions, you'll have a highly targeted audience and that will make this very cost-effective for advertisers. It's no longer about just spraying a message out there. Advertisers want to know their message is hitting the intended target--a very specific target. This offering looks like it could provide that."