You would be hard-pressed to find a Treasure Valley media member who knows the Internet better than Don Day. His Idaho Radio News website is the #1 source for local radio information. He has transformed KTVB.com into the area's news leader. He was the inspiration behind Sandra Bullock's the Net. And now he's agreed to share some knowledge with us. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
OBNUG: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? How long have you been in the Treasure Valley?
Don: I grew up here in Boise, born and raised as they say. I went to a bunch of the "old" schools: Cole, Hillcrest, South and Borah. I spent about a year at NNU in Nampa and some time at Boise State.
In addition to maintaining Idaho Radio News, we see that you work at KTVB, producing content for television and the web. What all are you involved in with Channel 7? How did you get started with them and how long have you been with the company?
I began working at KTVB in 1999 as Internet News Producer. My role there has evolved and morphed over the years. I went on to produce News at Ten with Carolyn Holly and Mark Johnson, then left for a short stint at NorthWest Cable News in Seattle. I returned back to Boise and now I oversee our content and day-to-day operations for KTVB.COM and ZIdaho.com
What made you decide to start Idaho Radio News? Has radio always been a passion of yours and was it something you ever wanted to make a career out of?
I've always been interested in radio. My dad was the sales manager for KOT/J-105 back in the 1980s, and I've been around it my entire life. During high school, my dad was the host of a three hour blues show on (then) KFXJ/KF-95 on Sunday night. I hung out and bounced around the radio station, and even hosted a cheesy "blues news" segment with concert dates and the like. I interned at KZMG/Magic 93.1 and KCIX/Mix 106 with Steve Shannon and Stephanie Kelly and really enjoyed it. I swerved and moved into TV before getting a full-time job in radio. As much as the radio industry interests me, I think it has a tendency to be hard on people - especially on the content side. The pay isn't as high as it should be, and the number of jobs are few.
I decided to start the blog for two reasons. One, blogging was a new thing, and I wanted to wrap my head around it. Two, there was another site on Idaho radio - but it was written by a guy living in Salt Lake City and just wasn't as good as it could be. So I decided to give it a shot. I've been very close to quitting a few times, but after nearly five years, I don't know how I could NOT be involved.
What is your opinion on blogging and its place among traditional media both locally and nationally?
There are a lot of folks that say they are blogging, but aren't. First, you have to have comments turned on. Second, you've got to turn out at least as many posts as there are days in the month. You also need to be focused on a topic. There are some really fantastic traditional media blogs - Chuck Todd's First Read on MSNBC.com is great, Todd Bishop's Microsoft blog on SeattlePI.com is really good too. The Broncos blogs on IdahoPress.com are fantastic as well.
Other than that, I don't find a lot of outstanding media blogs. The blogs on the daily newspaper's site don't offer anything spectacular, and they aren't much to look at. There's no community there. And every topic seems to devolve into a weird fight about politics.
We at KTVB don't do much with blogging right now. Tom Scott's Scott Slant is sort of in that vein, but it's really more of a daily sports column. The way for a local media organization to look like they are "with it" is to create a blog I guess. But I just don't see the point. We're in the content business - and blogging is just a platform. Unless you're going to really do it well, what's the point? We serve the most pageviews each month, and it's because we are the best at all the things we chose to do.
What kind of response have you gotten from your website compared to the type of response you expected when you first started?
For IdahoRadioNews.com, I didn't expect anything. I didn't even think it would last long. Now the silly thing has been cited by the all the radio industry trade magazine, Idaho Business Review, Boise Weekly and channel 2. The Statesman's ripped me off several times (the Peak radio contract details being a particularly satisfying example) and it feels like the site is well-respected. I work really hard to take my training as a journalist and apply it to the site. The goal is to not let anything untrue slip by. I've been burned a time or two, but I hope that people feel like they are reading the definitive record of the local radio industry when they log on.
What are some of the challenges you have found from starting a blog in the Treasure Valley? Do you feel that this area of the country, since it is not as tech-savvy as places like Seattle, San Fran, etc., is a more difficult place to have a successful web entity?
I worked in Seattle and there are a heck of a lot of blogs up there. Our company runs CItizenRain.com, which indexes more than 500 blogs in the greater-Seattle area. In Boise, there are probably about 75 serious blogs. There are a select few sites that are doing something worthwhile. Boise Guardian does a nice job in an interesting niche, Eye on Boise covers politics like a blanket, Huckelberries Online out of the Spokesman-Review is really cool and the Boise Bus Blog of all things has a cool spin. Sites like OBNUG and Statue Left are right on point and fun to read when it comes to Broncos news and notes.
KTVB's web presence seems to be growing more and more every day. What are some of the web strategies that you, as a TV station, have been trying to implement? What place does blogging have on the site? And we'd be remiss not to ask: what kind of features will the site have come football season?
Our goal is to be the place to go for breaking news, weather, traffic and video. We dabble in a bunch of other areas like sports and events calendar, etc. - but it boils down to being the best at breaking news. No one breaks as many stories online as KTVB.COM, and I'm proud of that. We focus on getting to the point and not overwhelming people with boring junk all the time. Why wade through ten stories that don't matter to get to one you care about? We're also the single best place to get loal weather information. Nobody else combines our set of tools with the expertise of local folks with experience like we do. Sure, we get a lot of data from the National Weather Service - but we present it in a user-friendly way. Thousands of people log-on for the 7 Day Forecast each day, and when severe weather happens, we are often the only local website that even covers it.
With KTVB being the news leader in the valley, have you encountered any unique challenges or expectations for the station's coverage of events or its day-to-day operations?
It's tough. We're a big big orginization. You've heard us say "more Idahoans get their news from KTVB than any other source," and it's a responsibility. We have to make sure we are providing a balanced, complete report that covers our area. The Boise/Twin Falls market is huge - the second biggest geographic market area in the country. Just last week, on a single day we had reporters in McCall, Stanley, Twin Falls and Ontario. Unlike a newspaper, where a reporter can sit at a desk and make phone calls - we actually have to get people in front of a camera, so we cover more turf each day.
It extends to projects like HS GameTime's Friday Night Flights. On an average football Friday, we get to 16 games - covering 32 teams. It takes a team of 6 photographers, plus a producer, helicopter, a web producer and three anchors to sew it all together. The other guys can't do as much. So being big allows us to better serve the community. Not only do you see 30 seconds of the game on TV, but you get extra stuff online. Our HSGameTime.com site was BIG in 2007, and will explode in 2008. It is Idaho's first social network, and the amount of photos and videos uploaded was just astounding. We put several hundred photos from the website back on TV each week - and I'm very proud of the effort.
How do you think the local media does as a whole? Do you see things moving in any certain direction in the future and what kind of improvements can be made?
It is incredibly competitive. KTVB started putting news online in 1996, and we didn't have a single competitor until 2000. When I started, we were the only site doing news. Now I'm watching KBCI, the Statesman, Press Tribune and even non-traditional sites like NewWest - and yes - BroncoCountry.
We changed the rules in the market by deciding that we don't hold news. Ever. If we know about it, it goes online. Sure - we could try and string you out and make you wait for a newscast, but it doesn't work that way. We also don't just put stuff online at 10:01pm so we can pretend we put it online first. It goes up as soon as it is ready, because we are worried about serving the users FIRST, not serving our ratings or circulation. Our philosophy is that if you focus on being the best everywhere, you'll be the best anywhere.
Having worked with local media for awhile, how sad was it to see Paul J. go, and to see him go the way he did?
I don't mean to be coy, but I really can't comment. I covered the whole episode on IdahoRadioNews.com, and uncovered some things that really upset people. I wasn't trying to work an agenda, but rather find the truth.
What are your thoughts on the new Peak broadcasting team for Boise State games?
Peak has some smart people operating its stations. They also have experience, since most of them used to work at Citadel, so I think folks will appreciate the coverage. KBOI intends to still produce pre and post game shows, and competition will make them both better. Either way, the fans win.
What has been a highlight of yours (sports or otherwise) during your time at KTVB and IRN?
I know it'll sound like I'm just playing to the audience - but damn the Fiesta Bowl was incredible. I was working for KTVB, and sitting on the sideline with a laptop in my hand when the game ended. I've never experienced anything like it. I could blather on about it here, or you can just read what I wrote about it on IdahoRadioNews.com at the time (http://idahoradionews.com/index.php/2007/01/05/the-feeling/)
Boise State football seems to be the hottest ticket in town nowadays. Do you see this continuing? Do you see this changing if the team loses more games than usual? Where do you see the whole Bronco Nation phenomenon going from here?
Just before answering these questions, I walked over to look at the stadium expansion. It's incredible. Before the Fiesta Bowl, I pulled an old John Miller story about guys clearing snow at Bronco Stadium. Pokey Allen was hoping to get 20,000 fans into the stadium for a game. This was 1995. No corners. No Allen Noble. No Caven-Williams. No Stueckle Sky Club.
It feels like a less-than-stellar season is always possible, but the school has built such an incredible base that the momentum will be hard to stop.
Favorite radio station?
I'd never live it down if I answered that!
Favorite radio show?
Favorite TV show?
That I'm not involved with in some way? TVNewser.com
Favorite BSU memory?
My first game with my grandpa and dad in the 1980s.
Who is your choice for starting QB this year?
I think Justin Corr might have some eligibility left.