The tag line, Over 90 years ago Robert Ripley embarked on a journey that would change our understanding of the world. Ripley's journey continues today in the world of the digital media via the web and as a Podcast or should I say, Oddcast. An On Demand Oddcast to be exact. Tim O'Brien, Marcie Pikel, Edward Meyer and Ralf with an f collectively bring stories from the unexpected, strange and bizarre world that is all around us. This very world that Robert Ripley himself explored is being visited again in the digital world. And it what world it is. I got in touch with Tim via email and asked him to join me in a Candid Conversation about this world and the Oddcast,Tim welcome to the world of Candid Conversations.
Tim O: Thanks Cliff. It’s nice to be on Candid Conversations. Hope my answers are candid enough for you!
Cliff T.: I have to say from the get go here that the theme to the Oddcast is amazing. It grabs the attention of the listener and draws them into your world from the first beat on. Of the show itself it is very entertaining. What led you to decide to create the show?
Tim O: Robert Ripley was a communications guru. He was on radio for 14 years in the 1930s and 40s, he produced and starred in newsreels and short features, he was the first person to do an overseas radio simulcast, the first to broadcast live from the middle of the ocean from a ship and the first to broadcast from under the water at Marine World. When TV came along, he had one of the first regularly scheduled weekly network TV shows. He left his radio show in 1947 and was a guest on several shows until his TV show started in Spring 1949. (He actually had a heart attack live on national TV on his 13th show and he died two days later.)
So it was only natural, as our communication team at Ripley’s started concentrating on ways to tell the Ripley story through the new social media methods that we create a new form radio show to go along with our other storytelling tools.
Cliff T.: The team on the show is very well put together, did you have a say in who you wanted or did you hold auditions for the other anchors of the show?
Cliff T.: I have the impression that is something all of you look forward to doing, that Oddcast is like a break in the day, a chance to get out of the office and play around in the world Ripley himself explored. Is that an accurate picture of what it is like for you and the team?
Tim O: We are quite mellow when we walk into the studio, it is fun. I like to gather the group together by yelling out that it’s time to play radio. However, there is a huge amount of preparation for the show that needs to be detailed greatly. For example, I need to line up guests, have a pre-interview with each guest, line up a time to interview them on tape, create subject matter for which to talk about, and then put together a detailed Run of Show schedule that lists all the music and different elements, all in order and timed out. Then I need to schedule studio time, oversee and participate in the recording and then afterward, edit and do post-production work and then make sure it gets uploaded correctly and that the press releases and show descriptions for Ripleyoddcast.com gets created and posted.
Cliff T.: How do you go about deciding what the topic of the show will be and how often do you post an Oddcast?
Tim O: We started out doing a weekly show and it was just too much for us at the beginning. Our first 26 shows were weekly then we started posting a show on the first and fifteenth of the month. We are changing the way we do things and in the process we are simplifying the process, so hopefully by February 2011 we will be able to go weekly again. I have been a Ripley’s fan for 40 years and was a journalist for 18 years covering the amusement park, circus, sideshow and carnival industries, so I am in the Ripley mold. I choose the topics for the shows that I want to know more about and interview the people I want to get to know better. And you know, my choices seem to be what our audiences want as well.
Cliff T.: Besides is this true, what questions do people ask you regarding the people and things you talk about on the show and at your various sites?
Tim O: The most common question I’m asked about the radio show right now is when are you going to go live so I can participate and be a part of the show? Unfortunately, that’s a ways off, at least until June or July 2011. Our group of four co-hosts live in three different cities and it would be a logistics nightmare to pull us together each week. However, with the technology we are looking at, we could do it live, but right now I’m concerned that our quality wouldn’t be as good as it is now.
Cliff T.: It would seem that what you are doing or trying to do is draw attention to a world where different is not so uncommon, that the so called weird and bizarre is not so weird after all but, rather unique and special. Is this the goal of Ripley Entertainment, to entertain and educate and maybe even dispel some myths and fears about the people and the things they have or do?
Tim O: The simple answer to that multi-level question is YES. Our goal for all of our attractions, as well as our books, is to entertain and to open a window that might not be otherwise opened to the rest of the world. I’ve had teachers and parents both tell me that our books were the reason their children or students got interested in reading. Some teachers use topics in our books as idea generators for class projects, research papers and speeches.
Curiosity is an amazing thing and it never seems to wane. People love to hear about and see things that are new and somewhat foreign to them, be it a full sized toothpick airplane or a portrait of Lady Gaga made out of candy. Our goal of course is to present such unbelievable truths that are so “out there” that our readers and listeners question the claims of being true!
Cliff T.: You have been at Ripley's for quite some time, I bet there is never a dull moment in your day. That said would you say that this is the dream job for you be?
Tim O: Above all, I enjoy opening my email each morning. You wouldn’t believe some of the bizarre correspondence I receive! Yes, being the VP of communications for Ripley is great. It’s my second career, after being a journalist for the first 35 years of my professional life. It was a natural move for me to go into being the corporate spokesperson and voice of Ripley, following my years of dealing with the media as a journalist. Yes, it’s the latest phase of the “perfect” career path that I am on.
Cliff T.: How did you get to Ripley Entertainment, did you pursue a career with them or did they contact you and ask you to join them?
Tim O: As I said before, I was a senior editor for the trade weekly publication Amusement Business for 18 years and covered attractions such as Ripley’s. I knew the people at Ripley’s quite well and had written dozens of stories about this amazing company. I often kidded that the only place I would want to work if I left Amusement Business would be Ripley’s. So when I was ready to cross over from journalism into publicity, I made that phone call.
Cliff T.: For something, or someone to draw your attention there must be some criteria. What are the key things that you look for in people and things in your world and are there times you say sorry this does not fit our genre?
Tim O: Foremost it has to be real and genuine. In keeping with Robert Ripley’s mantra of “This is REAL, and YOU can believe it or not!”, we verify everything we say, write or display to make sure it is real. Of course it also has to be somewhat bizarre, unusual, weird and/or unbelievable, and we try to present things that are so strange (and true) that people immediately think we are liars! And are quick to say “I don’t believe it!” We like to hear that.
Cliff T.: Besides the Oddcast what else does Ripley Entertainment do?
Tim O: We are a huge company with 85 attractions in 11 countries. We have 12 different brands among those 85 attractions including Believe It or Not!. Guinness World Records Museums, Ripley Aquariums, Marvelous Mirror Mazes, Ripley’s Haunted Adventures and Ripley’s Moving Theaters. In addition to all that, we still sell more than a million books each year, license our TV show worldwide and the cartoon that started it all 92 years ago, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! still runs in nearly 200 newspapers in 42 countries. I am honored to be the editor of that cartoon, the oldest running cartoon panel in the world.
Cliff T: You touched briefly on your careers at Amusement Business and Ripley Entertainment, what else have you done and where did you go to college?
Tim O: I am a proud graduate of The Ohio State University. I received an undergrad degree there in journalism/radio-tv, and two Masters Degrees, in Broadcast Journalism and in film production. I got interested in photography while still in grade school and was the official high school photographer and I ended up being a wedding photographer to put myself through college. I shot exactly 500 weddings in six years! (and happily to report, none since!) I also worked as a photographer for the OSU Athletic Department, mostly for the football games. I worked the midnight to 6 a.m. shift at a popular radio station for several years as well.
I have loved being a photo-journalist and have based my entire career on photography and other forms of communications. I have had more than 5,000 different articles published and more than 3,000 photos published during my career. I have also written and had published 13 books and have been on countless documentaries about theme parks, Walt Disney parks, and roadside attractions. Also I’m happy to point out that, as a hobby and as part of my journalistic career at Amusement Business, I have ridden nearly 500 different roller coasters in 27 different countries.
Everything that I have done has seemed to prepare me for my next big adventure, and all of my skills and experiences have certainly helped me promote and represent Ripley’s Believe It or Not! I am truly blessed!
Cliff T.: Tim it sounds like a great place to work for and you and the team all sound like you have a real blast doing the show and being a part of Ripley Entertainment. Thanks so much for taking part in Candid Conversations. Tim O'Brien is the producer of Ripley Radio an On Demand Oddcast and VP of Communications for Ripley Inc. He is joined in studio by Ralf with an f Director of Ghost Tours in St. Augustine Fl. Edward Meyer VP Exhibits and Attractions Ripley Entertainment and Marcie Pikel Manager Marketing and Promotions Services at Ripley Entertainment inc.
For more on the Oddcast visit http://www.ripleyoddcast.com Tim wrote to Candid Conversations from somewhere in cyberspace.