Working at Burli Software affords us a chance to work with some of the largest media companies in the world, and quite often requires that we keep up with the biggest markets, complete with all the exciting and complex demands that go along with that. But what happens when you become the trusted newsroom system of a broadcasting company that services some of the smaller parts of the market? What are the challenges there?
We sat down with Corney Unger, one of the lead technical coordinators at Golden West Broadcasting, for a chance to hear about Burli’s early days at their stations, and how they apply it today. Unger is one of the lead contacts bridging the traditional technologies of broadcast and the data-centric world of today, and had a lot to say about their history with Burli.
Close to the Community
The first thing one needs to understand about Golden West is how closely knit it is to the community and geography it serves and lives in. Headquartered an hour south of Winnipeg in Altona, Manitoba, Canada, Golden West is a specialist in small-town broadcasting. It turns out being headquartered in a town of 4,100 residents really develops your sense of community.
They own 44 radio stations across central Canada in a chain stretching from Alberta to Western Ontario, mostly in smaller towns. As such, their focus is on local, well, everything. News, weather, sports… all of it is focused at least in part on the local happenings in rural Canada, requiring a people-focused approach that you don’t always find in larger markets these days.
Which is part of why Golden West has always had a close relationship with Burli. Going back as far as 1999 and dealing with the company’s founders, Unger describes the relationship with Burli Software as “Real people helping real people”. He became part of Golden West that year, having graduated in broadcasting technology out of Calgary a few years earlier, and was eager to be part of an industry that was about to change right under his feet.
An Evolution in Technology
Unger remembers starting out with what would be the first Windows based computers he’d seen in a professional environment – Windows 95 was a relatively new thing, and it entered that market at roughly the same time he did. He watched the rise of the internet as experienced in small town Canada, first using dialup modems (with the speakers de-soldered and removed so they wouldn’t screech on-air, he recalls with a laugh) and launching Burli.
Replacing Telex newswires and fax machines with an internet-enabled newsroom product was a welcome change. Suddenly, it became easier to do almost everything – all stories were brought into a single place easily and quickly.
Flash forward to 2017, and Golden West’s approach to community broadcasting has grown leaps and bounds. Not only are they broadcasting across dozens of AM and FM stations in the prairies, they’re also providing online content to their listeners so that those communities can stay up to date on all the media, news, and information they need. “That’s the reality of our newsrooms”, says Unger. “They aren’t just radio newsrooms anymore, they are basically newsrooms for [all of] our media outlets!”
Reaching Across the Center
Golden West finds their greatest value in Burli to be the ability to share data and stories across all those communities. It’s not likely that the bigger national newswires will carry stories about your local peewee hockey team, so it’s up to them to create their own news and share it with their other member stations. Blended in with the national feeds, the local content gives people in Central Canada lots of great reasons to stay in touch with that radio – even in an age of podcasting and RSS feeds.
So it’s no surprise that Unger was enthusiastic about Burli Newsroom’s Virtual Newsroom features. Stories can be immediately pushed, pulled, and shared into and out of connected newsrooms no matter how far apart they are. When you’re creating a significant chunk of your content locally, it’s truly important to share that content quickly and easily. Burli lets you treat locally created content much the same as the national news content, and is just as easy to work with. They’ve even started auto-dispatching stories recently, sending data from a central creation point across the region with almost no effort.
To say Unger is pleased with Burli as a company and a support organization is an understatement. “Burli has always been in that top 1-2-3 of recommended support, and [they know] how to do it right”, he says, “And they haven’t wavered since 1999… If we can get support like Burli gives us then I’m a happy guy”.
He describes his support interaction with Burli as straightforward and infrequent – exactly how he wants it. “You can keep working on the new stuff, and we can keep working on our stuff!” he says with a laugh. He’s much happier knowing that Burli can be set up and sit relatively quietly without a lot of maintenance. He’s only in touch when something is changed as part of an upgrade or workflow shift, and even then he’s happy with the service he gets.
Unger was kind enough to grab a few comments from his newsroom staff, and although there were lots of great ones, this one from a former big city resident leapt out. “I curse a lot less at Burli during my shifts than any other technology in the building… which, for this transplanted New Yorker, is really saying something.”
We’ll certainly take that as positive feedback.