The John Krol Show is breaking new ground in Berkshire County. The program, streaming live four times a week, is the brainchild of a two-man team, John Krol and Ryan Cowdrey, and is the first and only daily Facebook live show in our area. Ryan, behind the camera, and John, in front of it, celebrate Pittsfield, Berkshire County, and all that we have to offer. From politics to live performances, The John Krol Show showcases the varied interests of our citizens. On an unscripted one-hour show, airing live Monday through Thursday at 3 pm on Facebook, you might see any combination of live demonstrations, performances, small business owners, cultural institutions, entrepreneurs, politicians, community leaders, and local personalities. The show has had some poignant moments as well as some silly ones; and it’s the spontaneity of the program, which is created in a stolen moment within two busy schedules, that makes tuning in exciting and relevant.
“Let’s do it…. not in a couple of weeks – we’re doing it Monday!!”
The John Krol Show began on July 31st, 2017. “Originally my goal was to integrate a social media component into some sort of traditional media outlet”, says Krol, “I love radio and have always wanted to own radio stations”. Krol began hosting the Good Morning Pittsfield radio show in 2006, and has had big goals for himself ever since, “dreaming to own a multimedia entity with big window space in downtown Pittsfield”. Cowdrey and Krol discussed the idea of having a daily live Facebook show a couple of times, and one day they just decided to go for it, cranking out their first show from Krol’s personal Facebook page, after preparing for just a couple of days. “Until you do it, you don’t really know if you are able to achieve it,” says Krol. “I said, ‘Let’s do it…. not in a couple of weeks – we’re doing it Monday!!’”
Proof of concept was achieved, and over time, he and Cowdrey have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. New equipment was added, and the show migrated to “The John Krol Show” Facebook page. The first shows were broadcast live from a tiny space with a photo paper backdrop; a far cry from the modest, yet beautiful studio recently acquired at 137 North Street. The new studio offers a bustling North Street as the daily backdrop when the show is not on the road at landmarks such as the Berkshire Museum and The Colonial Theatre.
The Facebook show is hosted by John Krol, who is joined on air by his wife Allison as her schedule permits. John is a natural host, putting his guests at ease with his intuitive and genuine conversation. In addition to hosting, John Krol is responsible for all guest bookings and making sure his guests have access to anything they might need during the show.
John currently serves as President of OneEighty Media and is the Director of Accounts and lead communications consultant for this full-service marketing, communications and advertising firm. Born and raised in Pittsfield, he is the Vice President of the Pittsfield City Council, serving in his fifth consecutive two-year term on the council. Krol graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000 with a BA in psychology, and after college, became a journalist, first as a reporter at the North Adams Transcript, then moving to radio, working for the North Adams station for three years before moving on to serve as the Berkshire Bureau Chief for WAMC-Northeast Public Radio. Allison Krol graduated from Bentley University in 2006 with a degree in marketing; and in addition to being an amazing mother of three, is a successful Executive Consultant for Rodan + Fields skin care products and a sales consultant for OneEighty Media. She is also an exceptional distance runner and holds the course record for the Pittsfield Independence Run among other titles.
“I provide the funny content for John, the little bit of inappropriateness that the show needs for some humor”, says Allison. “He also refers to me as the ‘Taste Correspondent’ … I love food and I’ll eat anything”. On the day we interviewed her, she was also the “Chief Scent Correspondent” as the Shire Fire Candle girls showed off their new Spring Collection to the cameras.
The show would not be possible without the expertise behind the scenes of producer, Ryan Cowdrey. Cowdrey handles the preparation of everything technical for the show including lighting, sound, microphones, cameras, and the live stream. He serves as essentially the floor manager during the course of the live show, making sure the guests can be seen and heard. He also creates graphics for every show, and, in fact, during our interview, he was creating beautiful graphics with about 20 minutes to air time. Despite the tight production schedule, the final product is a testament to Cowdrey’s expertise in his field.
Cowdrey’s full-time job is as President of Clayson Creative, a full-service media house that delivers some of the finest media creations and event coverage in Berkshire County and beyond. He has a background of 11 years in TV production, having spent 10 years at PCTV after graduating Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He loves working on The John Krol Show as it gives him the opportunity to have a hand in all aspects of the production.
The John Krol Show is made possible by an investment in one highly specialized piece of equipment that allows the whole studio to be filtered into Facebook Live. This gives the show a niche. They are lightyears away from a cell phone on a tripod recording a video that you can’t hear or see well. After the live show airs, Cowdrey breaks the show up into shorter post-edited segments that are perfect content for social media sharing. In fact, their viewership is about triple after the show airs live. Guests with huge social media networks can find their segments taking off in the hours and days after the show airs. “The great thing about social media is that some of the stuff that kills it (surprises you)”, says Krol. Music tends to be popular on the show, and Ryan loves to use his artistry to shoot musicians as they perform. However, the most viewed segment to date is one with the brother of a Walmart employee with Down Syndrome after Walmart controversially changed her hours, with an organic 4000 views. Another popular segment with about 2700 views was with two young entrepreneurs, the girls behind Shire Fire Candles.
How the show books its guests is a healthy combination of the show approaching the guests or the guests approaching the show. “We have to be sharp as to understanding who’s appropriate to bring on, who’s valuable to the program, and who should really be paying us to be on the program”, says Krol.
“We have a yin and yang; we have great high-quality content, fun and interesting stuff, but we also have the side of things that is going to bring revenue to the show…. We are crafting and always trying new things because this is new territory, we don’t know what is going to work.” Recently, Berkshire Money Management became their lead sponsor, which has allowed them to set new goals for the program.
There have been some funny moments on the program as well as some poignant moments. A favorite moment for both Allison Krol and Ryan Cowdrey was when John sampled various formulations of Fire Cider. “While I was on the program, we had to sample all of the Fire Ciders, and John was a thousand shades of red”, says Allison. “Seeing John’s face when he drank the fire cider (was a memorable moment)”, says Ryan.
Another funny moment happened as Jessica Rufo of Dottie’s Coffee Lounge appeared on the show to promote Dottie’s Gingerbread House Decorating event. While Jessica was live on air and her kids waited at the back of the studio to join their mom for the next segment, Jess watched her daughter dump frosting all over herself. During the quick break between segments, Jess had to clean her daughter up to go on air. It’s moments like this that remind you what “Live” really means.
Other favorite moments include wine tastings and mixing drinks with Yuki Cohen of Methuselah Bar and Lounge. Anything with food or a live demonstration is also among the favorites, like when the owner of Otto’s Breakfast & Deli made omelets live on air or the blind taste test to determine who makes the best hot dog in town.
“We love supporting local businesses anytime we can”, says Allison. “We haven’t had (to try) anything too adventurous…. Who wouldn’t eat popcorn? CaraPoppa’s popcorn is awesome, hot dogs are good; it’s a treat, so it’s fun.”
“Personally, I love it when my wife comes on because you never know what she’s going to say”, says Krol. “She’s always fun and she adds some personality”.
Another memorable moment came when Red Apple Butchers announced they were closing their Pittsfield location live on the air. “Red Apple Butchers was as real as it gets…. He came on and said everything and we didn’t shy away from it… what worked, what didn’t work…. It was just open and honest…. It was one of the best live segments that we did”, says Krol. That live broadcast had the most live interaction on Facebook of any other segment with dozens of comments rolling in during the interview.
“We are seeing that we have a place in the media, (and that) people are really paying attention to us”, says Cowdrey. “(The fact that Red Apple) chose to announce that on our show rather than go to the newspaper first (shows) that we have value. I think having that direct communication with people is really cool, and you can see on the screen comments (as they) come in live, and John can read them during the show.”
“I’m open as far as my opinions go”, says Krol. “It is my program so there is a reflection of my perspective, but we are open to all perspectives.” The John Krol Show has not shied away from any of the tough political issues. Krol has brought in people from all sides of the Berkshire Museum debate, including Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Mayor Tyer who announced their support for the Museum’s New Vision first on the show. “We have had some really significant interviews with BMC nurses that generated large viewership, comments and engagement”, says Krol. “We’re certainly a true media outlet of record in the political realm, regularly interviewing the mayor, city councilors, state reps (including Paul Mark, Tricia and John Barrett), Senator Hinds, and we’ve also interviewed two major candidates for governor: Setti Warren and Jay Gonzalez.”
“The underlying difference between what we do and maybe your typical media outlet (is we) roll the dice and let the chips fall where they may”, says Krol. “As long as you’re honest and real, I think you will come out with a better outcome and you’ll have a better and more trusting relationship with your audience.” The John Krol Show has seen organic growth and loyal viewers in their short tenure thus far. Local organizations and businesses have enjoyed their time on the program and are coming back multiple times, realizing the value that video content packaged for social media has for getting their message out.
After a fun segment on the show featuring a live floral demonstration, downtown business owners from Township Four saw an influx of customers. “We had more customers and community members tell us that they saw our segment on The John Krol Show before Valentine’s Day than any other form of advertising or marketing we did for the holiday”, says Jed Thompson, co-owner of Township Four. “Our experience with John, Allison, and Ryan has been great; we know that we will have a good time on the show and we know we will reach an engaged market in a professional manner. It is obvious to us that John and Ryan want to produce an entertaining and informative show for Pittsfield and beyond.”
So many of our friends and colleagues in the community have appeared on The John Krol Show to promote their events and ideas, including individuals representing the City of Pittsfield, Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market, the Berkshire Museum, the Berkshire Athenaeum, First Fridays Artswalk, Artscape, the Whitney Center for the Arts, the Beacon Cinema, Berkshire Theatre Group, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Salsa, the Marketplace Café, Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, Methuselah Bar and Lounge, Otto’s Breakfast & Deli, Berkshire General Store, Steven Valenti’s, Framework, and The Funky Phoenix just to name a few! Our own Cheryl Mirer and Kimberly Gritman of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. have also appeared as guests on the program.
Krol’s ultimate goal is to have not just a show but a streaming network based in the Berkshires, a studio with multiple shows being recorded every day. Projects currently in the works include live streams of local forums and business roundtables and a segment sponsored by A-List Luxury Car Services where John would ride in cars and interview guests. “(The journey has) been wild because you don’t know what to expect, but that is part of the thrill of it”, says Krol.
By Contributor Kimberly Cortes-Gritman
Kimberly is a Downtown Coordinator and Lead Coordinator of First Fridays Artswalk.
Images courtesy of The John Krol Show