A homeless man understands integration better than most media companies


He started with print (a cardboard sign with a message) on a street corner. Next, he was the feature of a video clip on a newspaper website; from there to YouTube; from YouTube to radio and three-days later a homeless former drug addict had a job offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

For those of you who may not know, I’m talking about Ted Williams – a homeless man in Columbus, Ohio who went viral this past week in a major way.

At 4:01pm Eastern on Monday January 3rd, Buzz Fitzgerald (a former radio guy who is not homeless and works in our office) came to my door to see if I had received the video link he just sent me via email. I opened and clicked to watch a 97-second video posted on the Columbus Dispatch web site which told the brief story of a homeless, ex-radio guy with “A Golden Voice” begging for money on a street corner.

The short piece revealed the fact that Ted Williams has battled drug and alcohol problems (been two-years clean) is unemployed and hoping that someone might catch his talent and offer him a job.

By 4:15, I had forwarded it to about three different radio friends.  Around 9 that evening I saw the video embedded on a non-radio friend’s Facebook page. Then around 10pm, a client of ours from the west coast sent my wife an email with a link to the same video.

Tuesday the frenzy began to pick-up steam, the story was being passed around from web site to web site, news organization to news organization, and by Wednesday at 7:00 AM, the YouTube video of Ted Williams was nearing 3-million views. As I drove my daughter to school, WNCI-Columbus had Ted on the air and they were fielding calls from coast-to-coast.  Good Morning America and CNN were doing interviews.  ESPN, MTV, a syndication company, a Hollywood voice-talent company, and even a local Credit Union called with job offers. 

Howard Stern was talking about it on Satellite Radio saying it was a media prank!  (For the record, the video was shot by Doral Chenoweth of The Columbus Dispatch. WNCI is owned by Clear Channel.  Which sounds more like a fairy tale?  Ted’s story – or – two media competitors working together to hype an internet prank? Nice try Howard).

That afternoon twitter was all-a-flitter with #Ted Williams updates.  And by 3pm Eastern, just two days later, Williams had a job with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  He told Fox8.com: “That lady offered me a full-time job with the Cavs and then something about the mortgage of a home? I’m going with that! Out of all the offers I’ve had, and I’ve had quite a few, I’ll be working in Cleveland, Ohio.”

This isn’t a newspaper success story, nor is it a web success story, a radio success story, a TV success story, a social media success story… this is an integration success story.  All of these mediums working together to build awareness, generate buzz, and deliver results. I doubt Ted planned on being a beta test for media integration. However, he now understands the power that can come from traditional and digital media working together to deliver results.

I hope radio and TV can take a lesson from Ted’s story and build their own integration success stories throughout 2011 – Happy New Year from Remerge.

–Chuck Francis, VP New Media Strategies, Remerge Media.