We are blogging from South Florida this week (while Hurricane Nicole lingers about 150 miles offshore.) The last time out on the road we didn’t even try to blog. This time we found a comfortable business center in a Miami Beach condiminium and we're going to take a shot at it.
And there is much to blog about. Glenn Beck’s latest outrage suggesting that movies like “Happy Feet” and “Superman Returns” are attempts by Hollywood to push a “one world government"; successful efforts by minority groups in Minneapolis and Cincinnati to get station owners to take action against racist comments by talk hosts; the spat between Ed Schultz and WABC PD, Phil Boyce (and others) about whether the New York conservative talk station is poorly managed; and whether Clear Channel is trying to censor Bruce Springsteen.
Instead we’ve decided to cross-post a message that appeared yesterday on radio-info.com News/Talk board on a thread dealing with the WABC ratings issue. The message, posted by Radnowski, offers an articulate and cogent take on the state of talk radio in general and liberal talk in particular. Here it is:
Somewhere between Free FM (moment of silence, please) and what passes for Talk radio from Hannity, Schultz and others (notice I use a lefty and righty) these days lies the future of the talk format. Maybe it's somehwere between the politics of Hannity/Schultz and the lunacy of Opie & Anthony. Maybe it's NPR crossbred with The Daily Show.
One thing about talk radio these days, it's old. It sounds old and it appeals to old people. What's old? 45+? 55+? 65+? A friend of mine, a 43 year old attorney who lives on Staten Island has long ago tired of me asking him about talk radio in the Big Apple. He doesn't listen. Why? "It's for old people, WABC is a parody of itself," he says. "But why?" I wonder. He reponds, "There's very little there I'd want to listen to for any length of time." I persist, "WABC is a legendary station. You're an attorney, doesn't even Kuby interest you?" "No, he's an ass... and he's hopelessly liberal." "You're a third generation Republican, a legacy... surely you'd like Hannity and Rush." "They don't speak for or to this Republican," he replies. He loved Stern and listened to NPR. What's up with THAT!?
So Phil [Boyce], what's the median age of a WABC listener these days? I'm sure the qualitatives look nice, upper demo and upper income, with plenty of white guys from the burbs who drive Mercury Marquis and Buick Park Avenues. Ah, but those land-barges do have a nice ride.
Much as I was intrigued by what Air America might do, it was readily apparent within a few weeks of their launch that they would fail. Fail across the board and fail especially when going up against stations like WFAN, WABC, WRKO, WJR, WLW, KFI and WWL... you'll recognize these as the "heritage talkers," the Big Daddy 50 kW flamethrowers. The AA affiliates and AA itself lacked discipline and substance. It had plenty of style, but very little form. It more resembled an amoeba than a vertabrate.
This having been said, it did have potential. Randi Rhodes can be shrill, but she knows how to push the buttons and work the room. Too bad the whole Air America platform reeked of poor design and execution. Leasing time? Buying stations? WTF? Get a network up and running, polish it, work it, sell it, promote it and improve it day by day.
Most Progressive Talkers are running on life support these days. I often thought that when CC committed to Progressive talk, it intentionally co-opted it. Sure, progressive talk does well in a few markets, notably Portland, Oregon. Buffalo has a 50 kW flamethrower on 1520 that, according to recent ratings, attracts about 27 people on a good day. Bill Press, Stephanie Miller, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Alan Colmes can't get arrested here.
...Wonder how WABC would fare against a full blown competitor operating on a 50 kW 1A (such as the 50 kW WCBS signal) that offered as solid (if not more resourceful) news department, as efficient vertical and horizontal promotion and equally talented and compensated (if not left of center) air talent that can be found on the very well-programmed WABC. The idea is purely hypothetical, but it's worth imagining.