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March 30, 2004

Liberal Talk Radio

There was a beautiful piece today at Boston.com on Liberal Talk Radio.

Well, my "progressive" pals, prepare to confront a shocking fact: Talk radio is a business. As in must make a profit. Success requires capturing a vast audience, and more. As a business enterprise, it is virtually meaningless whether your listeners agree with you politically. Your audience must attract major advertising dollars. That's right -- we're not in NPR land anymore, Toto.

Exactly. Yet people like Soros and Gore just figure they can keep pumping money into it and keep it running, bashing Bush at every opportunity. They forget a few key things.

I used to work in radio, and I think Gore and his ilk should've spent a bit more time studying the industry. Maybe they should've gone to a few NAB conventions or something, because they're headed for marketplace failure. As an aside, my dad and uncle built an owned a radio station from 1968 till just a few years ago. It was originally called "Turner Broadcasting" until they changed the name and some guy in Atlanta adopted it. I used to work there or course, occassionally DJing, reading news (in those days it came of an actual teletype machine), and making spots.

The liberal network faces the hurdle of program directors. Each radio station's program director has to decide what to put on the air, in an attempt to attract and retain listeners to have a large demographic that will be attractive to advertisers. Even if the liberal talk radio network operates in the red, giving away the programs for free, why would any station manager sign up to carry it? Just to watch alll his listeners jump ship, followed immediately by his advertisers? Can he back charge Soros for the lost revenues so he can still meet the payroll and overhead? After running a couple of ours of turning off Al Franken will any listeners return later in the day?

The Boston.com article has some more delightful nuggets.

Understand: Your success depends on us embracing the utterly fantastic notion that we are what's wrong with America; that our national, cultural, and personal woes stem from taxes too low, affirmative action too meek, defense too strong, and illegal aliens too few. People who believe such twaddle are for the most part home watching Jerry Springer reruns. Numerous they are. A commercially viable national talk radio audience they are not.

This is where liberal talk falls flat. They have to blame all ills on everyone else, but they can't take the analysis very deep or it falls apart. So they're either stuck with high-school level sophomoric attacks or they have to resort to college liberal gobbledygook that nobody can parse, much less fathom. It's a message that is either redundant or incoherent. The audience for this message tends to be either true believers who don't think too deep, or shallow high-school kid types who don't listen to political commentary anyway. And the message itself is one of blame and self-loating, so it's kind of like running a constant stream of "I suck. You suck." Not an attractive message that makes people want to tune in. Thus the constant failure of liberal talk. That's why NPR and Pacifica Radio depend on donations, and don't have independent operators carrying the programming. Nobody would pay serious advertising rates to reach the small number of listeners, and even fewer advertisers would want to have their product associated with the negative, anti-American message.

March 30, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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