The Maryland internet radio shakeup
Over the years I have compiled a (very) occasional series of posts called “Radio days.” The idea originally began as a post-mortem of my first radio guest spot way back in 2007, but I’ve stayed with the concept for subsequent appearances. They’ve become much more infrequent as the most supportive local radio station adopted a syndicated morning show – most of the series of posts arose from a stretch where I was a monthly guest on Bill Reddish’s old “AM Salisbury” show.
But where terrestrial radio has gone away from individually-hosted shows to national syndication – at least in a smaller market like Salisbury – internet radio is thriving. Granted, no one is making a living like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, or other talk radio giants are, but the success of internet radio stems both from narrowcasting to a specific but passionate market and having the convenience of being able to listen later. (The aforementioned talkers will let you do that, too, but it will cost you.) If I can’t catch a show at its appointed time I can sit and listen at my convenience later that evening or even a few days or weeks after the original airing.
The success of this turned out to be one of the subjects of my TQT interview with Andrew Langer a few months back, and oddly enough he figures in this post as well. “The Broadside,” a radio show he co-hosts with Mark Newgent, is one of just two shows not affected by a shakeup at Red Maryland Radio, which has emerged as a leading voice in Maryland politics. On Friday they announced a revamped lineup with three new radio hosts (fellow bloggers Jackie Wellfonder of Raging Against the Rhetoric, Jeff Quinton of The Quinton Report, and Examiner and former WBAL radio host J. Doug Gill), and two new shows focusing on the efforts of The Watchdog Wire (to which I contribute) and the 2014 elections.
On the other hand, three former RMN shows are leaving: “Lock and Load Radio” (previously “Seeing Red”) with hosts John and Andi Morony, “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Radio” featuring the quartet of Jim Braswell, Ethan Grayson, Tom Smith, and Paul Drgos, and Braswell’s Friday “Red Maryland Happy Hour.”
Those three will become the backbone of a new network called Free State Radio, to join “The Non-Aggression Principle”, which was formerly “Maryland Libertarian Radio.” They claim to have more of a national focus with the new network, as these shows were centered more around specific issues and politics in general than Maryland-centric issues. The resulting shuffle has most affected Wellfonder’s yet-to-premiere show, as it has bounced around from being originally envisioned as a Thursday evening show to Sunday evenings and now Tuesdays.
From what I have gleaned from listening to some of those involved, the parting was on the hasty side and perhaps not the most amicable. Regardless of the circumstances, though, one has to marvel at the growth of the medium in just a couple years – what once was two shows is now going to be eleven, (Another strong Maryland contender, “Purple Elephant Politics,” seems to now be on at least a temporary hiatus. Maybe they’ll be next in the Red Maryland Network fold.)
Yet one also has to ponder the effect on the blogs involved as well. While Red Maryland has trimmed its number of contributors over the last couple years to around a half-dozen or so, their posting tempo has decreased significantly over the years to a point where they’re running about one to two new posts a day, with many of those simply promoting their radio network. The others involved post with a little lower frequency, although Quinton is known to have multiple posts a day on occasion. Surely even one hour-long show a week requires far more time and effort than sitting in front of a computer and talking for an hour, particularly in remote locations, so it will be a challenge for these bloggers to continue putting out quality content. On the flip side, though, having hand-transcribed 20- to 25-minute interviews, it’s likely they will be substituting 8,000 words of spoken content for perhaps 1,500 words of written content – and probably less, since in an hour’s time there may be editing and rewrites. I’ve been working on this post off-and-on for several hours today with perhaps about 60 to 70 minutes actual writing time, so there is some efficiency therein. But every blogger is different.
Another question I have has to do with money and sponsorship. Obviously I’m unsure as to whether the fledgling Free State Radio network has any backing; meanwhile, Red Maryland Radio is essentially self-sponsored as well as its income is derived from merchandising on Zazzle and Greg Kline’s law firm, which seems to be their one “outside’ sponsor. While Blogtalkradio makes money from the commercials they play prior to the podcasts as well as premium services for more well-heeled hosts willing to pay up to $250 a month for the privilege, they’re only sharing a portion of their revenue once you jump through hoops and build a large enough audience – similar to something like Examiner for bloggers. (From experience I know that’s a very difficult venue for success, particularly with a focus on politics.) While there’s probably money available from various campaigns as they get rolling for 2014, the question is whether they would spend the money on a somewhat limited audience rather than try their luck with cable TV or terrestrial radio.
So the question becomes one of the size of the pie. While we all try our best to expand our audience, the vast majority of people will remain devoted to pop culture, ignorant of political trends toward the erosion of our freedom, and perfectly content to allow the world to dictate their lives as long as they can be entertained. I believe the ancient Romans called this bread and circuses.
But as long as someone is trying to ring the bell, there’s the chance they may get noticed. So while a radio gig is probably not in the cards for me – at least not in an hour-long format where I have to carry the show – I’d be glad to lend my expertise as a guest or just listen to what some of these fine folks have to say. In many cases I already have.
Chances are they will have a better message than the one being put out by the party in power in both Annapolis and Washington, D.C.