Part of Apr 2011 by
radio

Mass Media in Freefall, “Pirate Radio” Likes Its Air Thin

My first foray into radio was with a local talk station in Denver. Right after the job offer, my anticipatory excitement overflowed. Finally, I was about to settle a 25-year old score and prove my 4th Grade teacher wrong… “Yes, Mrs. Werber, my wise-ass mouth IS going to make me a living – So JAMMIT, Bitch!”

After taking the radio reins for a few weeks, I quickly realized, however, that Mrs. Werber may have been onto something. No matter how funny you are with that mouth, if you want to survive in the radio business you’ll regularly use those same lips to kiss the ass of station management. Deep down, program directors and their middle-management lackeys possess little affection for courageous people with irreverent style. And they like you even less when they realize that you have them (and their insecurities) figured out.

Some people think all performers are too goddamn cocky. There’s that. It’s almost universally true that artists of all types – musicians, painters, radio hosts, even the regressed diddlers who create giant cities out of stacked Legos – all have bravado issues. But I can share with you from personal experience, in the cutthroat business of radio, you either smack a homerun or you strike-out. The successful on-air radio personalities recognize that opportunities are fleeting in this business, so we swing for the fence every trip to the plate. The alternative is an on-air flop, and being sent down to the minors with all the other losers who don’t possess enough talent to be a show host. In radio parlance that’s commonly known as “A Radio Account Executive.”

Being a sports fan, when I think of the minor leagues, I think of small venues, bad food, low pay, smelly uniforms, and the sad reality of being surrounded 24/7 by misfits and cast-offs who can’t earn a living in the big leagues. Come to think of it, when I say it that way, it sounds like every rock band I’ve ever played with. Yet the truth is, every artist will tell you that his or her dream of success is worth the minor-league stankiness. And all of us stanky misfits take some pride in suffering from Jack Black’s most famous affliction, “Stickitodamaneosis.”

In today’s world, there are ways to redirect your artistic energy. My personal cauldron of simmering broadcast goo, is a little radio station known as WKRPradio.com. This nasty mix of technology, foolishness, fish oil, and a palpable disdain for corporate media has produced a Pirate Radio Station for the digital age. As time goes by, I’ll update you on my fellow renegades, as well as my recurring on-air battle with foot-in-mouth disease. But for now, allow me to share with you some statistics about traditional media.

Terrestrial Radio, generally defined as any station that broadcasts on an AM or FM band, is profusely bleeding market-share and revenue. AM/FM has been in a freefall for the better part of 10 years. Clear Channel Communications, one of the largest owners of radio stations in the world, has seen its revenues decline at double-digit rates, year after year. The watershed moment for Clear Channel came a few years ago when it unloaded hundreds of radio stations under pressure from investors to consolidate and keep afloat.

Other “traditional” forms of communication are also in the tank. As sharp as the crease in your favorite newspaper, print media is in decline. The number of major cities in this country with more than one stout newspaper is down to just a handful. And most local and regional papers are crashing like a three-year-old PC invaded by a radioactive cyber-worm riding a Trojan horse from Mars. Of the Top-10 newspaper publishers in the country, only one showed a profit in 2010. That would be The Wall Street Journal. It’s not surprising. Should any of us “common folk” be shocked that something associated with Wall Street would make money, while all the rest of us go down in flames…? And, I hear The Wall Street Journal did it without a taxpayer bail-out!

It’s a dark age for investigative journalists, and columnists who write without fear of how it impacts their employer’s bottom line. The conventional wisdom in media circles is that the legacy newspapers are toast – which is somewhat ironic considering that the only thing they are good for these days is kindling.

Internet traffic, however, is growing exponentially. Depending on which source you cite, in 2011 there exist somewhere between 150 and 300 million websites in the world. More people get their news from the internet than from anywhere else. In stark contrast, the only sectors of broadcast media that are stable are Satellite Radio and Cable TV. That’s because sat radio and cable are directly tied to the internet – either by way of a bundled package, or because of the individual network’s ubiquitous web-presence. There exists no major cable network in the U.S. without a major companion website. Sat radio’s solo-flier, Sirius/XM, also now focuses heavily on selling internet packages. If you’re wondering why the only player is sat radio also wades hip-deep into the internet, the answer is – because they have to, or risk waking up one morning and looking in the mirror to find CB Radio staring you back in the face.

What I consider most exciting, and most telling, about the future of media is that there exist many major web-contenders who possess NO significant broadcast ties. In fact, the top communicators on this planet have virtually no broadcast presence. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and their ilk, don’t waste their time with radio towers and television transmitters. They’re banking on this crazy-ass idea called, “The Internet.” Hellooo, McFly!

With that in perspective, “the minor leagues” don’t seem so minor anymore, do they? My prediction, self-serving as it may seem, is…WATCH OUT FOR INTERNET RADIO! It has EVERYTHING going its way.

As I continue to purvey this column, I will share with you my unique perspective on the business of broadcasting, entertainment, and media. According to Mrs. Werber, I’m half an idiot and should be left-back. Eternally motivated by her sage words of wisdom, I will therefore likely spin wildly implausible yarns about how little peeps can accomplish mucho grande things – if the lumbering and decrepit dinosaurs that run things around here would just hurry-up and die already. Christ, we need the OIL!

I host a radio talk show five days a week, produce a weekly Reality Television Show, write an online feature column, and I own and operate that insanely annoying little radio station called WKRPradio.com. Our Yucatan Meteorite of Digital Destruction (whoa, that sounded a little too Charlie Sheenish) is replete with all the crazies you’d expect to be associated with a radio miscreant like me.

I’m a fan of independent music, off-the-wall personalities, and free speech. Over time, you may notice that I’m a bit of a loose cannon when it comes to my opinions. So if you’re easily offended, you should probably pump the brakes right now.

I hope you’ll enjoy my “Insider Pirate” perspective about media. You have my word that I will ply my trade with the utmost in professionalism – like my upcoming column about why the parasitic whores who run the media are sucking the blood out of those who create it, and deserve to rot in hell like the skeezy vermin they are.

Sorry. That one slipped out.

zinna

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more by
Write us your thoughts about this post. Play nice.