Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Market Failure of Talk Radio

It is no secret that I listen to left wing talk radio. It is also no secret I've cited the reason I tune into left wing radio is because I can finish the sentences of right wing talk show hosts.  This is not a slam on them, but more of a testament to how much of a "wonk" or a political "hack" I am.  After 20 years of listening to talk radio, not to mention that minor "economist" thing I do, nothing surprises me anymore, nothing is new, and thus for intellectual pursuit I go elsewhere.

While that may be my particular case, that does not mean it holds for others.  Sure, younger people coming into the world of adulthood tune in.  Young college boys, disillusioned why women hate them, why their professors hate them, and why they can't find jobs, start to find an explanation why the world isn't turning out they way their high school teachers said it would in right wing talk radio.  Young women who can't find a decent date might listen to Dennis Prager.  But after 5 years the "treatment" of talk radio runs its course much like an anti-biotic treatment - it ends.  It does no more good.

Now this isn't to say that Rush Limbaugh is going to fail or that Sean Hannity isn't going to be renewed for another decade on Foxnews, but this is to say there is the beginnings of an un-served market.  A growing group of people, primarily young, but old as well, who have just plain had their fill and derive no significant marginal utility from listening to an additional hour of Michael Medved.

And it is here the "right wing talk radio" industry is making their largest error and setting themselves up for spectacular market failure.

First, understand that the message all of nationally syndicated talk radio conveys can be consumed, digested and incorporated in the average human brain in about 2 years.  After that there is an "addiction" phase where you like to hear your logic confirmed by people who aren't lefitst ideologues that can easily run a decade.  As you age, however, you start to gain confidence, knowledge, and wisdom.  No leftist or media campaign can confuse you or make you second guess yourself.  YOur ideology is resolved, it's cemented, and it's verified.  You no longer need talk radio.

Second, I'm sorry, the "current" crop of talk radio show hosts are not really "current."  However, this needs some explanation.

Understand radio is a business.  YOu need to make money.  The great thing about radio, however, is that it can be syndicated or broadcasted across the nation.  So when a radio station has the choice of hiring some local talent and having to pay that individual a living wage, or merely "leasing" the broadcasting rights for a nationally syndicated show for 1/10th of the cost, what do you think they're going to do?  Yes, this results in regional superstars like "Jason Lewis" or "Michael Medved" but it also results in homogeneity.  Homogeneity that can be predicted, gets boring, and gets stale.

So while it may be financially beneficial to go with established, seasoned radio show hosts, it prevents any new talent, let alone, better talent from getting in.  Additionally, since this more or less ensconces established talent, it also ensures this talented is aged, old, and separated from upcoming generations, and thus, markets.

It is here we have the third contributing factor to the market failure of talk radio - their inability to address younger generations.  This isn't to say that Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage don't talk about the debt problems older generations are foisting on younger generations, but rather the fact they plain don't speak to those generations.  Admittedly, this may be a losing proposition.  Most younger people are dumber than hell, ignorant as f$ck, and are so spectacularly brainwashed they'll vote to endebt themselves further, let alone, berate and mock anybody who points this out to them.  But in failing to engage the younger generations, they anchor themselves to the life expectancy of older generations.  THis brings up another point...

Fourth, legacy issues.  If I have a complaint about the work I've done it's been the outright impossibility to get any of the work I've done into the "main stream right wing media."  I've had some decent success.  Glenn Reynolds and Dr. Helen have been kind enough to mention my books.  Even Peter Schiff has been kind enough to host me on his show.  But these people can't be considered to be "chummy chum Foxnews Elites."  For the most part the Sean Hannity's and Michael Savages of the world aren't going to give their younger counterparts the time of day.  They're too busy asking Charles Krauthammer for their latest talking points, and we all know how much Charles Krauthammer jives and resonates with the hip kids nowadays.  The largest point is who precisely is going to replace the Rush Limbaughs and Dennis Pragers of the world?  Who exactly is being groomed to follow in their footsteps? About the ONLY younger person I know of ANY notoriety only has a WEEKEND show and that is Ben Ferguson.  There isn't anybody else i see under 40 being considered as candidate for any significant take over.

Fifth, an industry will arise to serve and un or underserved market.  Introduce the internet.  The internet is not predisposed to younger generations just because it's new, but talent that would have normally been recruited or attracted via traditional media norms are simply refusing to jump through the hoops to score a "gig" or a "contract" with traditional media.  It's too costly and the cost-benefit ratio between time spent and opportunities given just isn't there.  A young, intrepid and out-going individual can simply circumvent traditional media and build their own brand.  They don't need expensive radio equipment, satellites, buildings or broadcast studios, they just need a computer and internet access.  They also don't need to placate the masses, but can speak their minds.  Not just because there's no boss to relegate and regulate their speech and thoughts, but because there are no opportunities or employment opportunties elsewhere.  There is no consequence to being edgy or cutting edge, because, what?  "It was going to ruin your chances at a career?".  This presents the market with not only a more diverse "talk radio/podcast" selection to choose from, but more entertaining and thought provoking.  A talk radio selection that is infinitely more thought provoking, engaging, and entertaining that the stale, milquetoast, cookie cutting tripe that's been going on for the past decade.

Finally, the death knell for talk radio. This new media, no matter how much it is in its infancy, is more profitable to advertisers.  Because renegade podcasters, bloggers, and Youtube Peachers have no restrictions, no employment prospects, let alone, no requiements to be palatable to the masses, they have more loyal listeners.  Because their message is so focused and so directly speaks to their intended audience it is more intimate and sincere.  It is now a daily occurrence I get a "thank you e-mail" from a reader or listener who thanks me for sparing him/her from majoring in a worthless subject.  It is also becoming a semi-daily occurrence that I receive a thank you e-mail for helping a young man with his dating and courting issues.  These two narrow topics are not as wide a scope that Jason Lewis tackles on a daily basis, but advertising on my blog gets a higher rate of return than advertising on his show (AND I WELCOME ANYBODY OVER THERE WHO WANTS TO CHALLENGE IT).  In other words, because of their celebrityship and broad market, advertising on talk radio is a bubble, it isn't worth the rate of return, if positive at all.  But if you're willing to advertise on

The Tom Leykis Show
Dan Carlin
Bill Burr
Captain Capitalism
Small Dead Animals
Five Feet of Fury

or any of the THOUSANDS of smaller blogs, internet radio shows, Youtube Clergy, etc.

you'll get a heck of a lot more bang for your buck.

Besides, would you rather hear about a conservative's attempt to seduce a hot a liberal chick  or Sean Hannity say for the 8,000th time, "You're a great American, my friend?"

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