On A Different Wavelength

A Different Wavelength

Late last year I entertained a most attractive offer.

A new talk radio network was interested in having me move my podcast to its programming roster. The opportunities seemed boundless: I would get to expand my show to an hour; it would air on weekends, where I always felt it belonged; I’d be piggy-backing on the already-established audiences of what would eventually be scores of radio stations across the country.

How High is Up?

I started in radio before Megacycles gave way to Megahertz, and was no novice when it came to the multiple facets of producing local and network radio, so my first question had to do with finances.

How much was the network going to pay me to license each episode of the show.

Of course it was a foolish question, and I knew it going into the deal. The network was going to barter for my show. There would be seven minutes of network commercials in my program and I could sell them for a healthy commission. That’s how the network would pay me, and that’s how I would finance my show.

I passed, for a number of reasons, but at the top of the list was not wanting to be a commercial salesman instead of a producer. That’s a side-effect of bartering (I’ve been down that road before). Close behind was that the network’s lack of skin in the game. The incentive to partner with me to make my show a success didn’t run deep enough for me.

But the idea of trading WWW for AM/FM never faded. So I’m going to try again.

Towering Over Downloads

This time, though, I’m going to distribute a scaled-down version of my podcast as a daily radio feature.

Yes, I’m giving up some of the advantages of podcasting:

  • I’ll be dealing with gatekeepers at every stop—-program directors and station managers who have to pick my show out of the hundreds pitched to them every year. No more uploading an episode to iTunes and getting instant worldwide availability;
  • I’ll be losing some creative control. I won’t be able to get away with a “listeners be damned” attitude. Any station can pull any episode for any reason, and I have to work inside that framework;
  • I’ll have to divide my time between producing the show and pitching it to stations. Fortunately, I have some good broadcasting contacts. Nevertheless, I’d rather be writing and recording than selling.

But radio is not without its advantages, either:

  • When the barrier to entry (in any field) is low, as it is with podcasting, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out from the noise. Since more noise is generated every day, you must devote more of your time to maintaining your uniqueness. Sometimes, having gatekeepers gives you more of a chance to become better at what you do;
  • When asked why he robbed banks, the legendary bank robber Willie Sutton said, “Because that’s where the money is.” Radio still reaches more Americans every day than any other form of audio entertainment. Will that change? Perhaps. For now, that’s where the listeners are. And money follows the listeners;
  • I like radio. I always have. I like podcasting, too, though I miss being a local voice. Even though I’ll do my show from Hollywood, when I’m on a station in Mississippi or Michigan I’m part of a local community. Podcasting isn’t local and I doubt it ever will be.

If you’ve harbored thoughts about taking your podcast to radio, or upping your game and landing a spot on a major podcasting platform, I’ll make you a deal.

The Cycle(s) Continues

You return to this blog every Wednesday and I’ll chronicle my experiences moving to radio—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ll report on my successes, when they occur, and my setbacks, which I assure you will occur far more often.

I’ll share what I’m learning about creating, producing, and marketing audio entertainment that competes with the major content producers. It will definitely help you improve your game.

And might encourage you to do it with frequency.


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