Friday, June 3, 2011

My Obnoxiously Long Podcast Manifesto

The past week has been interesting, to say the least. A week where I spent waaaaay too much time refreshing Twitter and typing snarky comments on ESPN 980's Facebook page ends in a pissing contest with a Wall Street Post sports writer (sorry, Dan, shouldn't have gotten personal).

How did we get here? How did a simple protest over a delayed podcast turn into a debate over the future of the medium itself? Let's start by looking at the past.

At the dawn of the internet age, newspapers in this country fought tooth and nail to protect their institution against an onslaught of on-demand, 24 hour news outlets online. They grudgingly accepted the need to have a web presence, but marginalized it by not putting all content online and/or putting much of it behind a pay wall. How did that work out? Newspaper sales have plummeted, and few newspapers have an online presence anywhere near the stature their newspaper did in previous generations.

So the internet came for the newspapers, and the newspapers lost. Now it’s coming for terrestrial radio, and radio will lose, too. Why? Because dinosaurs like Chuck Sapienza and Red Zebra are responding to new realities almost exactly as the newspapers did.

Let me tell you where the future DOESN’T lie. It doesn’t lie with people setting little mental alarm clocks in their heads or rearranging their schedules to make sure they are in front of a radio or a computer at an appointed time in order to enjoy the priviledge of listening to the content Red Zebra deigns to make available to them at the exact time they choose to do so.

Why did we ever put up with this? Because we had to. But we don’t anymore, and we won’t. On demand content is the future, and all of Chuck Sapienza’s regressive maneuvering in the world can’t stop that. He could sooner stop the flow of a river with his bare hands.

When Adam Carolla lost his job when his terrestrial radio station changed formats, he could easily have gotten another radio gig. Instead, he started a podcast in his basement. By himself, alone in a room with a microphone. Three years later he presides over the Ace Broadcast Network, with NINE podcasts supported by numerous national sponsors. His brand has exploded worldwide. He saw the future, and knew it wasn’t in terrestrial radio.

Bill Simmons saw the future, too. He started the BS Report, and is now one of the most famous sportswriters in the world, if not the most famous.

How would I have handled it if I had Tony Kornheiser under contract until 2012? I would have taken him off of ESPN 980 altogether. You wouldn’t even have to hire a replacement. Just throw Cowherd on for two hours.

Then I would have fired up Red Zebra Online, signed up some national sponsors, and had TK do a two hour podcast similar to his current show that posted every day at noon.

Who knows how far it would have gone? In two to three years, Red Zebra Online could have looked a lot like the Ace Network, an online content machine with multiple podcasts generating huge revenues.

There’s a great big world of new media behind that door, Chuck, and you had a great big shiny key. A talented, accomplished, smart, and funny pundit with a national brand and a fiercely loyal following. Instead, you put the key in the bottom drawer of your battered old desk. You made a regressive move, marginalizing your foothold in the only content delivery technology that will matter in 5 years. Do you honestly think that in this day and age of on demand TV, movies, sports, and music, that you will drive us back to appointment listening? It’s not going to happen, and I am stunned that you think it will. You may get a short-term bump, but long term? Believe me, you’re dead.

You are not without blame here, shiny orange man. You’ve allowed your technophobia and ignorance of new media to water down your reaction to the marginalization of your own brand, and to publicly, shamefully, leave your loyal littles to twist in the wind.

Well, I’m new media baby, all the way. And I’m out. I will not wait 24 hours for the priviledge of wasting 2 hours of my life listening to stale news, previews of games that have already happened and PTI shows I’ve already watched.

I’d like to request a favor from @MrTonySays. If Chuck ever changes his mind, DM me, will you?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Response to Sapienza Email

Below is my response to his email. The format is odd number paragraphs are his comments, even numbered my response to that comment. Since I am pretty sure posting this will get me blocked from this page forever, I just want to encourage everyone to keep up the fight.

Thank you for e-mailing regarding our new podcast policy. I understand and hear your frustration. Over the last 12 months we have seen an increase in our radio listening, for that I thank you.

Don’t thank me. I live over 300 miles away and can’t listen to your station.

In order for our business model to work, we need people to enjoy our product on the radio or on the web when it originally airs.

If your business model is cling to one particular technology and defend it to the death (and it WILL die) in the face of newer content delivery technologies, I can see your point.

I am sure you understand the importance of sticking to your business model and for that reason; unfortunately, we had to make this change.

What I understand about business models is that you better be able to adapt them to changing markets or you will die on the vine. Have you ever heard of the newspaper business? Stop thinking of yourself as being in the radio business, and start thinking of yourself as being in the content delivery business. You have one of the most popular national pundits on sports and popular culture ON YOUR PAYROLL, and you are destroying a potentially huge new source of revenue and a chance to make ESPN980 relevant nationwide, choosing instead to marginalize this asset to protect local radio ratings.

The good news is you can hear all of our shows live (via 980am, 92.7 and 94.3 FM) or streaming live at

Again, since I can’t, as 79% of your podcasters can’t, actually listen to any of your shows live as I live far away and have a job, I’m not sure how this is good news.

We even offer the show via the phone free of charge...712-432-1980. The podcasts are not going away,

- just being delayed, marginalized, and made irrelevant.

We would like to thank you for supporting our programming. Please feel free to e-mail me in the future when you have any questions.

Only if you promise to stop replying with form letters.