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?


  1. Disco and well said and I also found it disturbing that the orange one accepted this strategy without any question- there was a time when he would have railed against any move by management. I also see a darker motivation behind provides Red Zebra cover to can TK...."hey, we tried all we could and the ratings are still in the crapper"

  2. Or TK has been speaking with his "nephew" Bill Simmons(friend of Adam Carolla) about studied on the Grantland podcast network?
    That might be wishful thinking on my part... But if he isn't thinking about it, he might want to start...

  3. Would it make Red Zebra and the advertisers feel better if I said that should I move to DC, I would buy windows from Window Nation and frequently snack at Bagel City?
    Name brand recognition works for potential future customers too... So those ad dollars are not being wasted on distant podcast listeners.

  4. Shad- Red Zebra canning TK would be the best thing that could happen. Free him up to join a media company that gets it.

  5. I hate there is a delay in the podcasts...however:

    New media (which is a lame term) is a supplement, not a replacement. Tech nerds need to realize they are part of a faction, not the mass. Prime example: Tell me how well Webisodes are doing? No one wants to watch television on a computer screen. I surely do not. I want to watch television on my 42" HDTV.

    When I'm in the car, I listen to satellite radio, not downloaded content that is already old. Podcasts are for when you're at work and have exhausted your music selections.

  6. Zeke- would still watch your 42" TV exclusively if Tivo and DVR hadn't been invented? If TV was still appointment only, single airing but you could watch any show you wanted any time on your computer (which by the way, can have a monitor as large as your TV), you would settle? If I listen to a podcast two hours after it's posted, that's already old?

    You're right that new media is a lame term, and I feel shame for using it.

  7. Call me old school like TK, but I would still try my best to get to a TV set during a scheduled time. I would only utilize services like Hulu on an as needed basis.

    A 2 hour old podcast is old whenever there is breaking news of allegations just released or if the Lockout were quote TK "Live TV - ain't nothing like it."

    I certainly do not mean to diminish everything you said, your newspaper take was on the money. I just feel like using something like a podcast or hulu service as a supplement is a reality and that's ok. There isn't necessarily a need to deem something outdated and not of use. Just look at Microsoft Word and a real life notepad and pen.

    And I don't blame you for using "New Media" as a phrase - you are only working with the tools you are given.