Thursday, September 27, 2007

HD Radio: Bat Out Of Hell

Like with many people, it was a new technology I had heard quite a bit about, but thought it was all just a myth. A rather elaborate and expensive hoax.

Sure, the broadcasters bragged about improved sound quality that made AM sound like FM and FM sound like CDs. And there were those subchannels, a station within a station that allowed an alternate channel playing obscure programming like blues, 80s new wave or bluegrass to be heard. They told us that it would basically double the number of station choices in town. And there would be no static. And we could hear it in cars or in our Walkmans, which is where roughly 70% of radio listening occurs.

Well, that's fine and dandy, and being the tech geek that I am, I even talked about this new technology, dubbed HD Radio, a few months back. Sure, satellite radio is still there, but it costs a monthly fee, and gets a bit tiring after awhile. iPods in the car are cool, but do we really want to be fiddling with that little dial thingy while driving? And it looks like widespread WiFi, which could realistically mean the ability to listen to online radio on the go, itself has a long way to go, particularly with so many metropolitan areas backing out of citywide wireless access deals. Other wireless options are basically the domain of the small crowd of dedicated geeks, though it is possible via cell phones and the like. In short, this stuff hasn't made it big in Peoria yet. With all of this working in their favor, HD Radio seemed to have at least some potential. Because after all, we still have a love/hate affair with radio, no matter how irritating it can be.

A while back, I did a little investigating. I checked out a few of the big electronics retailers in town, particularly since I was in the market for a new in-dash receiver for the car (the factory unit is not satisfactory for me). I checked out the JVC KD-HDR1, priced between $170-199. Not a bad unit, though it lacked the iPod adapter in the front, which is a must-have for me. Sad to say, it was one of the very few mobile HD Radio units available in the marketplace. I decided to check it out. I went to Wal-Mart to see theirs. To my utter astonishment, they had it hooked up, but there was one problem - the antenna wasn't plugged in (this is necessary for digital signals, otherwise all you get is silence). And in the big cinder block and metal warehouse that housed this Wal-Mart, good luck with pulling in anything. And I was sure the $6/hr. clerks working there would be no help. If I mentioned "HD" they would likely direct me to TVs. So I went to Best Buy., thinking they would have their act together. After all, I had bought other car receivers there, and had good results. Their unit wasn't even plugged in. At all.

Regardless, I soldiered on. Next on the agenda was Radio Shack, since I had to go there for something anyways. Now, they don't do car audio, but at least I'd be able to check out one of those ubiquitous overpriced tabletop radios, the type that the HD Radio folks were trying to push on the masses that had no use for such an appliance. Not surprisingly, Radio Shack's tabletop demo wasn't even working. That certainly didn't stop the middle-aged sales clerk (and those guys at Radio Shack are persistent) from trying to sell me the damned thing in the most half-assed way possible:

Clerk: Are you familiar with HD Radio?
Me: Hey, is this thing even working?
Clerk: Uhh, no. It's broken. But with HD Radio, uhh... you can pull in alternate channels like classical music. Are you thinking about buying an HD Radio?
Me: I've done some research on it. I was kinda curious to see it first hand. But it seems like nobody has a display unit that works. Besides, I'm not an early adapter of new technology. I let others pay to do the beta testing.
Clerk: It's only $200. Uhh... wanna buy it?

Now, I basically stopped this guy, particularly since I probably knew more about HD Radio than he did. But at the same time, I was scratching my head at all of this. Is iBiquity shitting me? Is this really the way to roll out a product? I remembered back in 1997 when DVD came out, and it exploded on the marketplace. At Best Buy, they had a huge setup playing "GoldenEye" and it looked and sounded freaking amazing, much better than the crappy VHS tape version I had at home! Needless to say, DVD players and discs flew out of stores and became one of the biggest tech rollouts in history, especially years later when the price dropped down to virtually nothing.

As for product variety for receiving HD Radio, there's hardly any. It was mostly tabletop radios, a high-tech version of the kind of unit your grandparents had in their living room. Let's face it, in order to take off as an audio medium, HD Radio has to be portable. Nobody wants tabletop radios these days. People want their radio on the go. And that mostly means car audio. Unfortunately, the HD Radio folks must be living in the past, because many of the car listening options available were add-on units, similar to those old FM converters (that plug in to the factory AM unit) your dad probably had in his '76 Plymouth Volare. And some of us remember what a pain in the ass those were. What about stuff for the current generation, like boomboxes and pocket units? Or even fully-contained in-dash units like the JVC model? Initially, portable units weren't feasible, allegedly the power draw of the first generation of HD Radio chips was too staggering. Supposedly, this is close to being remedied and they promise an actual HD boombox in the coming year. As for why there aren't more in-dash units, who knows?

Now, I certainly didn't expect HD Radio to come out of the gate like DVD did. Hey, it's radio. That's old school compared to HDTV, TiVo, XBox, iPods, HD-DVD, BluRay, Nintendo Wii, Dolby Digital Surround home theater systems and all the rest. Radio just isn't as sexy to most people. But I at least expected there to be a little bit of hype. Or even some salespeople who knew what it was, aside from the iBiquity training manuals. Or even working demo units. This HD Radio thing was starting to resemble other dismal product rollouts of the past, like the Edsel, Betamax, DIVX, and the Arch Deluxe. Too bad, since with all its flaws, HD Radio wasn't an altogether bad idea, though it needed some serious refining to make it ready for prime time.

But just when everyone thought HD Radio was dead in the water, it is now showing signs of life as it rises kicking and screaming from the ashes. The HD Radio Alliance has been on a roll as of late. More stations are adding sidechannels with original programming. And retailers actually have working displays now. I was in Best Buy last week picking up "Death Proof" and saw an endcap display with not one, but two working units. And they actually pulled in stations! Sound wasn't too bad either, and I acutally dialed in a few of those ballyhooed subchannels quite easily. I was shocked I tell ya, shocked!

In addition, home shopping channel QVC is currently shilling HD Radio. Smart move for the Alliance. Speaking as one who actually worked for a home shopping channel many years past, people who watch channels like QVC will buy any kind of shit they see on TV, whether it be gaudy jewelry, porcelain dolls and even mattress sets. Once they hawk it, the stuff flies out of warehouses! Utterly jaw-dropping. They do HUGE business! Convicted infomercial huckster Kevin Trudeau still sells tons of bogus self-help books, snake oil remedies and other garbage thanks to TV, and that's with most of the population knowing he's a complete fraud! Ron Popeil sold spray-on hair in a can! People will buy anything they see on TV. And this bodes well for the HD Radio people.

And just yesterday, the Alliance has reeled in its biggest whale yet. Enter the Ford Motor Company, which this week announced that they will offer HD Radio as a dealer-installed option in many of their 2008 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. They'll also do a huge promotion of it, via POP displays and a big media blitz. Now, this is pretty big news for the Alliance. Sure, BMW added it to their audio options a few years ago. But that's BMW. This is meat-and-potatoes Ford we're talking about. Now, the hype can be heard in an F-150 or the ubiquitous Mustang. The dealers are also able to install it in 2005-07 models as well. Quite a coup for the HD gang.

I predicted last time that some day, the people behind HD Radio would get their act together and make it work. With so much money tied up in it by iBiquity and the radio station owners who have partnered in promoting it, they have little choice. Sure, HD Radio has a long way to go. The technology is still a bit crude, with signal strength issues, erratic sound quality at times and that whole controversy about HD on the AM band and the associated interference issues. But technology has to start somewhere. Hey, it took Edison hundreds of tries before he made a working light bulb. With the world of technology moving so fast, in a day and age when I can cram my whole album collection in a little device half the size of a Hershey bar, it will be interesting if this whole HD Radio thing succeeds, and what it will be like years from now, once they iron out the kinks.

And make radios that people would actually want.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Stuff I missed while sleeping

Been a while, huh?

Yeah, I took a little time off. A week to be exact. In doing a blog such as this, I feel it is a wise idea to back away from it once in a while and recharge my engines. I'll even go so far as to go out into the real world. So, please do not be alarmed if this place gets a little quiet once in a while. All in all, it makes for a much better reading experience overall.

And no, I wasn't sleeping, but I thought it would make for a cool article title.

So, in the meantime, Dan Rather grew a set and rightfully filed suit against his former bosses at CBS, Bill O'Reilly realized he couldn't make a go of radio, O.J. Simpson switched from knives to guns in his hunt for the real killers er his sports mementos, and Congressional Democrats wimped out and rolled over as the Republicans turned their war on free speech into a wedge issue in condemning the recent criticism on General Petraeus. And in this little corner of the world...

  • First on the agenda is a big story/non-story from last week, this one concerning Cenk Uyger of Air America's The Young Turks (or is that The Young Turk, since everybody else left?). He claims Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert stole a joke from him and used it on The Colbert Report, and, just like O.J. Simpson bum-rushing a sports memorabilia swap meet with guns-a-blazin, he's out for blood. Well, okay, $65 million. I was really tempted to make mention of this last week, but it all reeks of a silly publicity stunt.

    And what was the joke? Something about Klingons. Yes, you heard that right - Klingons! Sorry, but a Klingon joke isn't worth 65 cents, let alone $65 mil. Cenk's obviously a sharp guy, and I just wished he could come up with a better publicity stunt. Hiring Mike Stark was a cool move. This, unfortunately, is not.

    Hey, people crib my shit all the time. All I ask is a return link and the whole 'fair use' thing. But if anyone wants to kick $65 mil my way, contact me and we'll talk.

  • Radio listeners in Washington, DC, saddled by the horrible signal and questionable programming moves of local progressive talker WWRC, now have another option. In this overcrowded talk radio market, the newly reformatted WWWT (3WT) is mixing it up a bit after ending its "Washington Post Radio" endeavor. This new talk station pledges to carry conservative, liberal, middle-of-the-road and nonpolitical talk. We already knew that Stephanie Miller's show, currently on WWRC, would be joining the station. Well, that's forthcoming. In the meantime, Air America's Randi Rhodes is part of the station's lineup in afternoon drive, 4-7P ET. WWRC does not currently carry her show, but does carry other programs from Air America. And ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, who hosts a pretty good nonpolitical show (when he's actually on, of course) that isn't really about sports, is on weekday mornings. Of course, tuning in for progressive talk options also means occasionally tuning in for the likes of Bill O'Reilly (until his show buys the farm), Neal Boortz and eventually Glen Beck. But hey, at least they have a great signal. And are on both AM and FM, on 50,000 watt 1500AM in Washington (with a signal reaching Baltimore), 107.7FM in Northeastern Virginia and 820AM in Fredrick, MD. Should be interesting to watch.

  • Many people have emailed me about the recent changes to Air America's schedule. As stated before, The Air Americans has crashed and burned. Replacing it is Richard Greene's "Every Breath You Take" er Clout. The show airs from 8-10P ET. Following it is now Jon Elliot's show, followed by a repeat of the previous day's Lionel show. But wait - wasn't Bree Walker supposed to get a show on Air America? Well, that was the original line. But evidently, that did not come to fruition, for reasons nobody really knows, including me. She still has her weekend show on KTLK (1150AM) in Los Angeles.

  • Progressive talk station KOKE (1600AM) in Austin will soon be under new ownership. The station, along with two other local AM stations owned by Border Media Properties, will be sold to Jose J. Garcia for $5.5 million. BMP will keep their five FM stations in the market. No word on what this means for the future of KOKE. It could be nothing.

  • And remember KOMY? That little AM station outside of Santa Cruz owned by the rather colorful Zwerling family? The same ones that added Air America programming to the station and spent more time trying to kill it and threaten to remove it than actually try to make it work? Well, the Zwerlings are hanging it up. Michael Zwerling announced that they're cashing in their chips and selling both KOMY (which now programs a golden oldies format) and conservotalk station KSCO.

    I do have to confess. After writing the final "pulling the plug" article, Zwerling himself sent me an email, and actually had a good laugh as I ripped him a new one. I gotta say, I respect him for that. And in the day and age of bland, corporate radio, perhaps a few eccentric local broadcast owners, no matter how irritating they can be, is overall a good thing. Best of luck to Michael and his mother Kay in their future endeavors. It's been a ride, I'll say that much.

  • And as a change of pace, I will open up the comments below in this article to an open thread. Normally, a common pet peeve of mine is when posters go off topic on an article to post their own stuff (such as the cut-and-paste astroturf jobs by our resident freeper, raccoonradio). You know, stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the article. In this instance, and this instance only, post whatever you want in this article, and this thread only. Got a scoop? A rant? Whatever, just add a comment below. All I ask is no flame wars, no personal attacks, etc. Keep it rational, kids.
  • What the @#$&% is going on at KLSD?

    It's been a month already since rumors started to surround the fate of San Diego's KLSD (1360AM) . Speculation has pointed at a format flip, most likely to sports.

    The rumors were rather vague at first, but station staff and management ran with it. The station's website has been a virtual clearing house of information, pictures and video of rallies geared toward saving the station. KLSD even links to an outside petition to save the current progressive talk format. Morning host Stacy Taylor has also enjoyed considerable freedom in discussing the issue over the air.

    A month later, the tension has only increased. Rumors started heating up more in the past week. Scott Tempesta, a.k.a. Scooter, the on-air sidekick for Taylor's morning show and host of his own weekend show, was dismissed from the station late last week. More speculation has also arisen claiming that the station will flip to sports after all, with dates such as October 1 and October 15 bandied about.

    So, what the hell is going on in San Diego?

    Program director Cliff Albert went on Taylor's show yesterday, answering questions from listeners and stating the company line in regard to happenings at the station. Albert claims no decision has been made, but a verdict will disclosed by the end of this week. He said he would not discuss why Tempesta was fired, due to confidentiality reasons. Albert also discussed the station's signal limitations, which is due to FCC and various other reasons. A substantial signal increase has been applied for and is in the works, but it needs approval from both the FCC and the Mexican government. In addition, real estate would need to be obtained to construct a new tower.

    There was also discussion about ways of bringing in new revenue. Albert cited KKGN in San Francisco, which recently changed their on-air moniker to "Green 960" in what he claimed was a naming rights deal with a local company (likely the Green Building Exchange) as a way of boosting revenues. The underlying sentiment in the discussion is that KLSD management wants to bring in more money, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, they don't appear to know how to do it, and I don't think a sports format will help matters.

    My theory? The decision has likely already been made. Again, that's just my theory, so don't take it as gospel.

    Let's be real here. A program director for a high-profile station in the 17th ranked market, a station owned by Clear Channel, is not indecisive. They know the ultimate fate of KLSD already. It all reeks of a big tease, or the cushioning of a rather big blow to a large group of listeners.

    What that fate is, nobody outside of the glass and concrete bunker that houses the station knows what's going on. Some say it's going to be an all-out flip to sports. Some say it will be a talk/sports hybrid, keeping some of KLSD's shows and adding more sports. Albert is even teasing an alternative besides progressive talk or sports. And there's been talk about "keeping the progressive talk format alive in San Diego," which could mean a shallow gesture such as turning an HD Radio subchannel in to a feed of Air America or whatever. Too bad customers are having a hard time actually trying to buy an HD Radio and make it work. Who knows? Maybe they'll just turn the damned signal off.

    But this is known. KLSD is profitable. Reportedly, they have made or exceeded their budgetary goals. Demographics for the format are very desirable, with a highly educated and prosperous listener base. Granted, many advertisers shy away from political talk, due to fear of blowback from customers who may object to a particular station's stance. Yes, this does happen with conservative talk as well. Advertisers are often scared of polarizing formats, and many right-wing business owners won't advertise on progressive talk, due to their shallow lines of reasoning.

    So, the next time I write about this, will KLSD be kaput, or will it get a new lease on life? I'm sure somebody knows already. Unfortunately, all I know is that somebody indeed knows something.

    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Buzzflash interviews Rachel Maddow

    Over the past several months, Buzzflash has presented a series of interviews with progressive talk radio hosts, including Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, Stephanie Miller and Thom Hartmann. This time, Air America Radio's Rachel Maddow is on the hotseat.

    Why is BuzzFlash doing this?

    It's quite simple. We want to promote progressive radio. The Internet has started to provide a counter-balance to the corporate print media, but progressive radio is the only real and potential beachhead we have into the mass influence of electronic broadcasting (except for Keith Olbermann on MSNBC).

    We think that it is extremely important for progressives to listen to and support their favorite liberal talk show programs. Each person we interview has a different style, and you might prefer one to the other.

    And remember, you can listen to almost all progressive radio talk show hosts over the Internet, so there's no excuse if you are in an area where they are not broadcast on the radio.

    On a practical level, one of the most important things that you can do is let the advertisers of the programs know that you heard about them from listening to a given progressive radio program. This small action is an investment in the future of countering the right wing, because these programs need advertising. They are not run on goodwill alone.


    BuzzFlash: How would you describe your style?

    Rachel Maddow: I get asked that a lot, and a lot of people have come up with descriptions for me. I feel like I ought to have a pat answer, but I feel different about it every day.

    I was recently described in print as Amy Goodman with animal noises. I don't think that's exactly right, but there's an element of kind of hard core news. In one sense, I really would like to replace people's NPR listening. I really feel like you can listen to my two-hour show, or you can just listen to the first super news-intensive half hour of my show, and it can really supplant any traditional news outlet that you're checking out for your daily news.

    I try to be authoritative, transparently sourced, and pretty comprehensive in terms of what you need to know is happening in the world. I always cover the Iraq war at the top of every hour of the show. I am committed to always covering the war every day, and I'm pretty seriously committed to just being good at delivering news.

    I'm also a total dork, and there's a lot of dorkiness, and animal noises, and humor.

    BuzzFlash: We've listened to you and would agree you're very newsy. I recall listening to your program when you were talking about one of the scandals in relation to the contracting of this behemoth of a U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. You were quite detailed about it. So, how do you prepare for a program each day?

    Rachel Maddow: In the context of other talk-radio hosts, I am the slowest preparer in the whole world. The rule of thumb in talk radio is that people prepare an hour for every hour that they're on the air. I do a two-hour show, and I get here every day at least six hours before my show starts.

    And what do you do?

    Rachel Maddow: I read for most of that time, and I do everything online. I do not allow myself to watch TV, because I'm easily distracted and easily duped by television. There isn't any TV consumption in my prep, although one of the producers who works on my show keeps a TV on all day and pulls down from it.

    I do literally read for hours. One of my two producers and I divvy up what we want to look at online. It's a lot of newspapers, and it's a lot of websites, including BuzzFlash and others. We just read for the first few hours of the day. Sometime before three o'clock in the afternoon, we get together and have a news meeting. I pitch all the stories that I think could potentially be on the show today, including ones that deserve longer treatment -- kind of a more extended discussion than just hitting them with a headline. And I give what my proposed angle is for that longer pitch. Then Vanessa pitches what she's also read, and then Tim pitches what he's got in terms of what's been on TV, and what's out there and what happened in Congress, because he's been monitoring C-Span. From that, we make the schedule. We come up with the rundown for the show.


    Monday, September 17, 2007

    The Death of Progressive Radio in Memphis

    Chris Davis at the Memphis Flyer posted an article today about the demise of progressive talk on WSMB (680AM), which recently flipped to sports. He claims that its lack of success was due to things such as advertiser resistance and lack of localization. One thing he did miss is lack of promotion, particularly since he still mentions the station by its former call letters, WWTQ, which were changed back in December. Here's an excerpt:

    "Nobody is more disappointed than I am," says program director Jerry Dean of Air America's local demise.


    "The time is right for liberal radio," Michael Harrison, the publisher of Talkers Magazine, the leading talk radio trade publication, told the Flyer. Dean described local support for a progressive alternative to Rush Limbaugh and Mike Flemming as a "groundswell."

    "It still seems like a good idea," Dean says, unable to explain why Air America attracted consistently low ratings and failed attract advertisers in solid blue Memphis. He suspects some advertisers were afraid to associate their brand with a liberal station.

    "But it's not like liberals don’t buy things," Dean says. "Cars, clothes, and everything else."

    WWTQ never found an effective way to localize the station. The eponymous show briefly hosted by Memphis media veteran Leon Gray showed early promise, but Gray's conservative views on issues like evolution and gay rights didn't appeal to listeners tuning in to hear Randi Rhodes and Al Franken. In June 2006, Gray and the progressive talk format parted ways.

    Dean doesn't agree that WWTQ failed to localize and remains complimentary Gray's performance. "I always thought Leon did a really good job," he says.

    Read more of the article here.

    Perhaps WWTQ er, WSMB would have done better if people knew the station actually existed. As I pointed out in the previous article here, local Entercom management seemed to do a rather crappy job of programming and promoting it. The station's schedule was basically, save for St. Louis Cardinals games, a straight feed of Air America, minus Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, and other successful shows that could have really worked well there. And then there's station identity. I mean, come on! The guy who wrote the article didn't even know the current call letters! I didn't even know they had updated their website from their old one until a few days prior to the flip to FOX Sports.

    For a format such as progressive talk, which needs to work extra hard to drag ears to the AM band, branding, promotion and programming is extremely vital. A straight feed to a PC in a closet is not going to do it. Not even on a strong signal such as the one at 680AM in Memphis.

    Progressive talk didn't fail in Memphis. The station running it did.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Is KLSD flipping anyway?

    Aldous Tyler at NonStop Radio claims that KLSD (1360AM) in San Diego, which for the past few weeks has been the subject of rumors regarding a pending flip, will likely drop its moderately successful progressive talk format for sports, despite the strong show of support by listeners.

    From his email:

    At Monday, August 27th's rally, Program Director Cliff Albert confirmed that AM 1360 KLSD was being scheduled to flip from Progressive Talk. Today, news has come down that this flip is imminent, possibly as soon as Friday! Progressives and Liberals of San Diego aren't taking this lying down.

    The rally was attended by hundreds of loyal listeners as well as Bree Walker and Jon Elliot, with Stacy Taylor broadcasting live from within the rally itself!


    Make the fight more effective by going to now! There you can:

    * Print out listener pledge sheets and sponsor pledge sheets for KLSD
    * Join the SaveKLSD Yahoo Group
    * Sign the petition to save KLSD
    * Download the PDF flier for the Save KLSD Movement
    * Fight back against negative media coverage
    * Listen to the broadcast of Stacy Taylor's show from the rally, and watch a short documentary of it, and much more!

    We need YOUR help today if we will stand any chance of saving San Diego's only Progressive Talk outlet! Visit right away!

    Yours in the Cause,
    Aldous Tyler,
    NonStop Radio

    UPDATE: There will be yet another rally for KLSD, this one scheduled for Friday morning (September 14) at 7:30AM local time. The location will be Clear Channel's San Diego offices. For more information, see NonStopRadio.

    Concerned listeners can also sign a petition.

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    DeFede done at WINZ

    Casually surfing past the website of WINZ (940AM) Miami yesterday, I noticed something missing. Namely, any mention whatsoever of morning host Jim DeFede.

    Today, Bob Norman reported that DeFede has left WINZ after a year-long stint. No word on why exactly, but his contract expired, and rumors are circulating that he's going to another station.

    Speaking with DeFede, Norman said he was mum on what happened, but he did at least hint at a continued future in radio.

    "I had a great time at WINZ and I look forward to being on the air again at another station very soon," he said. "You can expect an announcement in the coming days."

    In typical fashion, Clear Channel removed his name from the station's website, pulled down Defede's site (which it evidently hosted) and took his name off the schedule.

    For the time being, show producer/news reader/sidekick Nicole Sandler is hosting the show. Nothing permanent has been announced as of yet.

    Ed Schultz Fight Club

    So... I'm sure everybody wants to hear my take on that all-out violent bar fight over the weekend that involved Ed Schultz, with guns, knives and broken bottles brandished about, as 72 people were admitted to the local hospital in the bloody aftermath. Yeah, that's the one.

    Okay, I embellished a bit. There were no guns. No knives. No bottle fights. And not a single ambulance, or for that matter a police car in sight. But the way the wingnut pundits and bloggers are likely imagining it, one would think it was like a scene out of Road House. Or perhaps something like this.

    Here's what happened: He and his wife Wendy were unwinding at a watering hole in his hometown of Detroit Lakes, MN over the weekend when some California GOP sugardaddy named Kevin Nagle and his female companion went up to him, and an alcohol-fueled political debate soon ensued. Yes, all involved were drinking.

    Schultz said the couple would not end the conversation despite Schultz’s repeated attempts to do so.

    Allegedly, there was shouting. And namecalling. And then Nagle's date had to toss out the dreaded, unspeakable 'C'-word, directed at Wendy Schultz. Uh oh.

    "Finally, I put my beer on the bar and put my finger in his face,” Schultz explained on his local KFGO show News and Views. "I told the guy, ‘I didn’t come here for this.’"

    "This has not happened to me for years, but it did happen to me this weekend,” Schultz told listeners on his syndicated show, referring to the incident as a “bar shuffle” and a “bouncer call."

    "I totally broke my rule,” he said. “I don’t engage in political talk on personal time."

    As is usually the case, there's two sides to this story. Schultz admitted to being a bit hotheaded (surprise, surprise) that night because this guy would just not go away. And Nagle claims Big Eddie was picking on him and shaking his fist (and we all know Republicans are big crybabies). All in all, seemed like much ado about nothing, as the Sheriff's department wasn't even notified about it and the owner of the establishment didn't feel that it was that big a deal. We do know that there was no violence, since an arrest could really derail Schultz' career, something that he indeed did take note of. So, he most certainly couldn't have opened that can o' whupass.

    But quite frankly, if I was in Schultz' shoes, why couldn't I just be allowed to unwind and not talk shop when out and about in the real world? I really wouldn't want to get into arguments with strangers about what happens at my day job. That's why I have some sympathy for celebrities who get hounded all the time (well, except for the ones that go out of their way to seek that). No matter what anyone does for a living, and no matter how famous or wealthy they are, don't they have a right to live something resembling a normal life without being stalked and harassed? They're only flesh and bone, after all.

    Sure, the wingnuts are going to lap this all up and spin it as fast as their heads do. But I will say this: At least Schultz goes out in public and talks to normal, everyday people. Yes, he is approachable. Think Sean Hannity is that accessible? Of course not! He'll probably be the first to tell a guy like Nagel to 'go Cheney himself.' Do we even know if, say, Bill O'Reilly has a life outside his small, sheltered world? Think you'll ever run into him throwing darts at the local tavern or in the falafel aisle at Kroger? Hell no! Rush Limbaugh? Only if you golf at the same overpriced ritzy country clubs as him. Or if you hang out behind Denny's.

    We'll never know how a guy like, say, Glenn Beck behaves at the Taco Bell drive-thru (though, with his history of drinking problems, should he even be driving?). Think lame-ass media commentators like this moron would trash his keepers? Hell no. After all, we're talking about The Tranquilizer here, who's recent relationship with Limbaugh, Hannity and O'Reilly could best be described as 'spit or swallow.'

    So, since these conservojocks obviously live a pretty sheltered life inside their ivory towers, far away from 'the little people,' the following is an oldie but a goodie, a brush with fame story borrowed from Democratic Underground, and a lesson on how not to behave in public when fame has turned you into an insufferable ass:

    OK, everyone, I just received the most hilarious phone call from one of my friends, KC, in San Francisco. 100% true, and it just happened tonight.

    KC and his friend decided to get some crab, so they went to Nonna Rose Seafood in Fisherman's Wharf. They wanted one of the outside tables, waited a few minutes, and were seated.

    Just after they sat down, they heard a gruff man at the table next to them complaining to his waiter. "I thought you said I'd get some privacy here," he complained. "We're very busy tonight, sir, I'm sorry" he replied.

    So, KC glances over at this guy. He's an older guy, strange-looking, by himself, reading a magazine, and there's a little grey-haired poodle at his feet, lapping water like crazy out of a very nice dish. He absolutely glares at my friend.

    KC leans across the table and whispers, "What an asshole," to his buddy. "Poor dog," his friend answers.

    They're well into appetizers when the man calls over the server by crooking his finger. "Get the manager," he commands.

    "Is something wrong?" the server says.

    "Yes, I need to move my dog's water dish, but I'm not going to touch it myself."

    Now, KC just about drops his fork when he hears this. I'm still a bartender, and he used to be, and that's got to be one of the most condescending requests he's ever heard. The server rolls his eyes at KC and his friend, walks away, and soon the manager shows up.


    "Well, how am I supposed to touch this food after touching the dog's bowl? Move it and bring him another one!" he yells.

    At this point, KC's friend says to him, "You know, that guy looks familiar. He even sounds familiar. I think he's famous or something."

    The manager actually kneels down and starts to move the bowl when the man screams out, "What are you doing?? Make the busboy do that!!"

    KC and his friend actually burst out laughing at this point. They look over at the guy, and KC says it looks like he's about to bare teeth.

    Eventually, a poor busboy is dispatched to move the dog's bowl. The man finishes his dinner, glares at KC's table, gets up and leaves.

    They immediately call their server over.

    "Hey, was that someone famous? He sure was an asshole."

    "Yeh," the server said. "He eats here pretty often."

    "So is he someone famous? He looks familiar, kinda."

    "Oh, him?" the server says. "That's Michael Savage."

    Nevertheless, the next time some wingnut tries to lay down some 'my shit don't stink' trip on you, just send them a link to this article. None of us are perfect. Just because a guy gets pissed off in a bar does not mean he's 'unhinged.' On the contrary, it means he's human.

    Wonder what would happen if it was Limbaugh or Hannity in Big Eddie's shoes that night? But that won't happen. Those blowhard primadonnas don't mingle with the common folk. At least Ed Schultz does.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    KPOJ rolling in the dough

    So much has been written about how difficult it is to find advertisers for progressive talk radio, and the viability of advertising on stations carrying the format. KPOJ in Portland, one of the most successful and well-run stations carrying the format, has shown that it can indeed be done, and the station is featured in an article for industry trade publication Advertising Age due to a rather unique advertising strategy, utilizing 'keywords' and advertising on the station's website and combining it with on-air advertising:

    Type the word "bread" into a search on KPOJ's website, and you'll be instantly directed to an ad for Dave's Killer Bread, a cleverly named local bakery from a local ex-con.

    For paid search, advertisers normally turn to the likes of Google or Microsoft for buying time with a radio station or TV network, but for Paul Miraldi, Clear Channel's VP-marketing, the tactic was a new way to show off the unexpected results of an online video his Portland team had taken of the baker.

    "He'd been trying to get on-air for awhile, but I don't think he knew the power of radio," Mr. Miraldi said. "So we edited down a piece, they liked what they saw, we put it on the site and watched Dave's Killer Bread rake in the dough."

    Shameless puns aside, Dave's Killer Bread did see a 23% sales lift after the campaign went live. But paid search is just one of the online marketing tactics Clear Channel is employing for local radio stations and their uncertain status in a viral marketing media climate.

    And they say liberal talk radio is advertiser unfriendly. Needless to say, it can and does work.

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Coming soon: The Top 10 Talkers of 2007

    Labor Day is upon us, and the Summer of 2007 will soon be memory. Sure, the year isn't over yet. Heck, neither is Summer, officially. But as we move into the September of our year, it's time to prepare the year-end special on LTR.

    Last year, you may remember a whole bunch of commemoration, including meaningful (and meaningless) lists, chief among them the "Top 10 Talkers of 2006." Well, guess what? I don't feel like compiling a list this year. To me, it would seem like I'm merely repeating myself. Instead, I'm going to leave it up to YOU, the readers of the blog.

    Yes, you all get to choose the Top 10 Talkers of 2007!

    Granted, I tried this last year, but the methodology (not to mention the late start time) seriously hindered it. This year, the voting starts now. On the right side of the page, you will see a snazzy poll, complete with the names of twenty radio shows and hosts. Vote for your favorite, and check in here on January 1, 2008 to see the final results.

    So, you may ask, why only the twenty names listed? Well, that's what I was limited to, unfortunately. I tried to balance it, filling it with the names on last year's list, as well as some noteworthy people and even a few popular local hosts. To make it really interesting, and to get a general feel as to the tastes of the readers, I even threw a few curveballs that may strike some as weird, such as Alan Colmes. I did leave out some people who are no longer even doing radio, such as Al Franken and Marc Maron. And yes, I realize there are some names missing (Laura Flanders, for one), and if you would rather vote 'none of the above' or 'other,' just drop an email. I may change this poll from time to time, subtracting less popular names and adding more popular ones.

    Incidentally, there is no ballot box stuffing allowed. I set the poll to reject multiple votes. If I suspect any shenanigans or 'freeping' of the poll, it closes automatically. Simple as that. I suspect that there will be no problems, though.

    So, what are you waiting for? Vote now!

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