Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sirius Pimpin'

As I checked in on this site Monday afternoon, I couldn't help but notice that a radio personality listed on the Top Talkers of 2008 web poll at right suddenly became quite popular. Sure enough, this person went from a scant few votes to over 400, a literal overnight sensation. Hmm... interesting.

Well, it certainly doesn't take a village idiot to figure out what's going on. So, I did a check of my site stats. Unlike other 'surges,' this influx didn't appear to come from a website or message board. Readership numbers (of various "entry links") and vote tallies didn't seem to jibe at first. And said host's website looks like it hasn't been touched in years. So, it seems like a very strong clandestine word of mouth campaign. Or a host is actually (gasp!) stumping for votes on the airwaves. Turns out that yes, this thing has evidently become big enough to inspire individual on-air campaigning activities.

Yes, I have read the testy emails from many of you confirming my suspicions. Some of you are claiming that a few hosts on Sirius Left are going all Boss Tweed on this thing.

And in a scenario reminiscent of an old-time Texas election, some say these hosts are encouraging a little trickery. But just like Jolly Ol' Saint Nick, I know who's been 'naughty' and who's been 'nice,' even without a Sirius subscription. With that, I say hello to our newest readers, Sirius Left's Alex Bennett and Lynn Samuels.

Here's the story. Seems Bennett and/or some of his listeners discovered the poll, and since Monday or so, he's been hawking it on his radio show, encouraging votes for Sirius folks like Himself, Samuels and Mark Thompson. Okay, fine. I guess at this point, if hosts want to campaign, who am I to say otherwise? As a matter of fact, have at it. But some have accused Bennett of telling people how to 'fudge the numbers' using a little computer trickery. I didn't hear it, so I do not know. In the comments on this entry, Bennett denies any wrongdoing, aside from giving a little free publicity to 'the funnest blog on earth.'

When a similar incident happened soon after the poll went up a month ago, sure, I got a little pissy about it. But looking back, that was unwarranted. Heck, I obviously saw it coming. I probably encouraged it. A few weeks ago, I did restart the poll, over a thousand votes already in the bag. It was not really because of chicanery, but mostly because I left off a few names that myself and others really wanted on there, but were accidentally left off. And yeah, the foolishness happened again. And no, I'm not going to get pissed about it. Nothing to really get worked up about.

There's an old saying, 'we learn from our mistakes.' Story goes, when Thomas Edison was working at inventing the incandescent light bulb, he went through hundreds of unsuccessful attempts. In his eyes, he didn't fail. He just discovered more ways not to invent a light bulb.

Another old saying goes, 'if life deals you lemons, make lemonade. So, let's take a look at the lemons:

1. The method was flawed from the beginning. My fault. I was trying a new, rather complicated way of doing it. For some reason, I tend to make things more difficult than they should be.

2. The poll has possibly been 'juiced,' sometimes by semi-nefarious methods.

3. Some hosts have resorted to blatant self-promotion.

4. It's not being taken all that seriously. Or maybe it's being taken too seriously.
5. This Blogger poll widget is kinda goofy.

And with that, we make lemonade:

1. I learned another way how not to make a light bulb.

2. I obviously saw it coming. I even encouraged it somewhat by adding names of people who I knew some die-hard fans would give a boost to.

3. The offenders are obvious to anyone visiting this site. Nobody's being fooled here.

4. Thanks to this silly little poll, this blog is getting lots of free on-air radio promotion. That usually costs a lot of money. Thanks, Sirius! You rawk!

5. Let's face it, at the very root, it's a silly web poll.

6. This has all promoted a lot of interesting activity, discussion, enthusiasm and fun, and has brought a wider mix of readers and commenters. I like that.
7. Chaos can be fun.

8. Finally, as news is a bit slow and I have nothing really to write about, I've actually got a rather interesting topic this time around. And one that will no doubt spur quite a bit of reaction from many of you.

All in all, I have become amused by all of it. I'm not angry. What's the point? It's really all for fun, right? I certainly don't hope that Bennett, with his many years in radio and all, is spending hours or so sitting in his pajamas in front of his laptop clearing his browser cache and cookies folder while casting multiple votes for himself. If that's truly the case, he needs better hobbies. Pronto.

And wouldn't you know it? I actually like Alex Bennett, and I'm probably one of the few I know who does. I chalk it up to sentimental reasons. I listened to him back in the 80's, while living in the San Francisco Bay Area where he did the morning show on Live 105. It was one of the funniest, most entertaining things I've ever heard on the radio. Kept this lonely bitter teen sane during a few crappy years growing up in that hellhole known as Fremont, California. For that, I thank you, Alex.

Sure, most people who read this blog absolutely detest the guy, and believe me, I've read the emails and comments from those of you who feel this way (they're even less kind about Samuels). Bennett's not your typical 'liberal' talk show host. You either like him or hate him. He's not a person everyone likes, like, say, a Rachel Maddow. But I like the fact that he's a bit cranky and off-the-wall. His style of radio is to often challenge and piss people off, rather than reinforce what you already believe. It's old-school confrontational talk radio. Old-timers like Joe Pyne, Bob Grant and Alan Berg did this. And unlike, say, a Sean Hannity, this isn't just reading daily political party talking points memos word-for-word. Bennett obviously knows the object is to keep people tuned in, and say whatever comes to mind. I can't help but to laugh at the fact that years after I grew up listening to him everyday on the radio, he's now pimping my blog on his show. Welcome to the internet.

But back to the topic. So hi, Alex and Lynn! Glad to see you! And since you are now my readers, how's about throwing us peons a bone and put up podcasts of your shows or something? Especially for those of us uneasy about subscribing to "Mel's Folly," knowing full well that he may up and cancel Sirius Left on a whim as he chops away at the two satellite monoliths in his fold to justify that Howard Stern money. Let's hope this doesn't happen. At the very least, I'd sure love to hear audio of the on-air plugs you've been giving me this past week. Email the mp3's to
(NOTE: Bennett says that Samuels has nothing to do with this, though some readers have said otherwise. Will someone come to a consensus here, fer cryin' out loud?)

As I mentioned earlier, I do have a plan in place for dealing with this mayhem (though it does seem to be constantly evolving), while at the same time acknowledging all of the choices of the thousands of people who have voted. But you'll have to wait until January 1 to find out. In the meantime, have fun, play nice. Just be sure to vote only once. That's all I ask.
After all, what good is a shallow victory?


Alex Bennett said...

Gee, let me take a moment off from clearing my cookies and say I'm not in my pajamas.

Look, bottom line is that most of my votes are legitimate. Not everyone knows about the cookie thing but those that do, know it takes too much work. Those that would aren't just my listeners but that of other hosts as well. By the way thanks for printing the cookies thing, now everyone will be doing it.

The only jigg that was up was that I informed an audience that didn't even know the poll or blog existed to vote in name of satcasting. I had no idea that they would do so in such staggering numbers. Now there are people who would like to deny the power of my audience and say we cheated. I swear that all we are guilty of is campaigning.

By the way, Lynn and also Mark were never a part of this. In fact I haven't talked to either of them about it.

If there was cheating, it was already happening when I originally saw the poll as some hosts numbers were vastly inflated, no doubt by over zealous fans. I don't deny that a few overly hopped up fans may have deleted their cookies for me but for the most part the votes were honest votes of one per browser.

One regular caller said she was deleting cookies. I told her not to as that would be cheating. I also told the audience not to do it because it would screw up their passwords and such.

You are right when you called it "a silly little poll" and it was in that spirit that we played the game. But for me it was overwhelming to see the outpouring of caring from an audience that even I didn't think existed. In the almost 5 years I have been at Sirius I never had a true feeling of the size or the power of our audience. There are no ratings to speak of. Yes our lines are filled most of the time, but really, in satellite radio there is no way to feel the pulse. This time we did and quite frankly no one is more stunned and gratified than I am. To all those that voted I am in your debt.

I have toyed with the notion of asking you to remove my name and that of my compatriots from the polling to satiate those who felt we cheated. But we didn't and I belayed that idea because it would be unfair all those folks that went out of their way to vote for us. There was no cheating we just were armed with a more gung-ho audience than we ever imagined.

If you decide on some kind of punitive action when the votes are finally tallied and in any way minimize our standing or put an asterisk beside our names, then you will be hurting not me but my listeners. In fact you would be fixing the final vote in way a few zealots could ever do.

Alex Bennett

Alex Bennett said...

PS:A simple solution. If would just remove the ability to see the count, all this might stop.

pureprairie said...

Rightwing radio has Michael Weiner (and many more nearly as awful), we have Lynn Samuels.

ltr said...

I don't plan on pulling a Roger Maris here. No asterisk. No punishment. And hopefully no hard feelings. I will report on all of the actual results, and even add a few additional surprises. Stay tuned.

And pretty much everyone on the web knows the cookie trick by now. Plus, I'm not sure how effective it is. I was under the assumption that Blogger goes by IP address, but I'm not sure.

As far as the whole ordeal goes, I initially wrote the rough draft of this entry last night, after noticing the spike in votes, followed by an avalanche of bitchy emails. I had no choice but to respond, especially when multiple people were telling me you guys were up to no good. It was a bit nastier, but I quickly cleaned it up. I may do some further revisions. As long as there’s no multi-voting, I have no problem with promotion of the poll. In fact, I think it adds a fun element to it, and stirs up some good, passionate discourse, which is typically a good thing. In short, I encourage it. And I agree with you in that Sirius Left listeners have spoken up. You guys don’t get a whole lotta love, it seems, and Sirius Left has some good things going for it.

There’s a reason I let some entries sit overnight before posting them. Sometimes, more information unfolds. Which it did when you posted the comments. As a result, I made some changes. Some have accused you of promoting mischief, but it appears that was not the case.

When a similar situation occurred a few weeks back, I was a bit overwhelmed. Even said some harsh things that I later removed from the post. I overreacted a bit. From that point on, I knew that this poll thing had taken on a life of its own. It was out of my hands. And I garnered the mindset of sitting back and watching what this thing does.

The poll was put up rather quickly, after my original plan (an NCAA Tournament-type bracket deal with elimination rounds) proved too chaotic in the end to carry out effectively. And I used Blogger’s own polling widget this year, rather than the third party one I used last year. And none of the widgets really give me many options (changing choices, hiding results, etc.). Besides, removing names, for me, was out of the question.

And to make it all fair, I encourage any host on the list to promote this thing, if they see fit. That should level the playing field.

Again, glad to hear your side.

Arkinsaw said...

I listen to Lynn Samuels every day. She has never mentioned this site or this poll.

ralph said...

I susbscribe to Sirius Radio and listen to 146 almost exclusively. With the exception of when Alex Bennett And Lynne Samuels are on. Usually I tune to NPR talk at those times. I think Bennett is among the wost and Sirius would be better served to carry Stephanie Miller live at that time. Bennett Sucks. His personality is the dregs. I believe He is a racist, who I've heard say offensive remarks repeatedly and yes the only reason he has surged is because he has been pimping his self to his listeners to vote for. I think that given time your pole will begin to reflect the reality. Mark Thompson is the only pure Sirius talker that is the exception. He is among the best. When they cut recorded Stephanie Miller shows to an hour and put him on at first I was disappointed but I soon realized they had something with him. Through his efforts I think he is in larger part responsible for the change that has come.

Unknown said...

Alex's message is that satellite radio is not getting the respect it deserves when it comes to bringing alternative points of view to the talk radio medium. He brought the poll to our attention because many of his listeners were unaware of this blog, and, many of us, including myself, have voted just once. While satellite radio is dismissed as having a limited audience (that is limited to subscribers), there are geographical limits on the reach of many terrestrial broadcasters. Most do not have the syndication deals that can get them into all the major cities. Satellite radio, on the other hand reaches the entire country. Sirius Left actually increases the audience for syndicated programs such as Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, and Bill Press.
You dismiss Sirius/XM due to its financial condition, calling it a folly. Air America is not in great shape itself. It makes no sense for terrestrial liberal broadcasters to be fighting or ignoring their compatriots working on Sirius Left. It would better to support each other as much as possible to ensure that people have a choice when they turn on their radios.

ltr said...

I never dismissed satellite radio in general. If you read some older stuff, I have been quite defensive of it, and even said nice things about Sirius Left in an earlier comment on this entry.

By referring to it as a 'folly,' I mean that, with the whole merger currently underway between Sirius and XM, and the combining of the two services (along with the paring down of some current programming choices), things seem quite hectic now.

My slight diss of Sirius Left was left over from the earlier draft of the article, when I had tons of people claiming you guys were up to a little tomfoolery. Yeah sure, I was a bit cranky about it at the time, but I'm cool now.

All in all, I'm very pro-satellite, and I hope it survives and prospers. I also hope there's a place for it in a future that will no doubt bring more competition, in the form of mp3 players, wi-fi in cars, etc. I'm all for a wide variety of programming choices. And services like Sirius Left, and the various other programming and sports options that are only available there, at least give people a reason to subscribe.

Lana said...

I voted for Alex - once. And I think most people are not going to delete their cookies simply to vote for him. It's impossible to keep people on the internet from doing whatever they're going to do. And whoever said this was right right - I'd never heard of this website until it was mentioned on Alex's show.

Chriss Pagani said...

Funny, because Alex closed his show by saying he'd be spending his weekend deleting cookies from his browser.

I still think that Lynn Samuels shouldn't be on a list of liberal talk show hosts. Yes, she's on Sirius Left, but she doesn't belong there.

Lynn can be entertaining but she is no liberal. She hates Obama and continues to claim that he is not a citizen and that if he is allowed to become president, he is going to destroy the country. She also advocates shooting illegal aliens. Liberal? Hardly.

I haven't advocated for firing people. I just think they need to put her on Sirius Patriot where she belongs, and not on the liberal talk show host list.

pureprairie said...

Having listened to Mark Thompson since his show began a year ago, I recall on a few occasions his own online polls wherein he'd inferred that Patriot (Sirius' wingnut channel) had somehow skewed the results - where one might expect an obvious outcome, the opposite results. I wish I could cite examples here, but Mark was adamant that the wingnuts down the hall were screwin' with his online poll. I know it's anecdotal, but Bennett has buddies working at the wingnut channel... I'm just sayin'.

skatha said...

FYI, here in Texas, Sirius Left is just about all I have. Alex is funny and so is Lynn. I'd hate to think that a liberal would have to follow a dogma, but, apparently, others do. Lynn is hardly rightwing-she's just a loudmouth old Jew. She'd be shot on sight at Sirius "Patriot". Why do you think Michael Stein changed his name to a nice Irish one? He wanted to fool the goyim

Josh H said...

I dis agree with Lynn alot. She is very bigoted, so I refuse to listen to her show. Not that it really matters.

Alex, I like a little more. He is nice to the gays. So i love him for that.

Mark, I liked, up until tonight. His discussion tonight was a bit much for me. I have noticed recently he is so centered on race, and that bothers me. If he feels he needs to bring up race issues he should be doing that on Patriot or another nut-job station. Lefty's already know of the issues. I am gay and I dont call in bringing up my issues all the time. WE ARE AMERICANS. Enough with the labels!

pureprairie said...

I live in the Fresno market which has no progressive radio, so Sirius (& XM) is all we have. A few weeks prior to the general election I was driving through the central valley to the bay area, tried tuning in some local talk radio but wingnut radio was all I could find - so tuned in to 146 on satrad instead. I swear to God, I could not tell the difference between Lynn Samuels and Rush Limbaugh (sans gender). Neither had anything good to say about Barack, it was pathetic. Was thinking, "why do I pay for THIS crap?" If I knew XM was going to be around with 167 for a few years, I'd consider switching to XM - that or Samuels goes (doubt that'll happen).

Leonard Smith said...

Alex Bennett is a self-absorbed asshole. He encouraged his fucking listeners to vote often. He is low grand and never included in any roster of real Left wing or liberal programs. As for Lynn Samuels, what a waste of two hours each day. That old bitch belongs on the street. She is useless. Mark Thompson is excellent and I would vote for him and only him. Fuck Alex Bennett'

Chriss Pagani said...

And of course not only is Bennett begging every day for votes, now Lynn Samuels is doing it too.

If everyone else listed was begging for votes, the poll MIGHT show something. But that is not the case; I haven't heard a terrestrial host even mention it. The poll is invalid because of this. Period.

And again, Lynn Samuels shouldn't even be on that list. No way. She's not a liberal. Perhaps she was one once but like Joe Lieberman she's gotten old and cranky and irrational: She hates Obama, claims he's not a citizen and is going to destroy America.. oh, and we should shoot illegal aliens... oh, and global warming is a myth.

Enough said.

rob paterson said...

Alex rules Sirius..Also the 50's and Willie channels are much improved with the merger..

"stupendous" live in the woods

Anonymous said...

I only listen to Sirius radio for several years now. I believe Alex did the right thing in bringing this format to the attention of other progressive/liberal talk listeners via your blog (which I have been reading for over year). Also in allowing Sirius listeners to be exposed to other progressive talkers in terrestial radio. Its good for both.

I argue with several of the posters who say that Lynn Samuels does not belong of Sirius Left. She belongs on an independent channel. And the could then broadcast Ed Shultz live.

Alex;s show complains of not being able to get guests who seem to aviod them. However, He has not to my knowledge ever interviews o his show leaders and activists of the many Socialist, Communist and Anarchist politcal parties/groups. Fox News and news shows have given these groups more airtime. And I doubt that any of these folks would turn down Alex if he asked.
well thats my only beef with Alex. I do like the way he lightens up the show and is funny

Unknown said...

I came here and voted largely because of a comment by Lynn Samuels a couple of weeks ago - but only once - and I split my vote between her and Marc Maron.

I listen to her nearly every day and only heard her mention it once - she asked for votes at that time, but she hardly campaigned for it.

I bought my Sirius primarily to hear Alex and Lynn, but also really, really love some of their music programming - Disorder, Outlaw County and Underground Garage are well worth the monthly subscription fees (up here in New York's Southern Tier, there is not much reason to turn on the radio besides weather reports).

To my mind, the notion of Left v. Right radio is useless at best. Just becuzz the assholes who run the dominant talk stations in New York, San Diego and everywhere in between run ideologically pure lineups around the clock - that's no reason to insist in the same rigidity in "counter-programming".

Over the years at WABC and at Sirus, Lynn has provided me with some of the best moments of radio listening ever. I think she is totally off the wall re: Obama, immigration, english-only, etc - but I don't really care - her willingness to say what she means rather than regurgitated talking points (Hi, Big Eddie!) make her a treasure.

I'm nervous about the eventual fate of Sirius in general and Lynn and Alex in particular. Radio is such an unstable business and over the years I've seen so many hosts and formats ditched suddenly and unceremoniously (Hi Stacy Taylor!)

For me, a day without Lynn is like a day without sunshine.

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