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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Progressive Talk Radio: The state of the format

By now you probably know that Air America Media has now gone off the air. The last moments of the network are airing as I type this. This comes as a body blow to me personally as this country devolves in to The United States of Bubba.

And the right wing bloviators will, no doubt, have a field day with this. They have been salivating about the death of AAR for years.

Not helping is the loss of progressive stations in key markets like San Diego and Dallas in the last few years. Air America's bankruptcy may mean the loss of liberal radio in Washington DC and New York City.

Yes, the ditto heads this week are riding high.

But don't bury the old girl yet. LibTalk does still have a pulse.

For one thing, the hosts themselves are a pretty popular lot.

Let's start with Ed Schultz, who is the #1 purely progressive host in the nation, tied for #8 overall. Thom Hartmann is right behind him, tied for #9. And Alan Colmes and Stephanie Miller tie for #10 with soon-to-be-former Air America act Lionel.*

The ratings for Progressive Talk Stations (PTR) are a mixed bag, though. KPOJ/Portland, OR's numbers have slipped from their higher marks of a year ago., while KTLK's numbers have doubled in four months (before slipping in December).**

So what is the future for PTR. It does have one. The PTR format may never beat the Rush Limbaughs of the world, but as a niche format, it can be a strong one.

What it will also take are experienced radio people who believe in the PTR message, who can also OWN and MANAGE the stations not like a commercial NPR station, but as a true flame-throwing alternative that anyone would want to listen to.

That would mean clever promotion, giveaways, being visible in the community. Possibly even not promoting yourself as a progressive station, but as a talk alternative.

It means dropping the Cum-by-ya image and going for the audiences jugular.

It can be done. As a person who loves and lives the format, it must be done. Now we need people with the balls to do it.



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