Friday, at 5pm pst, FreeFM died. FreeFM was CBS radio’s attempt to appeal to the “Howard Stern” demographic with an all-talk FM format. At its peak it comprised of 11 stations. But one by one those stations fell and yesterday afternoon Talk 97.1 in Los Angeles (the original and last FreeFM station) switched to an all music format. As you might imagine all the syndicated radio hosts were fired.
This got me thinking about an LA radio show that was cancelled a while back called Jaime, Jack and Stench (there’s a connection to FreeFM but it’s long and convoluted so I’ll spare you). What’s interesting about that show is the hosts, after finding themselves job-less, came up with a way to use their fan base
Their solution was a daily podcast at www.jackandstench.com and a $5 per month fee to gain access to it. They claim to have a little over a 1,000 subscribers which certainly isn't enough to pay anyone's bills but is still a nice take for a half an hour of talking.
More importantly, I can't help but think a more popular talk radio team could garner a much larger audience (in the end Jaime, Jack and Stench were fired because the station they worked for was losing money).
That, along with the increasingly steep decline of the radio industry in general, raises some interesting issues. Despite what some people might think the average radio hosts setup is no more advanced than that of your average podcaster. Below is a picture showing the average setup for a talk radio host doing afternoon drive time in a major metropolitan city.
(Shown is Joe Crummy who at the time was hosting a local show in Phoenix, AZ while actually living in Los Angeles, CA. When that fact was revealed in the New York Times he was fired under public pressure)
Just 2 PCs, a Microphone and a reliable Internet connection is all that is really needed.
Which brings me to another former Los Angeles radio host named Marc Germain. Marc Germain has been on just about every Talk Radio station going by various names depending on the station he was on (starting with Mr. KFI, then Mr. KABC, then just Mr. K and finally by his actual name).
After splitting from the last station he founded www.talkradioone.com which, in addition to allowing podcast downloads, is actually broadcast live from 8pm to 10pm. AND he takes live calls!
He can actually queue as many as 10 calls via regular voice line and even more via Skype which exceeds the ability of major radio stations in the area.
Right now Mr. Germain only broadcasts his own show but his about page says his goal is to broadcast 24 hours a day very soon with live shows for half the day and repeats for the rest.
I don't think radio is going anywhere but I do think its in decline which means a lot of people who were gainfully employed in that industry are finding themselves out in the cold. I think the examples above give a template for how those people can essentially maintain their chosen career in an era where the traditional opportunities are dwindling.
Addendum: Joe Crummey (pictured above) has since been hired by KTAR in Arizona (his original station's competition). He still broadcasts from Los Angeles.