Thursday, January 02, 2014

Conservative Talk Radio's Legacy Problem

I personally have absolutely no problems helping out a fellow blogger or rookie podcaster.  None whatsoever.  Kid comes up says, "hey can you put me on your blogroll," long as the kid is writing regularly, sure, why not?  Give the kid a shot.

And the reason why I do this is simple:

Why wouldn't you?

Why wouldn't you want to help out your fellow man or woman?  If you have the choice between helping improve the life of a person and not, and there really is no expense or cost to you, then the answer should be obvious - you help that person out.

So you could imagine my frustration when, back several years ago I was trying to "break through" by getting radio show hosts to consider my work.  Provide a link.  Maybe talk about my very timely and relevant book that year.  Anything, an interview, a mention.  Just to get my name out there that "one time," that one "lucky break," that would result in a very Vince Flynn like career.

Crickets.  Nothing but crickets.

You mail the book to the studio.
Never hear back from them again.

Send a link to a post that explains everything and would advance the conservative cause.
Not a mention.

You break a story, giving them a huge edge over their news desk.

Now, admittedly I am fully aware a lot of this has to do with logistics.  Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, etc., are all so big, they are bombarded with millions of e-mails they cannot possibly respond to.  But that included, there is still a severe lack of effort on their part to search for the "next generation" of conservative talk show hosts, to seek out their successors, to groom, guide, and forge any raw talent in the younger generations.  Have you ever seen them have somebody under 50 sub for them?  Additionally, there is absolutely this club or "cartel" of media types that they constantly recycle and prop up.  I like to call it "The Hannity Cartel."

Michelle Malkin wrote something?
She's on Hannity.

Ann Coulter came out with a new book?
She's on Hannity.

Hugh Hewitt is speaking somewhere?
He's on Hannity.

But if Joe Blow, aspiring public speaker, or Jane Doe, superior-but-unknown author writes a great treatise on economics, even if their work is superior, they will NEVER make it into "The Hannity Cartel."They are not interested in hiring the best or finding the best.  They are only interested in protecting their little club.  in other words, despite the capitalist political ideology, they really aren't as interested in finding "the best," as much as they are continuing to propagate their little network or club.

But there's a problem.

While it is completely within their rights and their prerogative to advance their little club, they're getting old.

I was talking to the Lovely Leslie at Temple of Mut who has had some indirect, thrice-removed dealings with Dennis Prager.  She pointed out that though she loves Dennis Prager (and he is actually my second favorite talk show host), he is so old he no longer can even relate to younger people.  I hadn't thought about that because I'm nearly 40 and rather enjoy their older-man talk, but she's right.  And not only is she right about Dennis Prager, she's right about pretty much all of the conservative-talk show league.  Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Michael Savage, all of them are roughly 60 years old.  And because they are so old, just like Harley Davidson, they are slowly moving away from any future and younger generations that would provide a future market for conservative talk radio, presenting the industry with a major demographic and legacy issue.

For example, while Rush occasionally tells stories about his dating in the 70's and his initial run in with the Klingons feminism, he and Prager and Medved etc. etc., completely MISSED OUT on the Manosphere phenomenon.  I don't recall any of them were on the ball about the education bubble (despite me desperately trying to get copies of "Worthless" in their hands years ago).  And they are awfully soft-spoken about the scourge of single mothers.  All of these topics would have captured a younger audience and further secured their radio shows into the future, but they were too busy beating the same dead horses they've been for years (unlike Tom Leykis who was one of the few older people who got it and capitalized on the aforementioned topics).

Sadly, and thankfully, however, all of this discussion is moot.  And I shall tell you why.

That good ole "interwebz."

Like many other industries, the younger generations, after being forced to go to school for a quarter century just to stand a shot at having a career, have realized how bureaucratic and inefficient various industries have become.  And instead of waiting around, "putting in their dues," "getting a masters,"and "hoping for a break," they've instead bypassed the old-boys network and used the internet to start their own industries.  Musicians are selling their music directly to their fans.  Aspiring radio show hosts are saying, "fuck it, I'm not interning.  I'm just going to start my own podcast."  Suppliers are setting up their own online shops instead of "starting in the mail room."  And more people watch their computer screens than listen to the radio or watch TV.  And the radio industry is no different.

Thanks to podcasting a whole new industry has sprung up.  It isn't as big as radio, but it's there.  The Peter Schiffs, the Adam Carolla's, the Stefan Molyneux's, the Tom Leykis's, the Paul Elam's, the Silvio Canto's, even the *ahem* Aaron Clarey's.  This is great because people with talent, people who want to get into the industry, no longer have to wait for permission.  They just "do it."  And not only do they "just do it," they are going to be much more successful as the time they'd have to spend to "make it" in the archaic radio industry is better spent polishing up their own show or "brand."  Ergo, not only is talk radio failing to recruit successors as it protects it's cartel, it's unaware that all the new and future talent is not going to bother with radio.  It's all going to be podcasting.

But a "brain drain" from the industry is not what is truly going to spell the demise of conservative talk radio. It will be three qualities and traits of the "podcasting" industry that will spell it's undoing. 

First, podcasting is a 100%, pure meritocracy.  There is nothing to stop anybody from picking up a microphone, a laptop and start recording.  This means the TRULY BEST will rise to the stop as they are unimpeded with HR ditzes, mandatory interning to "put their dues in," and micro-managing program directors that ruin the quality of the podcast.  The best will also rise to the top as connections or "networking" or ass-kissing is absolutely unnecessary.

Second, people will help you in the podcasting industry.  Glenn Reynolds is a great man because he is that guy who will give you your big breakKOASDA (Kate over at Small Dead Animals) will also send you an amazing amount of traffic if you write well.  And Roosh at Return of Kings has opened his site to quality writers aspiring to make a living out of it.  In short, NOBODY requires you "jump through a hoop" or "put in your dues."  They want to help you because they are selfless, altruistic and good people.

Third, costs.  I'll say it again for the cheap seats - radio towers are expensive.  So are the large buildings and electrical equipment they're attached to.  And so are all those people that are employed in the building.  I'd say the average radio station must cost around $5 million to build, and lord knows what operate each year.  A podcast costs about $500 in equipment and $100 a month for storage...not to mention its reach is GLOBAL while a radio tower maybe has a range of 100 miles.  This is why advertising with Tom Leykis costs a fraction of radio spots, but delivers about 5 times the sales.

In short, yes it would have been nice if America's presumed "cheerleaders of freedom" would have taken somebody under their wings, under their tutelage and groomed successors to continue their fight.  It would have been nice if they just would "give a kid a shot."  But the truth is they're not.  They probably won't.  And, ironically, it doesn't matter.  Because the time WILL COME that new and infinitely-more-attuned titans will rise in the podcasting industry, replacing and supplanting their aged counterparts in conservative talk radio.  And while the Aurini's, Schiff's and Corolla's of the world excel in their new industry, the power will be shut off and the "Golden EIB microphone" will have electricity run through it for the very last time.

Aaron Clarey is a motorcycle-riding, salsa-dancing, fossil hunter who fakes being an economist and author on the side to finance his hobbies. He is the author of "Worthless," "Enjoy the Decline" and most recently "Bachelor Pad Economics."  He also hosts "The Clarey Podcast" on a completely unreliable and random schedule.


Hot Sam said...

Cap, while everything you say rings true, you provide your own best counterarguments.

Consider late night television talk shows. They were ruled by Johnny Carson for decades. David Letterman managed to break free and start his own show, but only after becoming known on Carson.

Leno did stand up on Carson as did Conan. Arsenio had a good run but flopped.

So the genre had room for only a few mastera and their hand picked successors. You might have been a great late night host, but you had barriers to entry.

At one time, all these people were little guys who got a break. But just because some little guys can do it doesnt mean they all can.

The cabal is still on top, so they dont need to groom their replacements. When they get closer to retirement, their hand picked proteges (who do guest spots for them) will take over. Some will carry the torch, some will blaze new trails, and others will burn out and fade away.

Consider that liberals have NOBODY on talk radio. But they have strong internet audiences spread out on several sites.

You are right that the GOP has a thin bench, and they don't do as good a job cultivating new talent. Then again, we are not mind-numb zombies who prefer style over substance. We do risk becoming the party of fuddy duddies, but old fuddies still vote. The young are a dead demographic to run on.

Stick to what you are doing. Youve carved out a good niche. If it takes off, you wont owe your success to anyone else.

sth_txs said...

Most mainstream conservatives are worthless when it comes to liberty and less government. Hannity, Limbaugh, and such are sorry establishment whores. They did not support Ron Paul so for me they are laughable hypocrites not worth listening to. They have their millions and the rest of can go to hell.

Anonymous said...

Like the Pentagon, the "cartel" is fighting the last war. Even when they lost big time.

I can't listen to any of them - I live in a smaller market and don't even have access to a Dennis Miller broadcast. (But Rush is on 3 different stations!)

They hate gays, don't like abortion, and are in favor of government shut-downs that accomplish nothing.

Captain Capitalism said...

Hot Sam,

I agree with everything you say, but at least Carson and the crew picked people 20-30 years their junior.

Limbaugh has old farts like Mark Belling and Walter E. Williams subbing for him.

There is NO, NONE, NADA desire on their part to ever groom replacements.

Again, totally up to them, and I'm not even critiquing them. I merely ask why aren't they? Then following up with the cynical, but realistic observation that the question is moot because it doesn't matter.

We'll do our own thing.

Hot Sam said...

They cant live forever, and when their radio spots open up, the stations will fill them with somebody. Remember that Limbaugh and Hannity (as well as Oprah) started on local networks.

Besides, I hear that Bringing Back Sexy is going to propel Cappie's stardom.

Unknown said...

I feel so honored to be mentioned on the cap's blog! Thanks again for the help! :)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Phantom said...

"I merely ask why aren't they?"

Because money, Captain.

Conservatives are going to have to give up looking for the guy on the white horse who's going to make it all better, and beat our own plowshares back into swords on our own anvils. You want to be heard? Talk louder, work harder.

Nobody gave Limbaugh a break either, you know. He got fired from every job he ever had.

Unknown said...

The way to get into the big leagues is to produce big league stuff.

You won't like to hear this, but you don't.

Glen Filthie said...

God, you are gonna hate me Cap but again - I say this as a fan and not a fink:

You are just not in the same league as Ann, Rush, and Glenn.


Also - look at your blog roll (it is the second best thing about your blog) - there's over a dozen writers with all the same talent you have.

If Rush decides to retire today, and pick his successor...he has thousands of people that can literally step into his shoes as he steps out of them.

Also - a huge portion of those audiences are working class conservative old farts. When you go off on baby boomers - you are alienating a large segment of your audience.

That's the way I see it - no offense meant. Keep at it, though. I would stay with the cheesy ascot and smoking jacket (archaic fashion was a hit trademark with Don Cherry), I would keep pounding on the doors and keep networking and working on your public speaking skills.

You have mighty high goals in a very difficult market.

Anonymous said...

There is a young conservative radio host that I enjoy. His name is Andrew Wilkow, and he is on Sirius satellite radio. Also on Sirius is Mike Church, who is libertarian and under 60. I do agree with the general thought that it is not yet clear who is in the bull pen for the current radio hosts.

Karl said...

Bravo Captain.

I had been a Rush subscriber for a decade. This past year it was a chore to listen to and I've since let it lapse.

Sent my first Commie Obama hats to Rush and Hannity back in 2008. Got nothing. I did send it to Beck (CNN) and he wore it several times on the show, so not a total loss.

Drudge has a link today about Ezra Klein leaving WP because Bezos won't fund his new $10m project. Right in line with what you're saying here. Why pay millions when you don't have to?

Captain Capitalism said...

Glen and Unknown,

Agreed, but I'm not aiming to be Rush. I'm saying the whole industry, even local radio hosts, just don't care to help out the younger kids. Be it through books, journalism, blogging, etc. And that younger talent is merely doing it on its own.

Anonymous said...

People are not as magnanimous as they were in the past. We live in a "me-first" world.

However, you must consider that in the great free capitalist American society ANYONE can make it big, BUT NOT EVERYONE.

There just ain't enough room at the top. It's logistic man .... the numbers.

Best wishes, ... you could be a real guy if you get a break, or if your current efforts continue to provide success.

Peregrine John said...

Sam has a certain point - and I know of some examples of folks who might, just might, have the hunger and cajones to put on an acerbic economist who teaches dance. Southern California's evening programs like Tim Conway, Jr. or Peter Tilden could possibly be an outlet, or McIntyre in the morning. Same stations that host Hannity, Limbaugh, Levin and others too gravitas-laden to bother with new people (or too blustery), but smaller-feeling shows in the same enormous market.

Anonymous said...

Write a mystery novel and maybe Soucheray and Rookie will get back to you.

Anonymous said...

Including data regarding the age at which each of the bigwigs finally hit it big would make this blog entry seem less like frustration and more like rational analysis. Also, is there any way you can be sure that the kings of the hill aren't helping younger talent? Or that their hands aren't tied by industry rules over which they have no control? Neil Boortz subbed for Rush over the holidays and he made a big deal of the fact that the only reason he was chosen to guest host was that he had kept up his "certification" as a talk show host. Are there arcane barriers to entry that don't get much publicity? I know from friends who have written books that it is extremely difficult to get past the publishing gatekeepers, partly because there are far more people who want to be published than people willing to shell out the money to make publication profitable.

In any case, the current generation of politicians still has its perceptions formed by broadcast media. Inevitably, as the older politicians are replaced by those raised by the internet, the perceived importance of radio and tv for political messaging will dramatically decrease and all you youngins will be well-positioned for your own day in the sun. Prep yourself.

Rick said...

Your remarks are mostly aimed at the "talent" side of the issue, not at the nuts-and-bolts side as it were. Yes, for a few hundred dollars you can run your own podcast but you still must piggyback on an existing infrastructure controlled by the big-money boys. Just as trendy and clever internet applications are eventually bought up by the big fish -- think Google buys YouTube -- podcasting will eventually be corralled if it indeed becomes profitable to do so.
Keep writing and 'casting so that you are one of the fish who keeps swimming inside that net when it is cast.

Anonymous said...

Limbaugh has provided a starting point for Michael Medved and currently has Mark Steyn as a fill in. He gave Hannity his first opportunity with a national audience. There are a lot of young conservatives breaking through and some will likely move into talk radio. People like MKHammer and Katie Pavlich. So, who knows. In the interim, maybe you could podcast, or present yourself at a local station. it worked for datechguy and famously for Dave Ramsey although Ramsey is not political. keep at it.

Glen Filthie said...

But Aaron - that is exactly the probem. Think of this from a sales perspective:

You are a new product, in a new market that consists of new customers. That is the toughest sale to make - and you are already selling books! You should be happy!

By contrast, Rush, Ann and Glenn are an existing product, in an existing market to existing customers. Why would you want to screw with that unless you absolutely have to?

When you consider that these media morons discovered the manosphere a couple weeks ago - you are on the cutting edge of an emerging market.

The stage is being set as we speak. A&E just got told to shove their discrimination against white Christians. Fat, ugly feminists are being properly ridiculed for their sloth and their stupidity. A lot of mothers, wives and sisters are sick of seeing their fathers, brothers and sons discriminated against in the workplace by feminist policies.

You could be in an enviable sa;s position, actually - on the leading edge of an emerging market.

I would be pouring on the coal right now, if I were you Cap. You are probably about 3~5 years ahead of your time.

Captain Capitalism said...

HA! Soucheray is the PERFECT example I'm talking about.

Dude has my books in his hands (though connections I have in da biz).

Nothing, nada.

Anonymous said...

Cappy Cap,

Is there a reason you're not on iTunes?

I love your podcasts, but it's difficult to get to you when I have Dan Carlin, Bill Burr, and Joe Rogon instantly being downloaded to my iPhone.


Green Steelhead said...

Glen Filthie is right, Cappy. READ and understand his perspective. You are ahead of the curve, and the backlash against this retarded Progressivism is coming like a freight train once it leaves the station. Throw economic downturn or collapse on top, and you will have a wave of people starved for practical knowledge and seeking the truth.

You have a unique niche. Besides, if you latch onto these mega-machines, they will suck you in and spit you out as homogenized vanilla pulp, stripped of all the crass and unique parts that make your blog, book and podcasts interesting. After all, at that scale, it is all about the money and sponsors who control the flow and dialogue. Just look how the sponsors left Rush after Sandra Fluke, and he had to adjust accordingly.

You don't need the big machines...stay original and chart your own course. Dave Ramsey is an excellent example of what can happen when you come up with a common sense plan and are excellent at what you do. He didn't need the big machines either; he just did it. Don't become a butthurt whining victim pissed that some mega-machine isn't giving you a helping hand.

MORE STEAM! Keep moving forward, comrade!

Glen Filthie said...

So what?

New markets emerge exponentially, Cap. One day you have a couple disgruntled male ex-employees, maybe some deadbeat dads that got raped in divorce court - and the next thing you know you have an entire movement.

Can you possibly go outside the box here, Aaron?

Eg. Margaret Wente over at the Globe and Mail is a light conservative. She has a cushy gig at the Glob and Snail as a 'token conservative'. She offers a couple things to an otherwise disreputable and dishonourable leftist rag sheet:

- she antagonizes the hell out of the readership in a tasteful way
- she gives the Glob a semblance of objectivity by introducing a conservative element

Glenn Beck put his enemies to work for him by using nasty comments from Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donut and other leftist cankles to introduce his new book.

Vox Day proudly proclaims his banishment from the SFWA as a selling point for his blog.

If you were to dress up in that smoking jacket and proudly display your angry haters as a point of pride...that could be a dandy marketing gimmick if you played it right. I still think that get-up looks gay...but it could be one hell of a marketing gimmick.

Take a break from your friends and have some fun with your enemies, Cap!

Captain Capitalism said...

Glen and Green,

I absolutely agree with you guys. I guess the whole point of the post was

"Why don't older people help out younger people?"

and the talk radio industry is just one example.

I am ABSOLUTELY happy I'm on the vanguard of this new industry. There are no bosses, no rules, no nothing. We're allowed to achieve our best with no politics or bureaucracy. I get paid to yell at the internet. You cannot ask for a better job.

FSK said...

You have it backwards.

You think the media cartel is about "Find the most talented people and promote them." It isn't.

It's "We're promoting these people. You'll think they're great because we're promoting them all the time."

Before the Internet, it works. Now, not as much, but they still have tremendous influence.

I read an interesting article. You know how the media picks people, promotes them a lot, and they become famous. The VC industry now does the same thing with startups. They find someone with a good story, promote them like crazy, and then IPO and dump the shares on unsuspecting suckers (FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat).

Anonymous said...

Captain should channel his inner Macklemore more often.

MarkyMark said...


Rush, Sean, and Mark Levin do give others a chance; it's the hosts they have fill in for them. There is a lot of talent out there, but the big shots are playing gatekeeper...