While driving the crotch rocket from Buffalo, Wyoming to Phoenix, Arizona and back, I decided to go down one side of the Rockies and up the other on the return trip. However, it was without fail that as I would enter a small Colorado town the gas station attendant or hotel concierge would inform me, immediately, about the new "brew pub" that had just opened and how I had to check it out. Not being a fan of beer, I usually eschewed these pubs, but the sheer number of them compelled me to think about them from an economics standpoint, especially whilst navigating the various mountain passes and switchbacks.
My original thought was stained by my previous experience in banking where desperate middle aged men would mortgage their house, close out their 401k, and then approach us for more money to finance their mid-life-crisis bar. And so I thought this was just the latest incarnation where a new generation of dude-bros would start a brew pub and within a year file for bankruptcy.
It didn't happen.
Matter of fact, quite the opposite has happened. Not only have thousands of micro-brew pubs opened up, but they make better, higher quality beer than the swill being mass-produced by Busch, Budweiser, Miller, etc. Add to that fact they usually attach a bar to their brewing operations and an element of community and "walking to the neighborhood pub" ensues, and paying the extra $1 for a pint of special brew makes it impossible for the large producers to compete.
However, it is not only the beer industry that this "specialization" is happening. Enter in our beloved internet. Specifically radio.
It is no secret that I have a general disdain for the radio industry. It is a cutthroat industry I "fell into," but was naive about. Ergo, thinking it may had been my calling, I made changes in my life and career to pursue it, only to have the format of my station change to (my favorite) "sports talk radio" 5 months into my gig.
However, like publishing or the music industry, the radio industry and the elitists that controlled it are getting spanked, primarily through podcasts. Radio stations are EXPENSIVE things to maintain. Not only do you have radio towers and insane electric bills, but you have sales staff, HR, lawyers, producers, secretaries, etc. And the free market being what it is, owners are driven to streamline their operations, cutting expenses as much as possible. This resulted in a phenomenon similar to "Big Beer" - a mass produced product that is sold nationally. However, instead of a can of "Bud Light" or "Budweiser," radio stations nationally syndicated Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Prager, and Michael Medved.
Unfortunately, for both radio stations and listeners, this meant (like beer) talk radio hosts had to play to the largest common denominator. This meant bland, not-to-risque, polite talk shows. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it did take away the Mischke's, Savages, and other eccentric talk show hosts that had smaller, but much loyal followings.
However, some ironic and incredible timing occurred. While radio stations were laying off local talent in the drive for leveraging national syndication, the cost of bandwidth and storage on the internet was plummeting. And it was no longer text or nudie pics of your girlfriend that could be sent over teh interwebz, but audio and video. Early adapters capitalized on this. Chris Krok (a fellow radio show host who enjoyed an equally brief radio career in Minneapolis) I remember getting canceled in 2006. He said he was going to work on some "Blogtalk" project, of which I more or less dismissed, borderline scoffed. However, a couple years later, the feasibility and (thus) threat podcasts presented to talk radio became apparent. And it's the exact same threats that specialized brews present to "big beer."
Today, I rarely listen to Rush Limbaugh, and maybe tune into Garage Logic. Four years ago I would easily spend 3 hours a day listening, now, not more than 5 minutes. The reason is that I can download podcasts, listen to them at ANYTIME, AND (this is the real threat)
LISTEN TO A SHOW THAT IS VERY SPECIALIZED IN MY INTERESTS.
Yes, Sean Hannity, I got it - "Republicans Good. Democrats Bad!"
But have you ever done a deep analysis on Tribalism and its intellectual ramifications like Stefan Molyneux?
Yes, Joe Soucheray, I got it. What is the mystery? Who are the mysterians?
But the mystery was solved nearly 6 years ago by a vlogger/podcaster.
And yes, Michael Medved, got it. "Losertarians." Ho ho ho. That's funny.
You'll forgive me while I listen to women explore and pioneer a completely different and new world called the Manosphere. Slightly more intellectual stimulation.
The truth is that talk radio was already dying without the internet. And I mean that literally - the hosts are old and are going to be looking at death in the face in 20 years. Rush Limbaugh is over 60, Dennis Prager in his 50's, and Joe Soucheray is pushing 80 (just kidding). But who is being groomed to replace them?
The answer is nobody.
Which is fine. Like most industries in America today, the youth have found it easier to go their own way, using the internet to pursue success, instead of asking for permission through their aged and obsoleted bosses. And while there may not be another manufactured "block buster star" like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, there will be hundreds of much smaller, but infinitely more interesting and specialized "micro-talk-show-celebrities." And thank god, because micro-brewed beer is an infinitely better product than Miller.
This post was inspired by Tom Leykis who is hands down THE Podcast Pioneer. Please consider visiting his show.