Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who Needs FM radio when you can podcast?

Last Friday, Los Angeles morning talk radio The Adam Carolla Show went off the air for the last time. It wasn't because their ratings were suffering, or that Carolla swore over the airwaves and the FCC shut him down. Rather, his L.A. station, 97.1 FreeFM switched their format to Top 40 under the new name of Amp Radio.

It wouldn't be fair to say that The Adam Carolla Show was just another morning zoo show. He gave regular (almost weekly) spots to "alternative" comics such Chris Hardwick, Doug Benson and Dana Gould. A radio guy at heart, Carolla loves funny people and fake laughter was rarely heard when he had a comedian on.

While Carolla expressed anger with L.A. FM radio being taken over by generic Top 40 stations and what he calls "ranchero music", he conceded that the format flip was nothing more than a business decision. He also talked about the station's program diretor's idea to do a Wing Bowl because, as the PD put it, "it's big in Philly."

And he's got other plans set in motion already, debuting his new podcast at Carollaradio.com. The first episode was posted this morning and while Carolla admits the setup is bare bones (for now, he's got plans to "get guests in here, we're going to get more than one mic set and we'll probably get a studio setup"), Carolla sees it as a way to connect with his audience and be able to say whatever the hell he wants.

Meanwhile, an idea has recently been floated around that if Sirius falls, why wouldn't Howard Stern just do a podcast? Certainly this should be taken with a grain of salt-it didn't come out of Stern's camp-but it makes financial sense.

Not that the idea is anything new. I've outlined the comedy podcasts out there that are bringing new voices and ideas straight to audiences that are rarely heard over the airwaves. One of them, Never Not Funny has even successfully ran a premium payment model.

I'm not trying to signal that there's going to be a max exodus from terrestrial and satellite radio, but something is brewing. As it becomes easier to distribute content over mobiles phones, MP3 players and soon internet-ready cars (if anyone will ever be able to afford them), an internet radio show doesn't sound so silly anymore (ahem). And when big names realize that they can do produce, distribute and sell their content themselves for cheaper, watch out.

Meanwhile, in a drastically different yet still effective payment model, Jersey City's free-form WFMU will start their yearly two-week fund raising campaign March 2nd (I know because I'm a proud donor and recently got their mass mailing). If you're a fan of comedy and know of WFMU, it's probably through the tent-pole show The Best Show on WFMU which yesterday started Best Show Gems, a twice a month "podcast featuring highlights from the full radio show. Classic Scharpling and Wurster calls, amazing phone-ins, random weirdness and more! It's a perfect way for a beginner to get on board, or for a longtime fan to look back and remember when."


Luke Giordano said...

There's rumors that O&A are gonna get dropped by their last FM station in a format switch like Corolla's, so they'd become Sirius/XM only. Which is good content-wise for the show. But also, like Stern, if the company fails, a subscription-based podcast might be the answer.

flattop said...

Comic vs., you said ". . . internet radio show doesn't sound so silly anymore." BUT I have heard some of these podcasts you mentioned (Never Not Funny) and it is VERY silly. HOWEVER I think that's a good thing, rather than a labiality, as you seem to think.