It's almost starting to feel like old times again. Not quite, but as close as we're ever going to get, given that here in the New York area, WWRL's signal is virtually nonexistent after 5 PM once the first frost comes. But when you drive a fair distance to and from work as I do, there's something comforting about having the voices of Mark Riley (6-9 AM), Thom Hartmann (3-6 PM) and Randi Rhodes (6-8 PM) on terrestrial radio. And of course the shining star from the old Air America firmament is Rachel Maddow, demonstrating night after night that opinion journalism doesn't mean pulling stuff out of your ass.
And thanks to the magic of podcasting, many of our other old Air America friends are back on the air. Marc Maron's WTF
podcast, which is in the top 10 comedy podcasts at iTunes, has him doing what he does best (ranting and interviews) in the comfort of his own garage, as well as expanding the audience for his standup gigs. With former Morning Sedition
co-producer Brendan McDonald providing the technical expertise and a welcome dose of leavening sanity, the man seems actually contented with his life. Dan Pashman, another Morning Sedition
producer and NPR veteran, writes occasionally for Vanity Fair
and has his own podcast with co-host Mark Garrison, The Sporkful
, about "the most ridiculous food-related minutiae". And now, the one old Air America show to be actually revived in its original form as a podcast (since with no Air America even in existence anymore, there's no corporate entity that actually owns these things), is back with Sam Seder again hosting The Majority Report
The advantage to terrestrial radio has always been that it's always there when you just turn it on. And perhaps for another decade or so, terrestrial radio will have an advantage with the Luddites and older listeners who tune into Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh every day. But over time, as WiFi becaomes more ubiquitous, and more people have smartphones, and internet-based broadcasting becomes just as easily accessed as terrestrial radio (and in the case of low-signal stations like WWRL, more so), podcasting is going to be better able to replace terrestrial radio in the lives of more people.
Since advertising sponsorship only offsets part of the costs of operating a podcast for those who are trying to make a living doing it, more podcasts are going to be operating on a subscription basis. WTF is on a voluntary subscription basis, and for now so is The Majority Report
. Subscribers receive additional content and other goodies that act as incentives. In the music industry, there's an increasing sense that "content wants to be free." But in progressive talk radio, where we've "known" people like Marc Maron and Sam Seder through their struggles with the Air America debacle, there's a closeness to the performer that you don't have with, say U2 -- and so subscribing to their content feels more like helping out a buddy, or playing a nominal cover charge at your local dive bar so they can continue to do an open jam on Thursday nights.
So click the links above, give a listen, and if you like what you hear, consider subscribing via iTunes and toss some money in the hat. These guys are good at what they do, and they deserve our support.
Labels: Marc Maron, podcasts, Sam Seder, talk radio