A sad day befell the Boston area last month when our only progressive talk radio station flipped its format to Latino music. Where I used to listen to "The Young Turks", Stephanie Miller, Al Franken, Ed Schultz, and Randi Rhodes I can now listen to "Rumba" - Orgullo Latino!
I don't really understand why progressive talk radio could not succeed in the most progressive state in the nation, but it sounds like the vision, plan, and/or management of the station was not driven for success. I can't deny that the commercials were absolutely nauseating and I hit the button on my car stereo every time I heard "Hi, I'm David Oreck" or "Are you losing your hair?". Obviously, running a radio station is a lot more than finding the right sponsors.
The biggest problem I had with "Boston's Progressive Talk" was the quality of the signal. This is the same problem I have with AM radio in general. (Quite frankly, I really don't understand why we even have AM radio anymore in this technologically driven day & age. The powers-at-be should have dumped AM radio years ago in favor of an expanded FM dial.) The stations broadcasting "Boston's Progressive Talk" must have been constrained to low wattage because you couldn't pick them up more than 15 miles away from one of their broadcast antennas. And their signal in the evenings was noticeably weaker than in the mornings. I found myself constantly searching for another station because I couldn't put up with the noise.
When "Boston's Progressive Talk" went bye-bye, I had to scramble for something else to listen to in my car to & from work (I know some of you may be surprised to learn I have a 'real' job in addition to this blogging gig). After checking out some of the other talk radio offerings, I finally took a friend's advice and looked into Podcasting.
I already have an MP3 player where I've been listening to my collection of music all along. And, I've already purchased an MP3 interface for my car, so I can hook my player directly in to my car's stereo system. Podcasting was a natural direction for me to turn. So, let's take a step back...
What is Podcasting?
For the uninitiated, Podcasting is essentially the downloading of content from the Internet, to be played later, on a mobile device. If your mobile device is a phone or PDA such as a Blackberry or Palm Pilot, then you may be able to download content directly from the Internet. However, today most MP3 players such as iPods don't have a direct Internet connection, and instead connect to a computer to download their content.
The merging of MP3's and telecommunications devices will continue to progress over the next generation of handhelds, just as we've already seen in Verizon's Vcast phones. However, there's a cost factor that they need to get over... If I'm already paying for high-speed Internet access at home, why should I pay for it AGAIN for my wireless device?
What makes Podcasting particularly easy is the software that's out there. And, along with the content, it's usually free. Through PodcastAlley.com I was able to download some simple software to manage my Podcast 'subscriptions'. Now all I have to do is launch my Podcast software and a few clicks later, I've started the download process to update my subscription content on my computer. It downloads the latest episodes automatically.
Granted this is a little extra work, but it's worth it. Actually, to be honest, there's even more work. Once I've downloaded my new content, I need to move it over to my MP3 player. While I'm moving over new content to my MP3 player, I also need to houseclean the older content I've already listened to. Finally, when I'm in my car and ready to listen, I need to attach my MP3 and navigate over to select the content I want to listen to.
There are several reasons why all this extra work is worth it:
- Firstly, there are no commercials in Podcast content that I've seen so far. I've heard an occasional "Sponsored by" message, but not much more than that.
- Secondly, like TIVO or DVR (Digital Video Recorder) at home, since everything is stored electronically, I can stop & start the content according to my own needs. That means I won't miss some of the conversation just because I have to stop for gas.
- Thirdly, I've discovered a whole new dimension of content that I wouldn't have gotten in commercial radio. And it's not all political. There's so much out there to satisfy virtually anyone's appetite for content.
A rare plug
Speaking of political content, at this point I'd like to take the opportunity to highlight one source in particular. A retired attorney, Jack Clark produces a Podcast called "Blast The Right". On a weekly basis Jack espouses a well-researched and informative dissertation exposing the radical right-wing agenda. As well read as I thought I was, I learned quite a bit from just a few episodes I downloaded from his archives.
So that's my message this week, dear readers. Fret not that progressive talk radio is dead in the Boston area. And no matter what your preferences, orientation, shtick, or passion is, you can probably find some worthwhile content on the Internet. If you already have an MP3 player (and who doesn't), you too can Podcast.
Scott Shuster is a progressive columnist, publishing since May of 2005. His liberal ideology is a refreshing diversion from 'politics as usual' in Washington.