As dismal as the current climate can often seem, new and sometimes odd opportunities continue to arise, often in the most unlikely of places. We are truly learning about who is versatile, who is stuck in the past, and who is turning out to be a pretty good lemonade maker.
Adam Carolla falls into that last category. Since being blown out of KLSX (and in the process, losing all his affiliate stations), Carolla has become a podcaster - taking his talent, his content, and his comedic friends, and making himself available to anyone and everyone via iTunes. You can't hear him anywhere on the radio anymore, but you can hear him whenever you're near a computer - and he's on every day, without fail, without commercials, and without traffic and weather reports.
Impressively, his podcast is often the top ranked each week on iTunes, beating out some pretty big names (Ira Glass, Bill Maher, etc.). Of the three "Stern replacement shows," Carolla was the only one that truly showed the potential to entertain and attract listeners. Anecdotally, I looked forward to my visits to L.A., Sacramento, and Seattle to hear what he was up to. Now, he's still cranking out a daily show, but he's doing it on iTunes. While Apple doesn't release download stats, Carolla tells the L.A. Daily News that in a given week, his podcasts generated "3,000,000 hits." While he's still grappling with how to monetize his content, Carolla is onto something, and his accomplishment on iTunes sends a message to struggling, displaced morning shows everywhere.
There isn't a week that goes by when I don't hear from out-of-work personalities, dying to get back on the air somewhere. But maybe instead of going the U-Haul route, they'd be better off "growing their own," testing their content against the Internet audience, and working with their existing fans. Moving the family to yet another market and starting from scratch is the way that radio personalities had to go. Today, Carolla and others are proving that there's another way, not tethered to transmitters, towers... or broadcasters.
Wired's Kevin Kelly wrote an article some time back called "1,000 True Fans." It's a primer about how independent musicians, quilt-makers, and other craftspeople can use the Internet, their existing followers, and word of mouth to grow their base. The article suggests that the web provides a new model of survival, sustainability, and perhaps even profitability.
To all the struggling personalities out there trying to find a new home, the answer may be in your basement studio. To all the broadcasters out there, convinced that it's a buyer's market and that you can now set the price for talent, think again.
Thanks to Dave Beasing and Keith Cunningham for putting the Carolla bug in my ear.