Radio Now Below “Pamphlets” on the Media Ladder

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

mojo-photo-oldieradio.jpgFull disclosure: your ridiculously-named blogger spent 13 years working at a corporate alt-rock broadcaster, many of them happy. But my own ever-so-slightly bitter anti-radio bias is no match for the actual facts: things in the audio-only broadcast media are looking pretty terrible. The Radio Advertising Bureau just announced revenue figures for the industry in 2007, and they’re down like a frown. Ad revenue was off 3% for the year over 2006, and in the 4th quarter, national revenue was down 11%. The only place radio showed some growth was “off-air” revenue, ironically enough, since isn’t what’s on-air the whole point? RAB President/CEO Jeff Haley tried to cover up the bad news by releasing a hilarious statement about “the nimbleness of the expanded radio space” and how it provides “a true 360-degree integration opportunity,” before he collapsed into giggles and took another bong hit.

What’s even more giggle-inducing is how the industry is responding: a slash-and-burn approach to laying off staff that can only help to accelerate radio’s slide into homogenized, syndicated irrelevance. Citadel announced major cutbacks last week in five major markets, and last month, radio juggernaut CBS (my former employer) let go nearly 5% of its employees, and not just random traffic assistants, but popular air personalities and managers. About the only radio sector showing any vibrancy is NPR, which glowed like an annoyingly gifted younger sibling in comparison to the bloodied, drug-addled truant of PBS in a recent NY Times article. But radio with commercials is losing the most sought-after, youngest listeners, and then responding by doing exactly the opposite of what those listeners want: getting rid of the local talent that keeps people tuning in. Ah, well: there’s always Pirate Cat Radio, whose signal comes in loud and clear at 87.9 at my house, and they can say “fuck” all they want.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Road Side Pictures.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend