I like Tony Kornheiser, and I like his show, even if I do disagree with him a lot of the time (especially about hockey), and even if I skip large parts of his show (the parts that deal with basketball). To me, it’s a bit of a reminder of my childhood, when my dad would put on 980 AM when he got home from work in the mornings, and there was Mr. Tony and all his crew — sometimes maddening, but never dull.
I got back into the show recently after having drifted away for a long period of time. I work in an office setting that isn’t really conducive to streaming live audio or listening to a radio during my workday, so I end up listening via podcast, either when I play video games or on my daily commute. There are a lot of us who enjoy Mr. Tony that end up listening to him this way, because we can’t tie ourselves to one particular medium, especially one that forces you to be in a single place for a defined period of time.
This is what drives me so crazy about the comments of Chuck Sapienza (ESPN 980’s program director), who says in part “…we’re in the radio business, and we’re trying to get people to listen on the radio. And the more people who download podcasts, the fewer people who listen on the radio.”
Chuck Sapienza seems like a smart guy. He runs the programming for a radio station, so I would assume he knows a little something about media. But it’s obvious from his comments he has no idea how “new media” works. The old methods of getting your news from a single source, be it the TV, the radio, or the newspaper, are all dying. Entertainment has become all personalized, no matter if you’re watching your favorite TV shows on your DVR or Hulu, or listening to your custom-made playlists on your mobile device.
The bottom line is that Sapienza is trying to protect his advertising department, which also doesn’t get it. Mr. Tony already reads ads twice during his show, and I’m sure that putting in advertisements at certain points in the podcast will not hurt listenership at all (we’ll just skip ‘em). Look at Kevin Smith. He has not only started his own podcast network that’s massively successful, but now he’s doing his own live internet radio, and selling ad space directly to his consumers. He doesn’t need any of the “old media” to get the word out.
If you are trying to understand why “old media” is dying, this is a perfect example. ESPN 980 is trying to tie consumers to a format they don’t want to be tied to, and they are going to hurt themselves dearly in the process. This is the new era of media, and like it or not, the consumer is the king. #FreeMrTony indeed.