Tuesday, November 30, 2010

CSPAN Killed the Talk Radio Star

There is a ton of excellent, and free, audio content on the Web and I've found that my time spent listening to podcasts or streaming now exceeds time spent listening to radio. Maybe not exactly a watershed moment in the history of media, but for a lifetime listener and raving fan of radio, not an entirely inconsequential piece of anecdotal evidence.

The advantages of the podcast format are many. They include convenience (listen anytime you want, anywhere), microcasting (listen to only what you want), variety (availability to access more than the programming gatekeepers at the radio stations can provide), and avoidance of annoyance (heavy rotation of boring/poorly conceived/poorly produced commercials). Even if, all things being equal, I'd prefer to listen to a given radio personality at the moment, these other factors create a decisive tipping point toward the podcast medium. And if that radio personality doesn't offer a *free* podcast option, they tend to become an afterthought entirely. To my radio heroes NOT offering free podcasts, I offer this plea to find a different way than subscriptions to monetize your online product, before it's too late!

The web based radio competition just got steeper. I recently noticed a major expansion of content on the CSPAN web site. It combines the output of all 3 of their TV stations and CSPAN radio. You can get LIVE streams or past content from the huge video library. Further, each video is accompanied by a complete and searchable transcript of the audio. It's every blogger's Fisking dream come true!

Recent content I've listed to that competes favorably with any talk radio programming available.

Norm Coleman on the Future of the Republican Party

Sen. Tom Coburn on the new Congress and the Tea Party movement

P.J. O'Rourke on his new book "Don't Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards"

Victor Davis Hanson on Leadership in WWII

CNN correspondent John Allen on The Future of the Catholic Church

(Contrasting this detailed, well-informed analysis with the superficial, puerile hatchet job on the Catholic Church recently appearing in the Star Tribune shows that CSPAN can as easily replace newspaper editorials as much as radio programs.)

The archives are available for searching based on name or topic. Not sure how far they go back, it doesn't appear that it's to the inception of CSPAN. For example, my search results for early 80s era Paul Laxalt floor speeches is decidedly wanting. But there's still a ton of interesting material available. CSPAN regularly features not only politicians, but also authors, economists, social scientists, and bloggers. If they appeared on CSPAN at some point in recent years, odds are they're in there.

For example, the many appearances of economic historian Niall Ferguson.

Or shock jock Hugh Hewitt.

Or even your favorite local bloggers. I see the Power Line presentation on their role in the Dan Rather expose from 2004 is available. I believe this is also my only appearance on CSPAN. Every time they go to the second camera shot, down stage left, you can just barely make me out, seated at a table, downing my buffet dinner and nodding my head in robotic agreement. Great stuff.