What we learned from Talk of the Town

I am bummed.  The failure of our attempt to save Talk of the Town kicked me right in the gut.  We lost money, time, and ego, and if you know anything about me, you know that I don’t take losing easily.  Losing hurts, and I admit upfront that I am a horrible loser.

I have spent my time reflecting constructively – riding my bike 100 miles, running over 10, and swimming over three in the past 5 days in an effort to process failure.

Like many “start ups” in the postmortem phase, one dissects the situation in an effort to learn from it, and I seem to do this best while exercising.

Here is what we have learned from the demise of Talk of the Town:

Where we failed

We were horribly under-capitalized for this endeavor.  In fact, we were non-capitalized for this endeavor.  Never do that again.

We were unable to attract commercial advertisers for the show.  The advertisement package consisted of in-show reads & spots, website advertising, email newsletter advertising, and newspaper print advertising.    Not one business bought in the time frame we needed.  We realized that we would have to attract believers in the show willing to take this leap of faith with the show’s mission, and in the end we were unsuccessful.

The simple economics of the show:economics

Hard Costs

Equipment:  $659.12

Internet:  $125 month (we needed a robust upstream to broadcast the show)

Software:  $1,000 in one time cost.

Software:  $5,000 ($399 per month for streaming for 12 months)  This was for third party streaming and mobile application licensing fees.  Interesting Fact: Talk of the Town became Live365’s #12 ranked talk show in a matter of 6 weeks.

Board Operator:   $10 per hour for 2.5 hours a day.  4/5 weeks per month $500/$625 for a month

Website hosting:  $49-$65 per month depending on bandwidth used.  Streaming requires more bandwidth than other websites.

Sales Commission:  a percentage of sales & automobile mileage

In-kind Contributions:

Talent/Diva Fees:  $600 to $750 per month depending on 4 or 5 weeks per month

Website development:  $2,500 & $250 per month for maintenance and changes

Construction of Studio:    approximate value:  $5,000 of time of three people

Equipment: $1,500 (we were able to get some equip. donated from third parties)

Ozean Equipment & Expenses: $10,000 (Ozean’s existing computers, hardware, software, office, electricity, etc)

Bottom Line

We were on pace to raise about half of what we needed to cover just ongoing operating costs, let alone get to a level to compensate talent or upgrade equipment in order to move from a patchwork system to a more professional set up.

top-5-things-we-learned-this-week

Things learned

Jake and Ward love this community – A LOT. 

What many may not realize is that these two worked without compensation and even passed on other financial opportunities to continue the show.  Not only that, but they cared so much that they were willing to take the slings and arrows that came with speaking out.  They took the bullets so that the rest of us didn’t have to.  When people talked of “toxic hate” radio (when they really meant the expression of a different opinion) they weren’t speaking of us.  Ward and Jake stood there like men and took it all in order for our community to hear a different opinion.

Economic Models

Local advertisers have not embraced an Internet model of advertising.    With limited advertisement dollars available, they choose to spend their money elsewhere.  I think they are wrong, but I understand.

Competing Interests

Some didn’t like the Internet, digital model and were working on a plan to purchase a small radio station.  When trying something new, it doesn’t help when supporters of the show implicitly signal they don’t believe in its form.  But, I understand that is business.

We horribly overestimated people’s desire to financially support the show

This is the one I am most disappointed in myself for, because I know better.  I spent years in fundraising for political campaigns at the Congressional level.  I know the drill.  “You have my support – call me.”  Then we spend the next three weeks calling with no answer.  DAMN IT, I know better than to trust people’s good intentions, but in my thrust to get the project off the ground, I ignored the voice.

Some on the extreme-right blackballed the show

Went there. 

Some on the left blackballed the show

Yep, went there too.   From Commissioner Bottcher requesting lists of advertisers to PIO officers warning businesses “not to tarnish their image”, there was a concentrated effort to kill the show.

It was me personally

Some people refused to be affiliated with the show financially because I personally was involved in the show.  Shame, it is well known that I had my disagreements with the show – in fact we had some of them on the air.  Yet, I realized the over-all good the show was doing, and I was willing to set aside any petty, lingering feelings to help save the voice of the loyal opposition.  Shame others couldn’t do it.

Enterprise doesn’t run on appreciation – Or   There are hypocrites among us

Funny, the same people who called the show the most talking of their ‘deep appreciation for the show’ and lamenting the loudest about the show’s demise, never would be bothered to donate $15 per month.  In fact, they wouldn’t donate a dime in any form – one time donation, monthly, etc.

In fact a vast majority of the donations received to keep Talk of the Town going were from small donors with limited means – THEIR $15 a month meant a lot.

I would rather someone had said honestly “This Internet stuff won’t work and I am not giving you a dime.” than call the show every other day talking about their appreciation and praising the wonder of Talk of the Town while sitting on their fat wallets.

People listen to Streaming Media

Funny, some of the same people that were the most adverse to the Internet streaming saying or emailing such silly things as “all my friends don’t use the Internet” were some of the most consistent listeners.

What to do differently

In retrospect, what I would have done differently was to advised Ward & Jake NOT to launch the show immediately.  I would have advised a period where the show went dark, and we used this time to launch a “Save the Talk of the Town” campaign.  We would have collected pledges and only when we raised $x would we have continued with the launch.  In fact, Talk of the Town sounds like a perfect kickstarter project.

That process would have saved time, money and fleshed out the scoundrels earlier.

Talk of the Town Conclusion

In the end, while disappointed and a bit bruised by the failure, I am not bitter.  I will get over it and move on (may take another 50 miles on the bike).  We learned a lot from the experience and collected very interesting data about Internet streaming.

In the end, I hope the show or something similar to it is re-born, because as all political scientists & practitioners know “when the political elites agree with no countervailing opinion, consensus is assumed.”

And at this point, there is no one left to stand guard.

About Alex Patton

10 Responses to “What we learned from Talk of the Town”

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  1. Bruce Floyd says:

    Have you considered attempting a podcast instead of doing a live show? That would save your streaming costs and would provide the show (on demand).

    • Alex Patton says:

      We did entertain that notion; however, excluded it from consideration. The show is blessed by many regular callers and frankly without live call ins, the show is not the show.

      It was interesting, because once people found the show archives, they grew in popularity each day.

    • Deborah Bucci says:

      I think that’s a possibility. I was downloading the broadcast and listening to it later.

  2. Deborah Bucci says:

    I’m very disappointed to learn that the very people who called the show so regularly couldn’t be bothered to underwrite it with their “friendship”. There were times, back on the radio and later on the internet, that I wanted to suggest that some of those people not be allowed to call in 2, 3 and even 4 times a day. But then, once the show moved to the internet, I thought that these are probably the people who are contributing money to the endeavor. Let ‘em call in as much as they want. Apparently, that may not have been the case.

    I’m so sorry it had to end. I really hope that none of you…neither you, Alex, nor Ward and Jake, are beating themselves up in any way, shape or form. You tried. Too few do.

  3. Alex,

    Thank you for writing this blog post. It was brave and helpful to others. In no way am I a marketing expert, but my thoughts are that businesses could not afford to support something that causes such polarization among its customers. Politics polarizes. I think there is a way to raise money to support this type of radio show, but not business advertising dollars. Yes, Rush Limbaugh has lots of advertisers, but these are national advertisers. Local businesses have such a small customer base, and they cannot afford to lose one customer.

    I acknowledge this was a failure when its ongoing existence is the measure of success. But I hope you are able to add to your frame of reference how the show was a success. Every time a listener connected to the show, that was a successful moment. You had thousands of those.

    I look forward to following your endeavors. You are a brilliant, talented and funny guy! You have the best family, too! Thanks for sharing your life with us.

    • Alex Patton says:

      Thanks Stephanie for your comments.

      The “adverse to polarization” does not explain why advertisers of the show on radio would not follow it to the Internet setting. I think if I offered to a commercial enterprise a room full of loyal listeners eager to hear their message, they would have paid handsomely just for signage and a table to pass out samples. I think “the Internet should always be free” as well as the other things mentioned played into the decision.

  4. bigfatwallet says:

    You should have just charged John Martin $10 each time he called the show. You would have been rich.

  5. Thankyou says:

    When others talk, Alex just keeps going about doing the work. Thanks to him and his team.

    To those who talk and talk without lifting a finger, you could learn something. Judge a man not by his talk but by his actions.

  6. P. Perez says:

    So, how much money did you need to begin operating? What’s important to realize about “Talk of the Town” is that the show did not focus on an esoteric platform of “Republicans vs. Democrats,” but instead focused on the basic operating philosophical principles of conservatives vs. liberals, of right
    vs. wrong, of efficient vs. wasteful; and it did so with a focus on actions that affect all of us in the Gainesville – Alachua Ct. Community. They were a voice that kept us – those of us who work for a living and who on a daily basis do the right thing and raise our families and pay taxes – abreast of the politically driven and inefficient decisions made by the County & City Commission. They were a voice that brought awareness and also reminded us of our responsibilities as citizens as it relates to us being the guardians of our own freedom. They will be missed…until we become aware and realize that without them, the “free for all” politicians who proudly take credit for giving away that – that does not belong to them or was not created by their own sweat or efforts – have nothing to fear. There is no better weapon than an informed individual as he cannot claim ignorance of the reality brought about by the users and manipulators in our government and media.

    • Alex Patton says:

      We needed $5,000 a month in reoccurring pledges to operate in the manner that we are all comfortable. This amount would allow for more robust and updated equipment and the operating space to improve the minimum viable product we were operating.

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