By Tom Gordon
MANALAPAN, NJ – Over the years, I have read many great articles in TALKERS that, as a talk show host, gave me countless ideas. Some of my talk radio peers have been asking about the launch of my live, internet-based, New Jersey-oriented, drive time talk show. So, I figured: what better place to answer those questions than right here, in TALKERS?
In April, 2004, I was hired to do a four-hour, late-night show at the nation’s number one FM talk station, New Jersey 101.5. The hardest part of the job was getting used to the hours (11:00 pm – 3:00 am Sunday through Thursday) and the lack of calls. It was rough during those first three months, but, eventually, I was able to tap into Jersey’s busy late-night culture and build an extremely loyal following able to jam the phone lines for all four hours each night. As the years flew by, I started to do more events with the wildly popular Jersey Guys, Craig Carton (currently doing mornings on WFAN, New York) and Ray Rossi, which boosted my name recognition and exposure by leaps and bounds.
Fast-forward to 2009: the show was as busy and popular as ever. I had even won multiple awards for helping the police in Old Bridge, New Jersey save a lost, elderly man on a freezing night when one of my listeners managed to spot him. Yet, shortly after walking my daughter down the aisle that July, I was told that, because of financial difficulties, the live, late-night show was being cancelled; my position was eliminated. After sending out resume after resume and talking with radio executives who explained to me that local talk radio is an expensive format, it became apparent that live and local talk radio was going the way of the dinosaur — toward extinction. So, after more than five years of working at least eight hours a day in order to build such a loyal audience, it was over.
Thankfully, through social media, my listeners were nonetheless still finding me by the thousands. They were not shy in letting me know how much they missed me in their daily routine. To them, I was their travel companion, their friend who had suddenly vanished from their life. The outpouring of emotion from thousands of fans on my Facebook page convinced me that local talk radio is indeed a powerful and intimate medium that had allowed me the privilege to touch the hearts of my listeners.
This insight led me to an epiphany. Last October, I noticed that technology had advanced to the point whereby I could actually start thinking about doing a show online. More than half the population in the U.S. is carrying mobile devices, and new cars are coming with built-in dash internet radio. Pandora is expanding the market by driving millions of new listeners to their site and getting them accustomed to using the streaming audio platform. Former NJ Thunder 106 PD Captain Jack and current NJ 101.5 DJ Don Tandler (founder of Pop Gold Radio) had started their own online stations, and they sounded great.
However, before I could commit to investing my savings in this venture, I had to address the question of revenue. To start an income stream, I took advantage of the fact that I already had thousands of listeners, and some of those people just happened to be local New Jersey business owners. I decided to reach out to them, and discovered they enthusiastically said they would advertise on my Internet show. I also intend to generate additional income from ads on my website and from events.
My goal is to demonstrate to the listener that what they will be hearing on Tommygshow.com sounds as good as, if not better than, what they are used to hearing on terrestrial radio. I will have fewer commercials and compete to provide better content, giving the listener an alternative to traditional stations. These days people do not differentiate between broadcast or cable TV anymore, they just know where to go in order to see their favorite show. Radio will be much the same, with the listener not caring if it is broadcast or streaming. In fact, I’ve found speaking to young adults in their twenties that as far as they are concerned my program will be broadcast “over the air” to their iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices.
I am not an engineer but I was able to install the necessary talk show equipment thanks to the help I received from the tech departments at Wheatstone, Telos Systems, Eventide and Bitsizzle. The end result is that everything is ready to go, with the system (currently in test mode) performing as designed in anticipation for Thursday’s launch. Some people have been asking me: “Aren’t you afraid this local talk show internet venture may fail?” I respond simply that I am more afraid of how terrible I will feel if I do not give it my best shot to succeed.
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