On Thursday, November 18, 2010 the following link announced:
"Philadelphia's 'Big Talker' makes big changes with Smerconish, Beck, Hannity"
Beck and Hannity are leaving Philly!
As those on the center and left start to whoop and holler, this seismic change in the radio market means the middle is starting to win.
"Michael Smerconish is moving to the PM Drive."
It is interesting that of the three, only Smerconish did NOT make any of the montages at the Rally for Sanity.
It may be that the ratings are falling, or that the BigTalker realizes that there is a market in moderation. The Big Talker (WPHT), a 50,000 watt flamethrower of a station, broadcasts on 1210 AM and is a clear channel station. I have picked up St Joes' basketball games from as far away as Western Massachusetts on this station. Aside from being based in Philly, the fourth largest radio market in the country and the second largest on the east coast, WPHT can be picked up in New York and DC in the evenings.
The station management realizes how both ends of the political spectrum are polarizing and people are tired of it. Over the years, Smerconish has intentionally moved from a political hard right position to the center.
Smerconish' morning show starts with Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You." The radio show means it. Smerconish, while very polite, makes it clear that both ends of the spectrum leave a lot to be desired. As someone who has listened to talk radio for years, this movement is really appreciated.
All of this is a calculated risk for him. He could have played it safe and stayed as a ranting right-winger. But sometimes an opportunity is too good not to take a shot at. The talk radio landscapes in major markets are populated with the right wing. You can almost look out on a vista a see a long plain of untapped potential marketing. Cater to these folks, and you have a shot.
Air America Radio failed because they set up a mirror image from a position standpoint. We'll just set up shop on the left and they'll come to us.
What Smerconish did, and is doing, is much smarter. From a position of success and strength on the right, he is slowly moving the window to the center. As he is doing that he is pulling those listeners from his right-leaning base with him. He is also adding people from the middle and the left as he moves to the center. There is real talk on this talk radio program. We don't have to think the same, but we can talk respectfully.
A side effect of this movement is Smerconish appears to be more comfortable in the skin of a moderate rather than a right winger. Growth and growing is a matter of maturity. None of us are where we were 20 or 30 years ago. If we look back at positions we held then, or what was acceptable to us then, we might upbraid ourselves now.
He doubled down on his wager when he left the GOP earlier this year. It appears to be paying recent dividends as he got a second shot to talk one-on-one with the President in late October, now a week-long gig on Hardball subbing for Chris Matthews. The radio show is now syndicated across the country -- including DC and New York. If you aren't getting the station directly, you can stream it live from his site.
As a moderate, I am hoping that Smerconish will get more gigs at a national level.
Here's to hoping that he can clone himself.
Disclaimer: I have a blog here because Michael Smerconish allowed me to ask the President if his knees were buckling a year ago. In the hours after that, I asked the folks at HuffPo if I could blog for them. Thanks, Michael for the shot...
i am available for cloning....