The Plan To Make Liberal Talk Radio Succeed

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You’ve heard the story for years. Liberal talk radio has been tried over and over again with limited success, and certainly zero longevity when compared to conservative talk. Mike Crute would like to change all that with his “Resistance Radio” format in Madison. He recently added his full lineup of liberal and progressive hosts to an FM translator in the market that radio listeners can tune into on 92.7-FM. We reached out to Crute to pepper him with questions about why his plan will work when it’s been tried – and has failed – many times before.

Radio Ink: Tell us why you decided to launch Talk 92.7 with this format?
Crute: I have been scheming the return of Progressive Talk to Madison since Election Day 2016. The day Donald Trump was elected President, my former broadcast hosts of five years, iHeart Media, “flipped” the Progressive Mic 92.1 FM to Christmas music. In this age of daily political chaos, Madison has been starving for a Progressive Talk station.

Radio Ink: What kind of feedback do you get about your show?
Crute: My stations are, in large part, a platform for my own show-The Devil’s Advocates Radio. I co-host with my college-roommate and best friend, Dominic Salvia. Launched during the Wisconsin

Uprising and Scott Walker Recall in Wisconsin. We initially built our Madison audience as the loyal opposition to Scott Walker. When Scott Walker ran for President, we turned towards covering the Presidential primary race in 2016. When Walker faltered, we continued chasing Bernie, Hillary, Ted Cruz, and Trump, broadcasting rallies and debates from Brooklyn to California.

The Devil’s Advocates will anchor afternoon drive on both the new TALK 92.7 FM-WTTN 1580 AM and my Milwaukee station, WRRD-1510 AM. We do two hours of National politics, before turning topically towards Wisconsin during a daily “happy hour”. The show is my true passion, and an extension of 25 years worth of our bar-stool political arguments. The Devil’s Advocates also play out in Minneapolis, Charlottesville, VA, and Eureka, CA.

We have gotten lots of love this week, good local press, and huge social media engagement from our audience. We just launched TALK 92.7 FM and returned the Devil’s Advocates to the Madison airwaves Monday 5/13..   We got encouraging tweets from across the political spectrum; R-U.S. Senator Ron Johnson encouraged me as a “free market” capitalist, while my very progressive D-Congressman Mark Pocan, welcomed the “great conversations” back to Madison’s airwaves.

Radio Ink: What gives you the confidence the station will work?
Crute: My Madison expenses are very low. My Sales Director and I have already cemented a number of former Devil’s Advocates show sponsors.   A few Progressive Mic sponsors have already signed on, others have been inquiring all week. I will be in the black by mid-summer, at my current expense structure.

Radio Ink: As you know this format has been tried many times and has not succeeded. Why do you think that is?
Crute: Progressive Talk is hard to program because there are day-part gaps in the Nationally syndicated programming products available. You cannot plug and play. You need duct tape and local hosts to fill the programming gaps. Developing local talent takes time, risk, and expense, that many won’t devote. Also, historically, Democratic candidates don’t adequately support the format with their campaign dollars in the same way Republicans support right-wing talk radio. Many Progressives hosts start as cause driven or donor dependent, they don’t have the business background to succeed.

Radio Ink: How will you make it successful this time?
Crute: By devoting resources to covering events of high Democratic-audience interest, we will maximize relevance, grow audience rapidly, and continue to build my show’s National profile.

The Devil’s Advocates will broadcast the Democratic Party Convention in Wisconsin June 1-2. We will broadcast from the First Democratic Presidential Debates in Miami June 26, 27, 28, broadcast live from the Detroit debates July 30, 31. By 2020, we will be on the ground broadcasting from the Iowa Caucuses, New Hampshire, Nevada, California, and Michigan primaries/caucuses next spring. The timing of Wisconsin’s Presidential primary makes us center of the political universe for nearly a month. The DNC Convention was awarded to Milwaukee in 2020, where my WRRD-1510 AM studio is just 1.2 miles away. And Wisconsin will be a key battleground state in the General Election.

The stars are aligned politically for the format’s success in Wisconsin.

I bring a unique resume as a businessman, who then became a broadcast content provider. As such, I truly understand my small business clients need for ROI from their marketing campaigns. We incorporate sponsor interviews seamlessly into my show, between political guests and the commentary.

I have earned as a top salesman, sales manager, General Manager, and successful business owner, before selling that business earlier this year to fund my radio expansion. I have already gotten my nose bloodied and learned many painful, but valuable lessons, since launching Progressive Talk in Milwaukee in February 2017.

Madison will succeed with small businesses, in a city where advertising as a Progressive business is smart business.

Radio Ink: You have said Madison the best market for liberal talk? Why is that?
Crute: Madison had supported the Progressive format for more than a decade. The fan base already exists in Madison and has demonstrated they will support the sponsors. I don’t have to win them over, just get the word out. Madison is Wisconsin’s Capital, with a highly-educated population, very liberal, and with a very politically engaged population. Madison had 93% voter turn-out in the 2018 mid-terms.

Radio Ink: Do you have plans to buy more stations and expand your show and the format?
Crute: I have a FCC Construction Permit, in hand, for a non-directional FM translator in Milwaukee, permitting a 1000’ tower location. My next goal will be to take on a Milwaukee equity partner or partners, allowing me to finish my Wisconsin network of two AM and two FM signals, geographically covering the #41 and #91 metros, and two-thirds of all Democratic voters in the state by the fall.

Reach out to Mike at [email protected]

35 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, Air America WAS a disaster…because it was run by politicians…as opposed to actual broadcasters.
    Liberal talk should be able to work, if it is correctly programmed, executed and yes…correctly “imaged”. It also helps in this case that it’s going to happen in uber liberal Wisconsin. The format works best in areas where residents are more to the left politically. Everywhere else, you have NPR. Yes, it “occasionally” airs a conservative story or two. But, for the most part, the leftward swing is as obvious as the rightward swing on Fox. It’s all marketing on cable news anyway…there’s little pretext of actual journalism being performed there. And when it is, it almost looks accidental.

    • As I said below, NPR doesn’t talk politics, other than to say what happened when & where. And they have consistently received large Republican support in Congress, even when a handful called for defunding.

  2. “Fair and Balanced” has become a weasel-phrase for those who are intimidated or whose agenda is injured by the results that come from revealing DEMONSTRATED and/or PROVEN Facts and Truth.
    At least, to a larger degree, Liberal talk-radio has that potential going for it.
    What it may not yet appreciate is that their messaging is going to have to be far more assertive and, most importantly, emotionally charged.
    That is a baseline radio necessity for any messaging to have an impact.
    A learning opportunity presents itself.

  3. Far left views are on almost every local and cable Chanel.
    They don’t need radio., if you start a fairness act, start with tv…

    • This is not about cable TV. This is about radio. Right now there is no option to conservative talk on the radio. This article is about offering listeners an option that they don’t have anywhere on the radio. What’s available on other media is another subject. No one is trying to take away what’s available on the radio. Don’t see this as a threat. It’s not. It’s just offering another format, just like another type of music. There are lots of types of music available on the radio. The same should be the case with talk radio.

      • But TV is where the progressive audience is. Advertising money goes to where the audience is, not where radio license holders wish it was. The age demographics of Rush Limbaugh and NPR are similar – old people. Men listen to Rush, women listen to NPR. Young people think late night comedy shows are giving them news.

        I remember when the owner of KCAA tried to buck the firing of Don Imus by continuing to run replays of old shows. He was upset when people showed up thanking him for standing up for “conservative” Don Imus. The American public is very confused.

  4. Many years ago, here in SoCal, Err Amerika existed. On Friday morning, there was a Thom Hartmann segment called “Brunch With a Socialist”, starring Senator Bernie Sanders. There was two main points they both hammered away: Taxes need to be at 90%, and Jessica’s Law needs to be overturned. Now, if a potential advertiser heard about the 90% tax rate, I think he might turn the dial. But when he hears that child molestation laws are too strict, I think he decided to advertise on conservative radio. Thats why Liberal Talk Radio always fails

  5. Note to shelley:
    If you think you’re living in an opaque, star spangled bubble, you are severely mistaken – again.
    The shambles America is experience is not lost on many outside that environment.
    When the U.S. sneezes, Canada gets a cold.
    When the U.S. throws toxic farts across the border – as has been recently demonstrated through inane tariffs – Canada goes temporarily blind in one eye.
    Besides, my comments are about the access of electronic material on audiences.
    Maybe that got glossed over, as well.
    Meanwhile, I reiterate: If Liberal radio is to have a useful impact, it will have to be delivered with a great deal of piss and vinegar. Rational, milquetoast presentations will wither and die – even as the presenters may be ever so super-duper sincere.

    • Ronnie-

      American politics is none of your business just as Canadian politics is none of mine. If you wish to be part of the discourse, get in line at the border and, when it’s your turn, raise your right hand…..

  6. In other news…

    “amid dwindling affiliates, Bill Press is ending his daily liberal talk show….”

    News item today from Radio Insight

    • Bill Press just vanished from Westwood One syndication about a year without warning. The only station he was still on (where I was able to find him) was WCPT in Chicago.

      Before Air America came and went, Ed Schultz (now working for RT), Bill Press and Stephanie Miller were put into syndication by the Jones network, with direct financial backing from labor unions. Ed had some difficulty because he understands the necessity for people to own guns, which many Democrats disagree with. Many people were confused, thinking Ed and Stephanie were part of Air America because they were carried on many Air America affiliates.

  7. As the good Senator (Sincere) has just demonstrated:
    Electronic media, including this one, is hardly the place for rational, reasoned or intellectual content.
    Bluster, however, generates greater emotional responses…. like this one. 🙂

  8. Mike has a good plan that needs to be expanded nationally. The democratic leadership of this country MUST use liberal talk radio to win back the hearts and minds of red state voters. This will require a commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars annually and it demands a total departure from (inside their bubble) conventional thinking.
    There are 1315 news-talk stations in America and a large majority of them broadcast conservative talk. These shows are supported locally by conservative business owners who comprise most of the business community. This feedback loop has worked great for the republican party for for 25 years. The only way to offset this one-sided monopoly of right wing bullshit is to buy the air time. There are plenty of billionaire liberals who can afford to do it without breaking a sweat, simply by combining their resources. I hope Mike can convince them to do it. As a democrat and station licensee, I’ve been yelling about this for years while the democratic establishment continues to steal defeat out of the hands of victory. Twas ever thus…

    • But Fred,

      As Jeff Adams so succinctly says within this realm, the liberal bullshit dominates TV and newspapers. No reason to get in a wad just because some level-headed honest folks are on the radio.

      • Talk radio and Faux Noise is where the damage to our republic is the worst. Red state voters listen to right wing talk for hours each day and then come home and watch Fox at night. They are told liberals are un-American and un-patriotic. They are told liberals hate America. Since the last election, rhetoric has reached a new level of absurdity, causing evangelicals to accept behavior from the President that makes a mockery of their faith. After a while, it becomes their acceptable reality. It’s a proven recipe for brainwashing. Right wing talk radio has destroyed civility in a way that enemies of the American system applaud. It has blindly poisoned the minds of millions for 30 pieces of silver and we are all paying the price.

        • The damage that “Fake” TV network and cable TV news plus many newspapers have done to civil give-and-take, particularly since the 2016 election continues to pollute our beautiful mosaic.

          Fortunately, we now have an Attorney General who will likely get to the bottom of the scandalous conspiracies that hatched the past 2 years of Un-American activities fostered by those of your ilk, sir. You won’t like what’s coming.

          • I wish it really were Eric Holder. When President Trump’s predecessor installed Eric, Justice began it’s downhill slide that led to Holder’s Contempt of Congress and continued with Loretta Lynch colluding with Slick Willie on the Arizona airport tarmac. Only now is Eric’s swamp being drained.

          • The current DOJ is inventing investigations of the president’s enemies in ways Nixon would envy. Barr is in Contempt too. What’s the difference? None. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, we won’t get fooled again.

        • Mr. Lundgren-

          If “red-state voters” do as you say and they are the problem-
          How do you characterize “blue-state voters” who listen to your station all day, then watch Rachael Maddow on MSNBC at night. Or are those left-wing offerings the voice of civility and reason?

          • I never said red state voters are the problem. I said the lies perpetuated by conservative talk is the problem. I said that liberal talk radio must win back their hearts and minds. Liberals must win their hearts with empathy and strong emotion and their minds with logic and reason. I also said left wing thinking (in the bubble) causes democratic candidates to lose elections, even when their policies and viewpoints are clearly in the majority.

        • You can’t convince me that a few of the Dems in the Congress today “love America”. Some absolutely do. Not some of the new ones.

    • as a station licensee if it is such a good idea when is your station switching its format to liberal talk?

  9. While a great disappointment to all but conservative, ideological zealots, the radio is hardly the platform for reasoned, rational and intellectual arguments.
    Radio, however, is IDEAL for emotional, gut-punching rhetoric.
    This is because radio, and other electronic media – primarily – activates listeners’ sub-dominant (“right brain”) capacities.
    The broader generalization is as follows: Conservatives react. Liberals consider.
    Lesson: If the content doesn’t excite people, piss ’em off or make ’em laugh, it’s pretty much wasted material.

    • Agreed, but progressives shouldn’t be concerned about the preponderance of right-wing radio. Look at the demos who listen to Rush and Hannity. The vast majority are old white guys. Having progressives on radio is nice but not essential. It’s an old people’s medium. Terrestrial radio is the new payphone.

    • Ronald, talk radio presenters are often tasked with defending their views by callers who may disagree with them. Television and print don’t allow that type of challenge. Think about that.

  10. I surely hope it succeeds, but this interview doesn’t touch on the obvious reasons why liberal talk radio has always been a dumpster fire:

    1. There was always a reluctance to debate the other side, or exchange ideas. It was always just echo-chamber talk.

    2. There is an overabundance of liberal viewpoint on television (all networks but one) and newspaper (all but a few). Media is already over saturated with that ideological perspective.

  11. Looking at fccdata.org, the station’s primary signal covers Sun Prairie and Madison’s East Side but not the
    U of W campus or the West Side where the limo liberals live.
    Previous Leftist Radio attempts in Mad Town ( which failed) have also had this problem.

  12. So “The Onion” is on-the-air. So what?

    I like guys with a lot of high hopes, even left-wing ones.
    Some funny lines in this interview-“Advertising as a Progressive business is smart business” (Sort of like coercion or buying protection?) Media Monitors tries their hand at the reverse, intimidating advertisers who buy conservative shows..but that’s OK, right?

    “I don’t have to win them over, just get the word out.” Humility just oozes from this lad.

    “Democratic candidates don’t support the format with their campaign dollars the way right-wing ones do with the conservative formats.”

    Candidates buy audiences of shows with good numbers. Left-wing radio has never had any. Oh, that’s right-This time is going to be different.

  13. I remember Air America. It was not good. Aside from the lackluster talent…and the scandals…they failed to position the programming successfully against their real competition. I am not optimistic about this effort either.

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