News of the Wired
By Bill Frost
MARCH 9, 1998:
From January 1995 to November 1996, KCNR AM 1320 (later 860) brought the Salt Lake Valley the most in-your-face, vibrant, talk-radio format it had ever heard. Rick Taylor, Martin Davies, Todd Herman and Clyde Lewis took back the airwaves from the old guard of creaky conspiratorialists and politicalpontificators and, at least in small part, introduced it to a younger, hipper audience. It was rock & roll radio without the music, and what they accomplished in such a short period of time is still talked about to this day.
Then, they were killed by a mouse: Mickey, to be precise you may be familiar with his work.
"Someone at Citadel [the corporation that owns KCNR and several other stations in the valley] leaked it to me six months before our final day on Nov. 14, 1996, that KCNR was going to become Radio Disney," says the artist formerly known as Rick Taylor: Rick Emerson.
"I was officially told about it three months before it happened. The general manager called me in and told me, 'We're big supporters of KCNR, we think that you have a bright future and we really believe in the station now, you're all fired.' They gave us 90 days, and then KCNR switched to the mildly tolerable Radio Disney format, which I suppose is nice if you're a Ritalin-dosed six-year-old."
Clyde Lewis moved his paranormal program Ground Zero to KBER 101 FM, and the rest of the team began work on a concept that they had hashed out called XtremeTalk, an Internet-only broadcast with downloadable audio and video feeds. Since KCNR was simulcast on the Internet, reeling in listeners from abroad and becoming the third-highest ranked Internet broadcast on the entire planet, it seemed like a natural progression: XtremeTalk died after only a few months.
"XtremeTalk was, like, 'Let's create a website boom, bammo, we're big stars. We're making big bucks, we're selling banner ads, we're huge," says Todd Herman. "Then, after examining the Internet, we found that there are 29,670,000 advertised websites out there no matter how outrageous we got, it was going to be a bit of a struggle."
While Lewis rose to prominence with Ground Zero the show currently commands an impressive 27 share in the market and Davies returned to a regular gig at Radio One AM 1230, Emerson and Herman were living lean.
"We were literally, swear to God, asking for credit at the convenience store, trying to get some Chiclets, a Chick-O-Stick, something that sounds like chicken any kind of food at all, we were so poor," Herman remembers. "But, we had this germ of an idea called EarthMail. We got an investor, formed a new company around the idea and named it Earth Broadcasting."
Which brings us to the present and the future, if you're a believer in the possibilities of the Internet.
EarthMail is a brilliant idea so simple that it's amazing this is the first time it's ever been done: a three-to-four-minute RealAudio soundfile of fast-paced, cleverly delivered and, sometimes, sarcastically editorialized news, customized to your specifications, that is e-mailed to you every morning. You download your mail, get a cup of java and listen while you're going about your other morning computer business. An accompanying e-mail message lists related websites where you can do your own follow-up. It's quick, it's fun and, best of all, it's free.
It's also catching on quickly: Within EarthMail's first week of operation, they netted over 400 subscribers by word of web alone no advertisments, no announcements, nada. The cyber-savvy from as far away as New Zealand and China, as well as local KCNR lamenters, subscribed in droves at www.earthbroadcasting.com. Current categories to choose from include Hard News, Biz Tech, Show Biz, Fun Stuff, Sports and Utah News, with more on the way in upcoming months.
Besides Emerson, Herman and Lewis, the EBC team currently consists of KCNR alum Kurt Geltz, Simone Seikaly and Derek Alexander, as well as technical director Chris Taylor. And, even though the money isn't rolling in just yet 10-15 second ads will eventually be sold within each EarthMail EBC needs more news writers and news readers: Unlimited Internet access and coffee is all the pay they can offer at the moment, since the company is still only a few months old.
While they're still working for Chiclets, don't look for Herman to go crawling back to the low-tech world of radio anytime soon: "The shackles are off on the Internet. I lived in the world of radio for a good portion of my life, and I loved talk radio the Kurdish faction at KCNR ruined that for me, and I will not go back. Radio is just a bowl full of weasels swishing around. We're here on the Net, in the pioneer days, in a state that was built by pioneers this is the future," he says.
Emerson, on the other hand, doesn't rule out the possibility of doing a radio gig again, even though he did recently turn down a lucrative on-air job in Chicago to stick with the Earth Broadcasting Company: "I'll return to radio when I'm the unimpeachable grand dictator of the universe, as opposed to a $5-an-hour board operator at some country station."
Earth Broadcasting's world-domination headquarters is located in downtown Salt Lake City at 415 E. 200 South (coincidentally, Enid Green's former 1994 campaign office), 801-322-3949. You can subscribe to EarthMail, free of charge, at www.earthbroadcasting.com.
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