Lately I’ve been writing some big companies to explain why it would be wise to change their policies on guns to more closely align with their brand image. I explain that a failure to do so will cost them money. I used all the various appeals to authority, but I neglected to provide the people with an easy way to let them know who I am. I had this in my “About” page.
About me. A brain in a box.
Contact me at spockosemail at gmail . com
I didn’t even say “I’m just looking for a piece of the action.” like I do on my twitter page @spockosbrain, Or “I went to Star Fleet Academy”, like I do on Facebook. But I should have probably told them a bit about my past and the last time I made some suggestions to CEOs, CFOs, COOs and CMOs of RW radio stations and TV.
People often use visual short cuts to help them make decisions about people. They also use signifiers of education, years of experience and associations as a quick way to decide who to listen to on a topic or whom to ignore. Where did they go to school? What is their degree in? Who did they work for? Who pays them? What does their track record show?
If you don’t have those visual short cuts or signifiers it is harder, it requires more time from the reader. Also, sometimes people actively ignore certain people or ideas–even if it is for their own good– just because of who is saying it.
I know this, so when I’m trying to convince someone I use the various appeals to authority, “If you don’t believe me… here is this rich/famous/successful person who says the same thing.” or “Hey, you don’t have to trust me, but ask your own experts, they will say the same thing.” or “The sorted data is here, but look at the raw data evidence yourself and make your own conclusion.”
Historical examples help some people see you know what you are talking about, if they bother to look at history.
But if actual historical data and known experts are ignored–how do people make decisions about credibility? For some people, especially in corporations, the only metric that seems to matter is “the bottom line.” But even that can be manipulated.
Cutting costs in the short term might lead to larger costs in the future. Costs can be spread out or shifted elsewhere. Costs can be shifted to some other company or hidden. Some companies externalize costs. If it’s foreseen that something bad will happen, how extensive will the damage be? Can it be mitigated? Covered by insurance? Other times there is no way around financial realities, so another story needs to be used, “The bottom line isn’t the only thing that matters.” That’s great to hear, and it can be true in a number of ways, however, for the people who have lived by it for years, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
I said to radio and TV station execs that continuing to associate their brand with violent rhetoric will cost them money. They ignored me. Since then thousands of advertisers have decided that they do NOT want to associate their brand with the violent rhetoric, race baiting, religious bigotry, homophobia and misogyny of these radio and TV hosts.
It’s been almost 10 years since I got pseudonymously famous for that and now, with the stories about the 100’s of millions of dollars in financial losses of distributors of Rush Limbaugh’s program starting to pop up, I thought I’d put together a few news clips from that time as a reminder that while some of the media stations CxOs listened, others didn’t–and it cost them money.
The tale of Spocko, a self-described “fifth-tier” blogger who lives in San Francisco, exemplifies how one person with a computer and an Internet hookup can challenge the views of a major media corporation — and what a media corporation will do to stop him.
A bit about the Spocko Method which has resulted in the loss of 100’s of millions of dollars in advertising revenue for the distributors and broadcasters of right wing radio and TV.
In 2004 I started alerting advertisers to the violent rhetoric I heard on San Francisco’s right-wing talk shows on KSFO. I believed that advertisers did not know they were sponsoring this kind of talk and would not want to associate their brand with the talk radio hosts who they were sponsoring.
I asked the advertisers to listen to the audio themselves and decide if they agreed. I included audio of hosts calling for people to have their testicles cut off, brains blown out by guns, burned alive and the genocide of an entire population of a country. Those comments, along with religious bigotry, homophobia and misogyny did not match what most commercial advertisers believed in – – as they stated in their corporate values statements and governance documents.
Multiple major national advertisers agreed with my assessment and pulled their advertising. The parent company of KSFO at the time, ABC/Disney, sent a cease and desist letter to my web host claiming a copyright violation and threatened to sue. The audio was removed, but the web host still shut down my website.
My friends on the Internet spread the word that my blog was shut down and we turned this into a national and international story about violent rhetoric on talk radio and a fair use copyright issue. Advertisers don’t like controversy, and more left while headlines appeared in The New York Times, CBS News, USA Today, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Right wing radio hosts like controversy, it can mean good ratings–unless it costs them money. I wasn’t shutting down the hosts’ horrific speech broadcasts over the public airwaves, but the radio station management had shut down mine. I used reasonable, evidence based letters and blog posts directed politely to the companies paying for a product.
Companies don’t always listen to outsiders, especially ones who aren’t customers, but they do listen to their own management, experts and the bottom line.
I BEAT Disney on a copyright claim
KSFO/ABC/Disney’s threat of a lawsuit was a news event which I used to spread the story further. I was correct in my use of the speech and I had prepared for their response with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The EFF defended my use of the audio and showed how it clearly met all four of the Fair Use standards. ABC/Disney withdrew their frivolous copyright claim. KSFO hosts were furious. They preempted another show and devoted three hours to attacking me.
KSFO hosts continued with their violent rhetoric, religious bigotry and misogyny even after a confirmed total of 33 advertisers left (many more left, but I only counted the confirmed)
What was an Asset became a Liability
I and several of my supporters had convinced advertisers that right-wing talk radio was toxic to their brand. KSFO was no longer a safe place to sell goods and services. The hosts were free to continue saying what they wanted, they just weren’t going to make as much for their employers as before.
In fact, so much revenue was lost by the advertisers leaving KSFO that Disney had to reduce their asking price for the sale Following the sale, I made sure to keep the people in management at Citadel informed of the continued loss of advertisers.
I informed the new owners that unless they changed formats, revenue will continue to decline, since the hosts will not change what they say. My predictions were proved correct. In its first quarterly financial statements KSFO’s revenue was far below projected earnings.
Due to this reduced revenue, one talk show host’s contract was not renewed. A second host was fired six mouths before his contract was completed.
I proceeded to teach this method of defunding right-wing talk radio to several other groups and individuals. The method was successfully used on Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and most recently Rush Limbaugh.
The Spocko Method is NOT a boycott. It is a communication strategy designed to remind companies that they have a choice on who they want to associate their brand with.
If they don’t believe in violent rhetoric and religious bigotry they can take steps to stop supporting it. The pressure to leave isn’t necessarily external, although the more people who educate them the better, it is internal pressure. The corporate brand matters to companies, so I used that as a lever to get them to leave KSFO.
When I began the program I also alerted KSFO’s parent companies, ABC/Disney to tell them that I was going to do this. I told them. “You might think this station is an asset, but it’s really a liability.” I know that there were people at ABC/Disney who strongly agreed and were glad to be rid of KSFO.
As the station continued to lose money I kept providing evidence to the Citadel people that RW talk radio is not an asset, but a liability. They didn’t believe me, it was the opposite of their story to their investors. RW talk radio stations were supposed make money, not lose it. Then needed to believe it was just a blip, with a few ‘bad apples’ in one location, not the whole right wing talk format and hosts.
I had thought that when Citadel started losing so much money they got unlisted, they would act and make changes with hosts’ and format. But they didn’t. That’s fine, that’s their choice. Instead they blamed “the internet” for their problems, not the programming and a sea change in the mindset of advertisers.
Yes, talk radio still makes money, and yes Limbaugh wasn’t financial hurt because of his contract, but 100’s of millions of dollars in lost revenue later, the distributors and station owners still don’t want to admit their support of the violent rhetoric, religious bigotry and misogyny is the reason they can’t sell ads.
Decency has won. Not just in the “marketplace of ideas” but in the marketplace of commerce–which in America is often seen as the only one that really counts.
Here are some stories from that time.
Bloggers Take on Talk Radio Hosts — New York Times January 15, 2007
A San Francisco talk radio station pre-empted three hours of programming on Friday in response to a campaign by bloggers who have recorded extreme comments by several hosts and passed on digital copies to advertisers.
The lead blogger, who uses the name Spocko, said that he and other bloggers had contacted more than 30 advertisers on KSFO-AM to inform them of comments made on the air and to ask them to pull their ads.
By Joe Garofoli, Sunday, December 30, 2012
Media outlets battle it out over free-speech rights, USA Today, January 24, 2007
Spocko Takes On The Mouse – CBS News, January 24, 2007
Contact me at spockosemail at gmail . com