Former Clear Channel star Skip Mahaffey returns to radio as a one-man talk operation
Once upon a time, the barter system of radio broadcasting -- where a station sells time to the performer, who then tries to find enough advertisers to turn a profit -- was the province of offbeat medical treatments and infomercials.
But Skip Mahaffey -- a radio personality once so popular in the Tampa Bay area Clear Channel built a radio station around his morning show -- is returning to the local airwaves using just such a setup, buying time on three radio stations to bring his Skip Show back by any means necessary.
On Tuesday, Mahaffey's Skip Show will debut on WTAN-AM (1340), WDCR-AM (1350) and a Little Rock, Ark. station, KLRG-AM (880). He also soon hopes to have an FM outlet and smartphone apps by the summer's end
Mahaffey, who was laid off by Clear Channel in 2009 when the company concluded his morning show wasn't catching on, left a morning gig in Tulsa, Okla. in January after just eight months. As downsizing continues in a still shrinking radio industry, Mahaffey decided to go the barter route just to get back on the air again.
"These days, fans don't care where the content comes from," said Mahaffey, who was alerted to the WTAN deal by Brenda Lee, also known as BL, who once filled one-third of the Sportschix radio show and now leads her own program on WTAN. "I just felt it was time to try something new."
Beginning Tuesday, Mahaffey's Skip Show will air weekdays at 3 p.m. on WTAN, just after BL's show. The personality, who once saw the biggest radio company in town build a radio station around his program, will be selling advertisements himself, paying for the entire production out of his own pocket to make it all work.
Mahaffey wouldn't say exactly what he was charging for ad time. But BL has written on her own show's Facebook page that advertisers can pay her $1,000 for two 30-second commercials per day for the entire month -- a rate low enough to attract businesses which may have thought they couldn't advertise on radio.
And instead of talking around country music hits as he's done for the past 30 years, Mahaffey will present a talk show reaching out to country fans who might dip into talk radio occasionally. Avoiding partisanship, he hopes to create a program that appeals to listeners turned off by the hyper-radical positions taken by radio hosts on both sides of the political spectrum.
"The minute you say you're conservative or liberal, you've alienated half your audience," Mahaffey said. "I think there's way to talk about issues that gets beyond that."
Mahaffey's efforts comes as other onetime area media stars try similar ways to leverage their personal brand across new platforms -- former WFTS-Ch. 28 sports guy Al Keck also has a show Fridays on WTAN. And with plans for a podcast and smartphone app, Mahaffey admits he would be happy if the Skip Show's tenure on bartered stations serves mostly to attract the attention of more conventional radio programmers.
But as radio companies downsize more stars to focus on music -- citing ratings figures to prove less talk draws bigger crowds -- it seems Mahaffey and other personalities like him have a long mountain to climb.
"Will it work? Who knows? This is a one-man operation that I'm paying for out of my own pocket and I have been blessed with a number of
advertisers who believe in me and are giving their support," Mahaffey wrong in a press release. "Talk to me in 90 days. If I'm wearing an orange smock with 'Hi, My Name's Skip. Welcome to Home Depot' written on it, you'll know it failed. And if it fails, it's because I let it fail."