Shortly after getting fired by KSTP, radio rebel T.D. Mischke threw out his entire music collection and half his wardrobe. After 17 years of broadcasting, it was time for a change.
Mischke got his wish. Just three months after being yanked off the air, the 46-year-old is once again delivering random rants and wacky words of wisdom, but this time he's doing it from an oversized closet in his St. Paul house without the aid of a radio transmitter.
Mischke's afternoon show is being streamed exclusively at CityPages.com, a revolutionary approach to the ancient art of chitchat. City Pages is the first outlet in the Village Voice Media chain to experiment with the format, which means Mischke is being observed by every publication struggling to adapt to a world in which paper and ink aren't enough to keep the lights on.
"Whether I ultimately fail or succeed doesn't matter, because this will soon be the norm across the country," said Mischke, minutes after his fifth broadcast last Monday. "People were doing webcasts 10 years ago, but the world wasn't ready for them then. Now I think the technology has gotten good enough and they're easily accessible. I think the format is going to explode."
Not that Mischke's new show hasn't had some bumps. Some of the early listeners -- an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 so far -- have lost their connection at points during the two-hour shows and had to refresh the Web page. That's frustrated the host, setting off more than a couple of his famous tirades.
"You've only got one shot at a first impression," he said. "We didn't have those kind of problems at KSTP, because you're the top priority and you've got people right there to solve the problems. In this case, you've got people in New York setting up the networking and you're just one little piece of the puzzle. I've got to accept some glitches."
City Pages is an ideal home for Mischke. The alt-weekly had named him radio personality of the year eight times in the past and dedicated an affectionate cover story to him just weeks before he was dismissed after years of phone pranks, diatribes and long, awkward silences that challenged the norms of talk radio. But the biggest selling point in Mischke's pitch to publisher Mark Bartel was the fact that he would recruit his own advertisers.
"That and the fact that he's a known commodity made it a no-brainer," said Bartel, who said the cost for the webcasts would probably be a couple hundred dollars a month. He wouldn't comment on Mischke's salary.
Bartel hopes that Mischke will drive new viewers to CityPages.com. In addition, Mischke is providing a weekly column in print and filing short videos for the website.
"He helps build our brand from a totally different angle," Bartel said.
Editor Kevin Hoffman said media outlets such as City Pages have to look at innovative ways to attract readers and advertisers.
"There's a lot of desperation out there because the old ways are not enough anymore," he said. "Every part of this deal is unique and different."
That doesn't mean others aren't taking a more traditional route. Another former KSTP talker, Jason Lewis, just took his show into the potentially wealthy world of syndication. It has already been picked up by more than eight affiliates and continues to run weeknights on KTLK.
But Mischke seems to be rejuvenated by his early journey down a more rebellious route. He said he's particularly energized by his Monday morning meetings with City Pages editors, many of whom are in their 20s. He's gotten recommendations from staffers for his new CD collection of Minnesota music, which has been in heavy rotation since the show was launched.
"There's been a rebirth of my love for doing this," he said. "When I broke the rules at KSTP, there was always this tension in the back of my mind. I don't have that anymore. This will be, creatively, the most freeing situation that could exist between now and my death."
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