When Ken Vogel is not stalking Sarah Palin (here and here); Ginni Thomas (Clarence Thomas’ wife) (here, here and here); the Koch brothers (here, here and here) et al., or regurgitating Anthony Weiner‘s attacks on a talk radio (among other outlets) advertiser like Goldline (here and here), Vogel is listening to talk radio and, amazingly, he learns, like tens of millions of listeners, that conservative organizations that want to build their membership base and promote a daily or weekly message about their works are actually advertising on talk radio shows. Here is his “breaking” story.
This is what passes as news on Politico. Let me explain how the real world works and unravel some of Vogel’s drivel.
Unlike National Public Radio, which is subsidized in part by the federal government (i.e, taxpayers), commercial radio broadcasting is, remarkably enough, commercial. In other words, it has to compete and make money. Broadcasting companies compete with other broadcasting companies. Stations in each market compete with other stations. Formats on the stations compete with other formats on other stations. And radio competes with other broadcasting formats, such as television, etc. There are costs associated with commercial enterprises, in all their forms, and there are, hopefully, profits, which make the industry viable and possible. We can’t all work for NPR now can we?
Politico self-identifies as a news operation. Yet, it is also a commerical operation. It has advertisers. Its advertisers pay for promotion on its website. The extent to which its advertisers directly influence its news operations and decisions is unknown to the general public. Kenneth Vogel, his colleagues, his bosses, and the investors behind Politico, earn their salaries and revenue based on the ability of Politico to attract advertisers, to compete against other online news outlets, and to compete against other forms of news reporting. And the advertising rates Politico charges are based, in large part, on the number of page views it receives — that is, “hits” on its website. Its news and advertising activities cannot possibly be compartmentalized. Undergirding the entire operation is a business plan. If the plan fails, the enterprise fails. Therefore, someone, or some management team, influences how its news decisions are made, including what to report or investigate, in order to improve its “hits” and, in turn, its revenue and net profits. It is not in business to go out of business.
Now, unlike Politico, conservative talk radio and conservative groups that advertise on talk radio programs (as well as other talk radio advertisers) are honest about their activities. Unlike Politico, there are no pretenses, no phony positioning, etc. Conservative talk hosts do not hide their opinions or pretend that they are journalists, which is the lie perpetuated by many so-called news outlets, like Politico. In fact, conservative hosts make their views known every single day they are broadcasting. Conservative groups that advertise on conservative talk shows are openly promoting their causes, activities, and services to millions of listeners. Nobody is confused about who is saying what, when, or how. That cannot be said of Politico and similar operations. When conservative organizations decide to conduct membership campaigns on a regular and sustained basis to increase their size and impact, or to conduct daily or weekly messaging campaigns to millions of listeners on commercial broadcasting platforms, it not only helps to build the conservative movement and message, but they are competing with other advertisers for the finite time available on commercial broadcasting. This is how the market of ideas and commerce work. There is no secret about it. It is all done in open, in front of tens of millions of listeners. It is ethical, legitimate, and legal in every respect. What apparently offends Politico and Vogel is that it works.
Furthermore, most national hosts have a say about what advertisers are appropriate for their networks to run during their programs (local affiliate time is left to the decisions of local affiliates). Conservative hosts and conservative groups are naturally drawn to each other for they generally share the same objectives and interests, and attract the interest of many of the same people. This would seem obvious to most observers. But apparently not Politico and Vogel.
Kenneth Vogel’s unprofessionalism and ideologically-driven writing would be better practiced on an avowedly left-wing site. That would demonstrate some integrity. Instead, he and his employer continue their ruse.