Archive for July, 2013

Image by Eric Dufresne from Trois-Rivières, Canada CCA-2.0

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results”.  Many attribute this quote to Albert Einstein (although there is no originating source to access).  I’m no Einstein, but Arbitron’s PPM-based radio is a little bit of insanity.

I’ve discussed over and over again how unsatisfying Gil Gross’ radio program has been lately and how I’ve been trying to understand why.  It’s a shell of the programming we’d become accustomed to on KGO before the Cumulus Dick-eys gutted that talk station and threw the scraps to the listeners while they dined on the fleshy remains.

It’s not only talk radio that has been affected by this crazy style of programming.  Many music stations are chasing the PPM dream as well and music listeners notice the decline.  They, too, try to understand what is happening.  No matter how many listeners express outrage, radio programming continues the slide downward.  The following blog post written by Adam Hogue attempts to explain why radio content is no longer listenable and his idea on how to fix it:

http://www.policymic.com/articles/13624/the-radio-in-decline-the-radio-reinvented-why-we-must-update-our-radio-stations

He recognizes that PPM doesn’t benefit radio listeners, and he’s calling out the current state of radio.  In his analysis, he includes radio shows he finds satisfying with in-depth content.   One is Radiolab, a well-produced show that I’ve linked to in previous posts.  There are some great Radiolab episodes on podcast.  During times I can’t listen to Gil’s show any longer, and it’s getting to be more than just on Fridays, I seek out Radiolab episodes that bring back a sense of sanity in radio programming.

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Here’s a link to Radiolab‘s Episode Archive page:

http://www.radiolab.org/archive/

The nice thing about the Radiolab archives is the next episode will play automatically.  I like that.  I don’t have to continue to bring up the program, find the next podcast, and hit play.  I can let it run in the background.

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Adam Hogue also linked another program I’ve never listened to before.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/

I’m listening now to Episode 109, titled ‘Notes on Camp’, under the recently aired section.  It’s stories about summer camp and captures that culture of outdoor camaraderie seated around a crackling camp fire.

This definitely is an option to replace Gil’s show.

It’s not optimal, though,  because it’s a one-time per week broadcast, like RadiolabThis American Life episodes are only available for one week after broadcast, unless it’s downloaded to your computer.

Here’s their podcast page:

“Most weeks This American Life is the most popular podcast in the country, with more than a 800,000 people downloading each episode. When you subscribe to the free weekly podcast, episodes automatically download to your computer. Episodes are available for exactly one week, beginning the Monday after broadcast. Podcast content is the same as the radio broadcast, except on occasion when we include extra material on the podcast that had to be cut for time”

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http://www.thisamericanlife.org/podcast

(This page includes all of the links to subscribe for free, or download or where to find them on iTunes and Amazon.)

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The ‘Notes on Camp’ Episode explores the group experience.  In some ways, the old KGO talk-radio format was the Bay Area’s camp fire, where we all sat around as a group and listened to stories.  We listened to Gene Burns’ eloquence, and to Pete Wilson’s pirate talk, and Bernie Ward’s ego inflating rants before flattening to the ground with his felony conviction.

We listened in awe around that KGO camp fire, we laughed and we cried as a group and the non-KGO people didn’t understand what it meant to each and every one of us.

We are missing our local camp ground.

We have to search for John Rothmann, we wait for Len Tillem to post new podcasts, and we catch Ed Baxter sometimes filling in for Gil Gross.

There will always be a place for Gil’s show, when news is breaking or when a political issue needs to be analyzed, but it’s no longer a turn-it-on and leave-it-there type of show.  There’s no group sharing, listening to what one another has to say.

Unfortunately, Frosty is following that same path.  I enjoy listening to Frosty’s show, he has a different spoken style than Gil and I haven’t heard the same story from him ten or more times.  But the PPM way of ‘chasing ratings’ is what will ultimately chase me away to seek alternatives.

Summer camp is over.

Will the last person out please douse the embers of the once mighty flame.

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Here at the end I’ll leave you with this new post by the anti-pope about death and ants:

http://open.salon.com/blog/james_emm/2013/07/28/of_god_deathand_ants

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By GeeAlice (self-made from Image:Cat silhouette.svg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As you know, I’ve become a bit unnerved by the current state of talk radio in the Bay Area.  I’ve been doing the same thing I used to accuse Bill Wattenburg of doing – saying the same thing over and over again.  Just replace ‘eco-freaks’ and ‘bubble-butt politicians’ with ‘no callers’ and ‘Gil Gross’.  Add to that Gil’s disastrous Friday shows.

I can’t guess why Bill Wattenburg does it, but I do know why I do it – out of pure frustration.  I also know I’m not the only one who is thinking the same things I’ve been posting in a public blog that few see.  Search terms for this blog ask the same things I’ve been asking:

What is wrong with Gil Gross

Why isn’t Gil Gross taking any callers

Why does Gil Gross have his wife on his radio show on fridays talk 910

Why doesn’t kksf have any callers

Why does Gil Gross suck

What happened to Len Tillem podcast – (I’ll get to that in a minute)

And, my personal favorite:

Len Tillem naked

Sorry about that last visual…

I’ve read comments on other sites that attribute this new programming style of changing topics continuously, throughout half-hour segments, to Arbitron’s new ratings measuring tool: the Portable People Meter (PPM).

PPM has devolved radio into cat-chasing-tail programming.  Around and around, keep it going, turn it around, trying to catch listeners who tune in for less than five minutes.

Finally, I found a comment by David Kaye in radiodiscussions.com that explains it as told to him by Gil Gross.  It’s in a thread from October 2012 titled ‘Jerry Doyle Takes over Savage old TRN spot’ and this is the comment and the link to the discussion:

http://radiodiscussions.com/smf/index.php?action=printpage;topic=220596.0

“Or it could be that he has changed the formatics of his show to work better with PPM.  The 15 minute block is now THE way to do talkshows.  I was talking with Gil Gross about this a few weeks ago.  If you notice, he changes topics every 15 minutes and seldom takes calls.  He told me that he does this specifically because of the PPM periods — gotta keep the topics fresh every 15 minutes or it’s too easy to lose listeners.  PPM relies on 15-minute blocks of time and transponders reflecting actual listening.  The old days of filling out diaries and *saying* that you listened to X station are gone.  A station has to keep goosing up those quarter-hour ratings.”

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It also explains why Frosty is following Gil’s program format, but it doesn’t explain why Gil’s wife is still on his Friday shows, unless it adds to the PPM when people click off the station when they hear her and return when she stops talking.

Gil is adapting to new technology.  The degradation of his show is directly associated with chasing those five minute listeners to attract advertising revenue through higher ratings published from PPM results.  Who cares about loyalty?  Listeners who tune in for hours detract from the ratings meter.

It explains the direction of the new KGO under Cumulus management, the Dick-eys, chasing those PPM hits by running all news all day, thinking they’ll get hits every few minutes from people who change stations constantly.  (It doesn’t explain Cumulus’ callous treatment of the former KGO hosts and the Dick-eys obvious disdain for the Bay Area listening audience).  They want hits from anyone wandering by their frequency and who happens to hear a minute or two of content before leaving again.

Is Arbitron the real culprit here?  Have they set-up a flawed tracking tool and radio now has to chase a lowered standard of broadcasting to compete?  Maybe Arbitron should be dropped as a revenue tool, or broadcasters should question why they chase what Arbitron dictates.  It’s evident in this market that Arbitron has miscalculated the loyalty of the old KGO listeners.  More than a year later, people are still searching for the content of the old KGO.  They’re still looking for their beloved broadcasters.  The listeners are left wanting.  Why can’t Arbitron measure that?

Add to the equation advertisers who buy air time.  They are losing as well.  Who will be there to hear about a product when stations garner and value two minute listeners?  Does this make any sense?  Why aren’t the advertisers speaking out?  It’s a long chain and someone up or down the chain has to speak out to change it.  The ironic thing about this is the advertisers benefit the least from this new structure.  Yes, the ones who supply money to the stations don’t get anything out of it.  It’s no mystery why advertisers are abandoning radio.  Advertisers understand brand loyalty – something that is not even considered in the PPM environment.

Radio broadcasters and advertisers should get together and find a better system.  Why should they accept a ratings system that pushes them all down the road to failure?  Is no one listening?   Where is the voice of the local advertisers in all of this?  No one is listening to the stations, but is anyone listening to what hordes of frustrated radio listeners are saying?

I don’t think anyone really believes this is working.

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I looked up articles about PPM to find out more about it and I found some articles of interest.

This variety.com article written by Bob Lefsetz examines the culture of radio, and I’ve included some excerpts:

http://variety.com/2013/music/news/radio-digs-its-own-grave-as-cultural-currents-shift-1200500285/

“Luddites in radio still believe the Internet didn’t happen, that we’re all prisoners of the dial, where there are few stations and little innovation.”

“Most people under age 20 have never experienced good radio. So when baby boomers and Gen X’ers start waxing rhapsodically about their old-time favorites, wanting them to come back, it’s the equivalent of wishing that musicvideos would come back to MTV.”

“Insiders believe that there’s no revolution in terrestrial radio because the owners know it’s headed into the dumper. They’re just milking it for all they can before it falls off a cliff. So if you’re waiting for format innovation and fewer commercials … you’ll be waiting forever.”

“To grow mass, you’ve got to make us feel included. In other words, it’s all about culture. Talk radio has culture. As does public radio. After that, it’s a vast wasteland of sold-out stations with the same fl aw of network TV. … Trying for broad-based appeal, they appeal to no one, and cede their market to excellence. HBO and the cable outlets killed networks with quality. … If you don’t think new services will kill terrestrial radio, you must like inane commercials, you must like me-too music, you must think airplay on one of these outlets will sell millions of albums, but that almost never happens anymore.”

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This nab.org article explains PPM and it includes an image of the meter equipment:

http://www.nab.org/xert/scitech/2008/Radio_TechCheck/radio/rd032408.asp

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This Mark Ramsey Media article addresses PPM and talk radio:

http://www.markramseymedia.com/2011/08/is-ppm-unfair-to-newstalk-radio/

“In any given quarter-hour under diary methodology, you used to have to listen at least five continuous minutes for that listening to “count” you as a listener and to “count” your listening as an “occasion.””

“Under PPM however, I’m told that those five minutes no longer need to be continuous.  That is, if I flip back to the station several times in a quarter-hour I count as a listener and my listening counts as one occasion as long as all those minutes and seconds add up to at least five minutes.

“This hurts the performance of News/Talk.”

“In other words, because of the nature of spoken word content you will need a much longer trial period to determine whether you will keep listening or not. This means you’re far less likely to flip back and forth to a News/Talk station during a quarter-hour, thus your chances of aggregating a qualifying amount of listening in that quarter hour are slimmer.

“Due to the lower churn you’re less likely to “count” as a listener to News/Talk.”

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This Talkers.com article by Michael Harrison talks about the audience factor and the purgatory of PPM:

http://www.talkers.com/2012/09/19/can-terrestrial-radio-thrive-in-the-digital-era/

“The internet is a miraculous medium but terrestrial radio stations must use it more wisely and not be in such a rush to sacrifice the uniqueness and indispensability they need to earn in each local marketplace – where the loyalty and revenue lies – for the fool’s gold of being just another of a thousand mediocre versions of its equally mediocre self co-existing on a single national dial in everyone’s dashboard.  Yikes!”

“PPM notwithstanding, there is no “meter” to measure actual usage the way electricity, water and telephone consumption is tallied.   No tickets are sold. No circulations are audited. There are no “click-thrus.”  As advertisers expect increasingly precise metrics, radio lags behind.”

“Again, Arbitron does a good job within the limits of reason and reality – but the PPM is not good at measuring the audience loyalty and quality-appreciation factors better served by the admittedly imperfect diary that also apply to getting positive results for advertisers.  Simply put, if radio allows itself to be judged in the advertising marketplace solely on numbers, it’ll soon be lights out for most of the stations currently on the air.”

“Those 30 and 60 second “spots” pile up into PPM pits of purgatory. Something must be done soon about the elephant in the room.  Commercial spots are ratings killers.  It is the cruelest of ironies that the very commercial itself can prove to be the downfall of commercial radio.”

“The terrestrial radio industry, armed only with draconian budget cuts, increased centralization of management and programming, and letting it all hang out online, can only hope to survive as long as the FM/AM car radio remains dominant in America’s dashboards.  After that has changed, all bets are off.”

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This 2010 radiostationmanagement.blogspot.com article by Doug McLeod believes there is a need for speed:

http://radiostationmanagement.blogspot.com/2010/12/ppms-lesson-for-talent-get-to-point.html

“While Top 40 programmers have preached short-and-snappy for decades, PPM makes talent who get even a little too chatty pay a stiff price: less cume. And make no mistake, it’s a cume world now. No more diary-based recall methodology. The PPM simply sits there and logs what’s being listened to. As a radio station manager that means your stations – the only brands you have to sell – had better not be wasting listeners’ time.”

“This is especially true for talk radio, both issues-oriented and sports. Many a talk show host has grown up professionally listening to the kings of talk radio but that isn’t always good. The long-winded hour opens (or teases or churns) practiced by some of the most famous yakkers in radio became Old School the day the first PPMs powered up. Now, it’s not only antiquated to cruise through a ten- to twenty-minute show or hour open, it’s deadly”.

“But one of PPM’s crucial lessons is that programmers’ long-time habits of loading up the first quarter-hour are wrong: listeners stay aboard fairly evenly – and desert just as evenly – throughout the hour. Thus the need to get into compelling subject matter fast and keep it moving.”

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This article by harkerresearch.typepad.com discusses the declining numbers of morning drive and questions the accuracy of PPM:

http://harkerresearch.typepad.com/radioinsights/2010/01/is-ppm-antipersonality.html

“Questions remain regarding the accuracy of PPM. Some critics believe participant panels are too small. They note that AQH and share are calculated based on a very small proportion of active panelists who actually carry their meter. Unfortunately, most personalities won’t get very far with their general manager rationalizing low numbers with methodological explanations.”

“The goal of a morning show has to be to produce ratings regardless of measurement issues or problems. PPM may be flawed and unfairly punish personality radio, but personalities have to understand that the game has changed. The personalities that survive will be the people who adapt.”

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This ocregister.com article written by Gary Lycan is also about PPM’s effect on morning DJs and it includes excerpts from Jeff McKay’s RadioInfo article.  I’ll add links to  McKay’s feature article as well, its focus is on music but his five-part series touches on all aspects of radio play.

First, the ocregister article titled  ‘DJs in the ’60s would never survive today’s ratings’:

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/radio-413884-station-feb.html

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Now, RadioInfo’s Jeff McKay’s Five-Part series on ‘The State of the Disc Jockey’:

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Part One: Personality Radio is “Dying” – But Still Gets Solid Ratings

http://www.radioinfo.com/2013/01/28/the-state-of-the-disc-jockey/

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Part Two: The PPM – a DJ’s Downfall

http://www.radioinfo.com/2013/01/29/the-state-of-the-disc-jockey-part-2/

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Part Three: Radio Killed the Radio Star

http://www.radioinfo.com/2013/01/30/the-state-of-the-disc-jockey-part-3/

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Part Four: The “Evolving” DJ – Adapting to Radio’s Changing Times

http://www.radioinfo.com/2013/01/31/the-state-of-the-disc-jockey-part-4/

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Part Five: The Future of the Radio DJ

http://www.radioinfo.com/2013/02/01/the-state-of-the-disc-jockey-part-5/

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Finally, This radioinsights.com article is about digital dashboards:

http://www.radioinsights.com/2013/07/ford-dumps-digital-dashboard.html

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And, before I wrap this all up in a big, bright bow, I’ve noticed that Len Tillem has not posted any podcasts since June 10th.  Is he on vacation?  Why aren’t there any ‘best of’ shows?  The beauty of podcasting online is the ability to inform in real time.  I hope all is well with our loyah, well enough to update his listeners about his formerly daily podcasts.  We wonder and worry.  We need our loyah fix.

Here’s the link to his Spreaker page.  Follow him, so he can break the 6,700 followers mark this week.

http://www.spreaker.com/user/lentillem

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So, to wrap it up, now that we know why Gil Gross and his fellow broadcasters are churning their shows, the question to ask now is how…

How do we change it?

By Mgmoscatello (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Keeps him away from his radio show.

I’ve endured some bad radio before, heck, I’ve even listened to Gil’s wife, Rhoda, for a few months until I couldn’t stand it any longer.  Why is Gil doing this to us?  He has an opportunity to be great in this market, being one of the true professionals left on the air in this area, but what he’s been presenting in this major market is puzzling and frustrating.

He tells the same stories many times.  I can forgive him that, not everyone is listening every day to his entire show.  But I’ve heard these stories over and over again, all about him, and it’s eye-rolling radio.  How he broke into a radio station to start the show, how a critic once thought his name was fake, how he… Gil, Gil, Gil, Gil.  In a recent conversation with someone, he even said ‘before I was famous’.  what?  Then, he took it back, saying in his self-deprecating way that is really saying how wonderful he is, that he’s not famous but only someone with a radio show.

Did I mention he forces us to listen to the sound of his wife’s voice that, at times, can make the ears bleed?

I continue to listen, except on Fridays.  Yes, lately I’ve been turning the volume of the show down so it’s just background noise.  If there’s a big news story, I might turn it up to a hearing level.  Gil is still a trained broadcaster and he can bring it when big news breaks.

It’s all of that air time between breaking news that degrades the show to a level that now borders on honking clown noses.  Think Armstrong and Getty.

I wouldn’t be complaining about this if one or two silly stories was an anomaly.  Can’t be serious all of the time.  But, lately, Gil seems to be phoning it in.  I guess someone has to phone it in, since he doesn’t bother taking calls from the listeners.  Just this week I heard him say “I want to hear from you” meaning his listeners, and then he gave out his Facebook account, Twitter information, and email address.  Yep.  That’s how our local talk show host on our Bay Area talk station wants to communicate – in every way except for, you know, talk.

By the way, when John Rothmann filled in for Gil over the July 4th holiday, there were plenty of calls.  hmmmm…

I guess there’s no time for listener calls on a show that has someone from Politico on the line all of the time.    Plus, after Politico, Gil has to get in those ridiculous dumb criminal stories.  Now add to that dumb teachers.  Brain fluff.  Then it’s back to read a news story, have someone from Politico tell us what we should think about it, and then Gil, with his guest still on the line, goes into great detail telling another story of his life in radio.  Then the guest laughs, many times just being polite.  Oh, isn’t Gil funny and relevant in this medium?

So it goes.  But, this Thursday was the low in the life of Gil Gross on the radio.  It was a low for Bay Area radio.  I think this is the beginning of the end.

This is how it started.  The show started with its usual Politico segment.  Afterwards, Gil wanted to call Sebastian Kunz to the microphone to talk to him about something.

I don’t mind.  I enjoy Sebastian Kunz.  I really missed his voice and on-air personality when he was on vacation last week.   Anyway, Sebastian was actually working, doing traffic in addition to news, and didn’t have time to sit in with Gil.

So, Gil humphs and tells the story how earlier in the day Sebastian was histrionic over some missing apples.

It was an odd thing for him to tell on the air.  Like a little home spat that made him chuckle.  Not the kind of thing listeners in the Bay Area need to know about or even care.

But Gil didn’t let it go.  He soon brought Sebastian on-air to tell the story how he, Sebastian, saw apples in the station lunch area and why he didn’t eat one at the time and that when he came back all of the apples were gone.

Okay.

So now all of San Francisco has the news about the missing apples.  Now, can we get on with a show?

No.

This is the part that annoys me.

When Gil is supposed to be doing his show, he thinks it’s cute to run to Safeway and call in to the show, yes, the same show he doesn’t let any listeners call in to, and he has Sebastian take his call on-air.  What is Gil doing during his own program?  He’s at the local Safeway buying apples for Sebastian.  And, he thinks it’s so darn cute that he’s doing it during a segment he’s supposed to be in-studio.  Gil asks Sebastian what kind of apples he wants and names different varieties until Sebastian chooses one or two.  Then, we listeners, get to stand in line with Gil as he waits to pay for the apples.

And, that, my friends, is the state of radio in this major market.  Standing in line waiting to checkout.

I just might get in line and checkout of Gil’s show.

Photo by David Shankbone CCA-SA 3.0

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When Bernie Ward gets out of the big house, and begins podcasting or broadcasting somewhere, this blogger guy should be his first guest or first caller.  I read this blogger every so often and it’s always a fun ride.  Sure, its bumpy at times, but that’s half the fun.

http://open.salon.com/blog/james_emm/2013/07/05/what_in_gods_name_are_these_popes_up_to_now

Here’s what Bernie’s been thinking lately:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 – Slippery When Wet… (about privacy and the Patriot Act)

http://lionoftheleft.blogspot.com/2013/06/slippery-when-wet.html

Saturday, June 15, 2013 – Hero or Villain? (yep, you guessed it, it’s about Edward Snowden)

http://lionoftheleft.blogspot.com/2013/06/hero-or-villain.html

Thursday, June 20, 2013 –  Baaaa Humbug! (about national security policy)

http://lionoftheleft.blogspot.com/2013/06/baaaa-humbug.html

Don’t forget about Len Tillem on Spreaker:

http://www.spreaker.com/user/lentillem

Ed Baxter filled in for Frosty on Thursday, July 4th.  I haven’t listened to these yet, but I’m hoping he allowed callers on his show:

Hour 1:

http://www.talk910.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?more_page=1&podcast=frosty&selected_podcast=07.04.13_910_AM_12-00_1372970213_13076.mp3

Hour 2:

http://www.talk910.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?more_page=1&podcast=frosty&selected_podcast=07.04.13_910_AM_13-00_1372973468_12760.mp3

Hour 3:

http://www.talk910.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?more_page=1&podcast=frosty&selected_podcast=07.04.13_910_AM_14-00_1372976157_21799.mp3

Don’t forget to visit Ed Baxter’s ‘Making Sense’ podcasts page posted on his edbaxtermedia website:

http://edbaxtermedia.com/category/podcasts/

And, John Rothmann filled in for Gil Gross on Thursday, July 4th.  Again, it would be so nice to hear callers!  I’ll listen to these later today hopeful to hear some:

Thursday, July 4, 2013 Hour 1:

http://www.talk910.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?more_page=1&podcast=gil_gross&selected_podcast=Gil_Gross_7-4-13_Hr1_1372980508_11855.mp3

Hour 2:

http://www.talk910.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?more_page=1&podcast=gil_gross&selected_podcast=Gil_Gross_7-4-13_Hr2_1372983694_18404.mp3

Hour 3:

http://www.talk910.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?more_page=1&podcast=gil_gross&selected_podcast=Gil_Gross_7-4-13_Hr3_1372986599_22442.mp3

Hour 4: (Special Program Note – he begins the hour with Gene Burns’ reading of the Declaration of Independence)

http://www.talk910.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?more_page=1&podcast=gil_gross&selected_podcast=Gil_Gross_7-4-13_Hr4_1372992983_944.mp3

Be sure to visit John Rothmann’s ‘Around the Political World with John Rothmann’ website as well:

http://johnrothmann.com/

Now that you have some reading and listening material, enjoy the long weekend!