JIM PARISI MOVES FORWARD WITH INTERNET TV/RADIO SHOW
It's not unusual for television outlets to visually stream radio-show content on a national level.
Many well-known national talkers have embraced the concept (which has, on occasion, confirmed the truthfulness of the phrase "a face for radio"). Hosts from Howard Stern to pretty much the entire ESPN Radio talk-show entourage are visible on television outlets that have picked up these radio shows to fill airtime.
Other hosts have opted for something of a webcam approach, utilizing video-streaming capabilities and a static camera to provide an additional product for their website.
Jim Parisi has combined the two visual mediums with traditional radio. He broadcasts his morning radio program, which airs on KVOI AM 1030, from what amounts to a full-fledged television studio near Country Club Road and Broadway Boulevard. The video feed is available—live and in archive form—at jimparisi.com.
Eight months ago, Parisi left what was a pretty solid morning-host gig at KNST AM 790 to pursue this venture. After a great deal of tinkering, he and his staff have put the finishing touches on the video aspect, which officially debuted live coverage during Arizona's primary election last month.
"Primary night was the first shot at it, and we had an average of about 35 people watching it," Parisi said. "It works great. We painted the whole room chroma-key blue. We can pop different backgrounds behind anyone live. It gives us a bigger feel, and from a practical standpoint, it allows us to use several crawls for information. You have a state news crawl, a CNN or Fox News crawl, an RSS feed or the phone number to call if you want to jump onto the show. Nobody wants to see me, but when I say, 'Look at the outfit my guest is wearing,' it's very cool to pop that up.
"Hopefully it will bring in more than just the Tucson market. It's (financially) difficult to do just two hours in Tucson, Arizona."
Parisi says he makes about a quarter of his show-related income with the online-video venture, and is banking on the public's increased willingness to access other forms of media.
"Every time I see someone on their own, they say they miss that steady paycheck, and every time I see someone working in a corporation, they say, 'I can't wait to be on my own and do my own thing,'" Parisi said.
Parisi didn't want to stick with AM radio—and its highly uncertain future.
"In my humble opinion, there's nowhere to go," Parisi said about AM radio. "I don't even own a radio in the house anymore. You come to town, and you might pop up (KQTH FM 104.1 morning talk host Jon Justice) because he's on FM. You might not even know there's anything on AM. It's not like the old days, where you checked out the heritage station, looking for Rush (Limbaugh).
"I'm trying to give (listeners) everything we can and be very modern about it. (The visual broadcast) adds a nice element to it. People come in, and they realize it's not just radio. It's nice PR for the candidates when they come in: There are three cameras up. There are lights up. It's a whole different feel, and I like the pressure ... because you're live, and you're being watched. It's cool."
Parisi faces another potential issue: In the landscape of extreme political talk, Parisi brings a certain calm quality to the equation. For example, his KNST morning-show successor, Garret Lewis, is much more outspoken—and in the vein of what seems to be today's preferred approach to conservative talk.
"The consultants say to bring the fear to them. This is nuts. It's insane. I don't want to scare people," Parisi said. "To be blunt, you've got to be pretty good to be interesting without doing that, and I think I have the time in the business to where I think I can do that. People crave pure truth like a drug addict craves drugs. We've jerked (the public) around in every medium for so many years that when they hear me say something honest, like, 'He's a Democrat, but I think he's a pretty bright guy,' it bowls them right over.
"I'm going to lose some people who want to hear Garret yell and scream about what idiots Democrats are, but if you listen to someone like that, I don't want you to listen to me. You're not a thinking person, so you're not my kind of listener."
While Parisi delivered solid numbers and was liked by KNST's management, he felt he had a better chance to pursue the Internet-television undertaking elsewhere. KVOI welcomed him to the fold, and the relationship to date seems strong. Parisi doesn't deliver the numbers to KVOI that he did to KNST, and KVOI's listenership is significantly less than KNST's across the board, but he is the station's top-rated performer.
"Most people are boring if they're not shocking you, and I think I found a way to be interesting, to push your mental buttons, to make you laugh, like the old guys did in radio and TV for a million years," Parisi said. "Interact; make people think; and respect the hell out of the caller regardless of what their opinion is. If you just watch one network—if you only watch Fox News, if you only watch MSNBC—then you can get excited by hearing what you believe repeatedly. It's a stroking of ego and a reinforcement of your beliefs. I know people who can listen over and over to someone say, 'Throw those damn Mexicans out.' You can say it every day, and they'll love you, and you'll get ratings, but I don't understand what that does in the big picture of life.
"... I don't want to do radio theater. When you get a little older, you actually care what your legacy is going to be. You care if you're deceiving people. You care if you're going to work, and you don't think you're doing anything that helps anybody.
"Am I struggling financially? Absolutely. Would I do it again tomorrow? Absolutely."