FREE TALK LIVE IS A SELF-SYNDICATED TALK SHOW devoted to liberty and freedom. Owner/Hosts Ian Freeman and Mark Edge might quibble with this, but we’ll call it a libertarian program. The weeknight and Saturday night versions of FTL are currently heard on 82 stations, most of which are in smaller markets. FTL doesn’t have a massive audience, a large support staff, or a huge marketing budget. Still, it’s providing a living for Edge and Freeman, who report that the show is currently generating between $11,000 and $13,000 per month in revenue.

Not bad for a couple of guys who started from scratch in 2002. Got a show that you think would resonate nationally? Thinking about doing it yourself? Here are some lessons from a success-story-in-progress:

Be Authentically Unique – FTL reflects the hosts’ deeply-held political beliefs and their philosophy about talk radio. Edge and Freeman are so committed to the cause of personal freedom and small government that they re-located from Florida to New Hampshire in 2006 as part of the Free State Project’s effort to create a libertarian paradise in the Granite State. “We are as crazy as we sound on-air,” says Edge.

In keeping with their personal taste in talk radio, FTL devotes a great deal of time to “managed open phones.” Once Freeman and Edge have covered what they consider the day’s mandatory topics, the phones are opened for wide ranging caller-driven conversation.

Size Matters Less Than Passion – FTL’s P1 listeners are hardcore. The show's podcast is accessed 5,000 times per day. More remarkably, listeners actually fund FTL’s growth via contributions to the show’s “AMP” program. Members of AMP (“Advertise. Market. Promote.”) give a minimum of $3 per month, which is used to advertise and otherwise market the show. In exchange for their support, “AMPers” receive access to the show’s archives, a commercial-free version of the podcast, and a toll-free call-in number. The AMP program has raised a bit more than $4,000 this month from its 500 members, many of whom give much more than then the minimum.

Feed that Passion – FTL strives for an open, engaged relationship with its audience. Listeners use the shows website to submit topic ideas and vote on which issues they’d like to hear discussed on the show. AMPers are provided with detailed information on the cost of various marketing expenditures, from trade press ads to affiliate decoder cards.

It’s not Radio, It’s Audio – FTL fans can hear the show via most every audio channel from terrestrial radio to live streaming to podcasts to UStream and even Ku-band satellite. Podcast ads make a significant contribution to the show’s ad revenue. FTL is not yet heard on Sirius/XM.

Start Lean and Stay Hungry – FTL is run almost entirely by Freeman, Edge and Edge’s wife. Freeman handles the programming and affiliate relations; Edge is the sales guy. (Genesis Communications Network handles technical operations.)

“Nobody came to us and said, ‘Hey, want to be radio superstars? Here’s ten grand a month!’” says Edge. “We built this show out of spit and inspiration.”

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Skip Joeckel at 719-579-6676
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