TORONTO, ONTARIO - The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)'s radio division in the United States, which has gone by a variety of names in recent decades, has had a poor history with the Internet. When the reviled Mel Karmazin, now CEO of Sirius XM, was running CBS radio under the Infinity name, he stated that he would never put a CBS station in the Internet, and indeed none of the famous CBS news or music stations were available on-line.
After Karmazin moved on, all that changed. The big CBS news stations, from KCBS in San Francisco to WINS in New York, started live streams on the Internet, and so did their music stations. A few stations went all-out for podcasting, with WCBS in New York creating a variety of podcast streams, even including the CBS network's Dave Ross commentaries. Over time, a variety of CBS podcasts, from the weekly 60 Minutes and Face the Nation to the four-times-daily Osgood File, made it onto my podcast list.
The signs that trouble was coming started when The Osgood File began to feature advertising. It really didn't bother me that much, since the radio version has a minute and a half of advertising associated with it, and the podcast had only thirty (later forty-five) seconds. If that's what it takes for the podcast to continue, so be it. The information was still free, just like the radio broadcast, and it was easy to listen to at my convenience.
Then, in mid-July, the CBS-owned-and-operated news station in Boston, WBZ-AM, dropped the podcast of its Jon Keller commentaries when it revised its web site. There remained a Jon Keller blog on the web site, but the audio was no longer available as a podcast. One had to visit the web page and click on the link so that an advertisement would show in a special window as the commentary played. I e-mailed to complain and pointed out that Keller's commentary was worthwhile to me if it came as an automatically-downloaded podcast, but if I had to actively go to their web site and click around, I wasn't going to bother. Indeed, I don't know what Keller's cynical mind has contemplating since.
Today, I discovered that they've done the same thing with the network Dave Ross commentaries. The podcast is gone. The commentaries remain on the WCBS-AM web site, but one has to click on them to listen, and an ad comes first. I'm not going to bother--I might think about doing that when I'm home in the evening, but there's no way I'm going to do that while traveling and my time on the Internet is limited.
If CBS is going to stop podcasting, then I'm going to stop listening to CBS programming. There's too much quality programming out there that I can get more easily. The really annoying thing is that they already have a model for incorporating advertising--used for the Osgood File of incorporating the advertising into the podcast--that serves the same purpose of accommodating advertising. They don't need to eliminate their podcasts in order to get advertising revenue. They're making their content harder to access, and I won't be the only one that will ignore it as a result.
Some companies don't get it, and it appears that CBS is in that category again. I've spent my whole life enjoying CBS programming, but it looks like that era may be coming to an end because they're going backwards in their use of the Internet and eliminating podcasts.