Mark Thompson Prepared For What’s to Come After KGO
Thompson started a new project on YouTube, The Mark Thompson Show, almost immediately, citing there was an urgency to do so.
Mark Thompson lost his gig at KGO radio in October. So did everyone else at the station.
Thompson started a new project on YouTube, The Mark Thompson Show, almost immediately, citing there was an urgency to do so. Nikki Medoro, another talented host who got the ax at the same moment as Thompson, also started her YouTube show before the figurative KGO body was cold.
“It’s true if you don’t get the KGO audience over to wherever you are right away, they’ll begin to evaporate,” Thompson said. “Especially since we didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. Now we have no way to reach them. I have a much larger audience than I’ve been able to attract to my new show.
KGO, like many media companies, didn’t give Thompson the chance to sign off and say goodbye to his listeners. He pleaded with management but said he understood they couldn’t allow him to sign off because too many times they’d seen radio personalities go rogue after they were canned.
“They also don’t want personalities to say disparaging things about the company, there’s too big of a downside,” Thompson explained. “They don’t want to run the risk even if they had faith their hosts wouldn’t have done that.
KGO is a Cumulus station and they can be ruthless. I understand why they made the change, but I still think it was a mistake.”
Immediately before Thompson went on the air for the last time, he said the PD PD called him and he immediately sensed something was grim. He knew it wasn’t going to be a happy day.
“They wanted me to do my normal show, then at 10:15 exactly, they wanted me to say, ‘This is KGO San Francisco, a Cumulus station. I asked if they wanted me to say something, they said ‘no.’ That was it. End of story.”
Thompson said he took another run at management, hoping to spin things positively for the station.
“I thought I could tell the audience a new and exciting format was coming up. They said we appreciate that, but again ‘no.’ I truly didn’t know if the new sports betting format would work, but I was willing to play ball.”
Thompson said he met with his producer the night before the massacre. He said the end of the station as he knew it wasn’t outside the range of possibilities. Thompson said there was a lot of gallows humor that night.
Regarding his new YouTube show, Thompson said he’s never worked as hard as he is doing right now.
“There’s a reward that comes from your own show,” he said. “You develop a real sense of community in real time. It’s great to witness the response. On KGO, I had 200,000 listeners a week. Now I’m doing a small fraction of that. You can build a viable business if there’s enough engagement from a fraction of that number.”
Now the job is to get the word out there, to make it bigger.
“I’m working in all the ways one can do that,” Thompson said. “It’s rewarding but maybe my heart is too much into it, if that is a thing. I feel challenged by the moment. I’m going to throw my time and money at it and just hope it goes.”
As far as his future, and perhaps the future of radio, Thompson said things are a bit cloudy.
“I truly don’t know where radio is right now,” he said. “I think I’d have a decent chance of syndicating a radio show, but I’m not even working on that. At the same time, it’s still exciting. At KGO, I only had to worry about the show. With this show, I’m wearing a hundred hats.”
He’s discovering everything costs money. Thompson said even the bumper music he used at KGO was something he didn’t have to worry about. Using someone’s music can be expensive. He got a reprieve from one of his current YouTube audience members.
“One of our listeners runs a production company which focuses on music,” Thompson said. “He wrote me an email and said I could use his music for free. He gave me total access to his library and never asked for anything in return. He told me he didn’t do it to get a mention on my show.”
Thompson got another call from tax attorney Steve Moskovitz, who was a longtime advertiser on KGO. Thompson said he didn’t know the man personally while he had his show at KGO.
“I got a call from him out of the blue,” Thompson said. “Steve talked with my producer John Daley about sponsoring us. I thought, ‘Holy shit. This guy is going to give us life. He approached us. He’s my sugar daddy.
Letting people know he’s out there is the biggest challenge.
“I appear on The Young Turks when I can and mention it. It’s not like the world suddenly flocks over.”
A native of Washington, D.C., Thompson graduated from Colgate University.
He also studied at Oxford. The college in Atlanta, not the British outfit.
During his career on radio, Thompson pioneered Neighborhood Weather, where he would read letters from viewers who’d requested a live remote broadcast from their neighborhood in the Bay Area. It was a popular and enduring franchise. Thompson was the on-air nightly weather anchor, science, and even occasional lifestyle reporter for KTTV‘s Fox 11 News.
Thompson called the recent midterm elections a ‘nice return to magnetic north.’
“People had been losing faith in America,” he said. “This is after they went so holy for a guy that was so clearly a clunky con man. People forget Trump cleaned up his act for just a couple of weeks. Then he hammered Hillary about the emails, and welcomed the James Comey information.”
Thompson said Trump’s popularity, combined with the turbulent Hilary and Comey duo, was enough of a perfect storm for Trump to carry the election.
Thompson said we had a disaffected and angry electorate. They hated liberals, they hated immigrants. Just fill in the blank with hate.
“I knew Trump was a moron, but that’s what America swallowed. Finding a way back to the American hate.”
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at email@example.com.