In fall 2012, Tavis Smiley saw a decline in station carriage for his public radio program Smiley & West, including a high-profile drop from Chicago's WBEZ. Now Smiley has found a new platform: online radio.
Internet radio network BlogTalkRadio, which bills itself as a "social radio network" that allows anyone to start their own program, announced Monday that Smiley will begin anchoring a live daily call-in show, Tavis Talks, and will also produce additional programs through his Tavis Smiley Network, his own network within BlogTalkRadio. Smiley is the first BlogTalkRadio contributor who will be paid, according to the New York Times. He will also split ad revenue generated through his shows with BlogTalkRadio.
BlogTalkRadio attracts more than 18 million unique listeners per month, according to its own figures. This is the first time the network is partnering with an established media personality; most of its content is user-generated. Public Radio International will continue to distribute Smiley & West and its companion program The Tavis Smiley Show to pubradio stations.
"BlogTalkRadio gives me the ability to engage with fellow citizens in a way I haven’t been able to since 2001," Smiley said in the press release announcing the deal. In 2001, cable network BET ended its contract with Smiley, who was hosting BET Tonight at the time.