‘The Pub’ #44: Public media travel guru Rick Steves, live in Atlanta

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Steves says following his passion has been key to sustaining his business. (Photo: Ed Shenkman/American Public Television)

Steves says following his passion has been key to sustaining his business. (Photo: Ed Shenkman/American Public Television)

The reigning king of public media travel shows, Rick Steves, charges stations nothing to air his television and radio programs. He also posts all of his episodes online, for free.

Steves has a passion for helping people travel and for pushing Americans out of their bubble, and if he can reach more people without charging, that’s what he’ll do, he told me on The Pub.

“But I’ve always made plenty of money because . . . with that sort of energy, people want to give you money, I guess!” Steves said. He actually makes his living primarily off of his travel guidebooks, for which his shows build his personal brand.

In our live show at the American Public Television Fall Marketplace in Atlanta, I talked to Steves about his business model (and why he thinks it couldn’t be replicated), whether he feels pressure to adopt a more “gonzo” style of presenting á la Vice, his advocacy for marijuana legalization and more.

Also on the show:

  • Doc Martin actor Ian McNeice and Celeste Headlee, host of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s On Second Thought, compete in a special BBC-themed edition of our game in which contestants must identify parodies or other appearances of public media in the broader culture.
  • I talk about British public television’s charming tradition of using live continuity announcers, and Channel 4’s daring 2013 experiment with temporarily employing announcers who have communication disabilities. If American audiences can’t handle a little vocal fry, imagine how they would react to Channel 4’s Jess Thom.
  • I also talk about the battle between Georgia Public Broadcasting and Public Broadcasting Atlanta for radio news-talk dominance, and whether head-to-head competition is a good thing for local public media organizations.

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at adam@current.org or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to adam@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.

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