Leykis' new show is much like his old one. He gives advice to mostly male callers – who refer to him as "dad" – on how to negotiate their world of conniving gold diggers, where nice guys finish last in the dating game. During his Thursday "Leykis 101" segments, the "professor" tells women "how men really think," and tells men how to get more women, without spending money on them. But he said part of his new autonomy is to explore other, non-relationship topics – whether mocking Mike Huckabee's radio show or riffing on the anachronism of the phone book or the barbarism of the Kelly Thomas beating in Fullerton.
"Frankly, I don't think the average listener wants me to talk about the same thing all of the time," he said on-air one day. "I refuse to be a cartoon character."
Simon said it's too soon to tell whether one method will eventually win out with listeners, streaming or podcasting. Leykis is hedging his bets and also ensuring income by offering premium subscriptions for $99.99 a year, which includes on-demand access to all previous shows.
He's also selling merchandise and advertising on the air and on the website and has a dedicated link toAmazon.com, through which he gets a cut of anything purchased. He owns outright the computers, sound boards and other scant equipment he needs and works with only three other people — executive producer Gary Zabransky, engineer Art Webb and screener Dean DeMilio, all of whom return from his KLSX show.
Leykis said he will have spent about $1 million to get the show up and running and expects to make a profit by the end of the first year — more than some of the nation's biggest broadcasters can say about their bottom lines. He doesn't have the expense of an FCC license, transmitters or antennas or any debt from buying new stations.
For example, Clear Channel, which operates the nation's largest radio chain with 850 stations, had a profit of $330 million on revenue of $1.3 billion in the first quarter of this year but is saddled with nearly $20 billion in debt from a leveraged buyout in 2008.
"Now you've got these companies that are so over-leveraged," Leykis said, "they have turned the radio business into a bunch of scrap metal and homogenized formats."
KLSX had been the longtime home of Howard Stern until the "King of All Media" bolted for Sirius satellite radio in January 2006. KLSX then struggled until February 2009, when parent company CBS Radio flipped the station to the Top 40 "Amp 97.1" format it still broadcasts, which led to an immediate ratings jump.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do next," Leykis said, and for the rest of 2009 he "went to veg" on his 20-acre ranch in northern Santa Barbara County. His CBS contract paid him for three more years, so "I always had the option of not coming back. I could have stopped."
"It became apparent that anyone with a laptop and a cheap microphone was doing a podcast," he said, but few had his experience or following. He saw a chance to circumvent the traditional business model and "create a radio station without a transmitter."
He spent the next six months studying digital content, streams and podcasts. "I wanted to be one of the first to claim some of that beachfront property."
He used an e-mail list of 10,000 culled from his former show and 35,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about his return.
"It feels fabulous. I haven't worked this hard in 20 years," he said, keeping his hand in every aspect of the do-it-yourself radio station — even standing in line at Burbank Water and Power with a deposit check, to get utilities turned on at the studio.
"I have no time to feel like a revolutionary," Leykis said, grinning. "Someone's got to go to Costco and get paper towels."
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