The Facebook posting went up Thursday night. Since then, The Ron & Don Nation has been deliriously, ecstatically happy.
It’s been 18 weeks since listeners last heard from their heroes after their drive-time afternoon talk show on KIRO-FM was abruptly canceled.
Staff of “The Ron & Don Show” was notified 11 minutes after their final show ended Jan. 10. Bye-bye, no explanation, no comment, leaving listeners baffled.
But now they’re back.
Says the announcement on their Facebook page. “Cancelled? As the radio tower dies … THE RON and DON NATION … WE RISE! You can’t cancel cause radio! What happened at KIRO? Episode #1. Monday May 27th. — We are BACK! — ron and don.”
What it means, says Don O’Neill, who for 13 years had the afternoon show on KIRO-FM with longtime partner Ron Upshaw, is that they’ll start doing a weekly one-hour podcast at RonAndDonRadio.com. They’ve worked together at various stations for two and a half decades.
“We’ll find out if people are listening to it. We can track it. If people want more, we can do more of it, five days a week,” he says.
Right off the bat, the two radio personalities have tied the podcast to another new venture. They’ve recently both earned their real-estate broker’s license, and so with the podcast you’ll also have ronanddonbrokers.com with Windermere Real Estate.
Says Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade publication for the industry, “What Ron and Don are doing makes sense. Podcasting is a great way for radio broadcasters with a following — and they have a huge one — to reach their fans efficiently and independently. As far as the real estate goes, talk show hosts are among the greatest sales people in the world. If you sell on the air, there’s nothing wrong with selling off the air and putting years of goodwill and community credibility to work for you and the economy. Obviously, they are living in the real world. I applaud their grit.”
Their podcast will be on a platform called Anchor, which states that it is free to use for those creating the content. It makes its money by taking a 30% cut of sponsorships activated through Anchor. The more people who play each podcast episode, the more money everybody makes.
O’Neill says he and Upshaw will be talking about their demise at KIRO-FM on their first podcast.
New KIRO-FM manager, Ryan Maguire, director of news and programming, who made the decision to not renew Ron and Don’s contracts, on Friday emailed this response about the latest developments: “We have no comment on Ron and Don.”
After being interviewed, O’Neill amplified his feelings about their firing and the aftermath in an email:
“At the time it can be devastating, especially as public people. I didn’t get out of bed for two weeks. That’s not hyperbole. We were at the top of our game, and our ratings across the station had never been better. But our contract was up, we were not renewed, and new managers had been put in place. We don’t own the tower, so we have no say. That’s fair. Big companies like the one we worked for have every right to do as they please. It’s their business. We aren’t special.
“A few weeks after our contract was up, B.J. Shea from KISW (where he’s morning disc jockey) told me at lunch one day, ‘Don, you can look at this two ways. This life changing event either happened to you, or it happened for you.’ “
O’Neill said he and Upshaw heard from more than 51,000 listeners after their show ended asking the pair to return to the airwaves.
O’Neill says after their contracts were not renewed the two personalities were approached by both local and out-of-town radio stations. One station was in Boston, he says.
“When we were younger, we would move,” he says. Not now.
And they were offered radio jobs in this area, but in a different format, or perhaps replacing someone they knew, he says.
“It’s kind of a brotherhood and sisterhood. There’s not a lot of jobs left out there,” says O’Neill. “We’re not interested in replacing a colleague out there, something that happened to us.”
On the two separate Facebook pages for O’Neill and Upshaw, by midafternoon Friday, news of the podcast had accumulated 3,000 thumbs up, likes and astonished faces, over 750 comments and over 400 shares. The comments were mostly from women, a core audience for them.
Caity from Seattle: “TOTALLY JUST LIFTED SOME BRICKS FROM MY HEART. CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You two are SO BELOVED. I’ve been in Ron and Don mourning since January.”
Susan from Ollala: “Omg!!!! I think I will cry!!!”
Kim from Snoqualmie: “Filling that real estate broker/podcaster niche! whatever it takes!!!”