Garage Logic’s Second Wind
Joe Soucheray at the Garage Logic podcast studio. Courtesy of Hubbard Broadcasting

Garage Logic’s Second Wind

Kicked off radio, Joe Soucheray’s franchise booms in digital.

When Joe Soucheray and team got the word, in summer 2018, that Hubbard Broadcasting was downgrading the mostly sports AM 1500 frequency to syndicated ESPN content in a cost-cutting move, he assumed his long run on Twin Cities radio was at an end. (It was.) Garage Logic was a fitting standard bearer on what was once a news/talk station, but since KSTP-AM went all-sports in 2010, the show increasingly felt out of place. Still, it had been a good 25-year run, leaving Soucheray better known as a radio pundit than a St. Paul newspaper columnist.

“I assumed we were done,” he recalls.

“I thought, OK, I have a three-year-old and a six-year-old,” says producer Chris Reuvers. “Now what?”

Hubbard’s Minnesota market manager Dan Seeman remembers suggesting a podcast to Soucheray. Soucheray remembers suggesting it to Seeman. Either way, Seeman says, “We thought it could be big because he had loyal advertisers, a brand with recognition, and Hubbard already had great traction with on-demand listening,” through its expansive podcast network.

“I knew the end of radio was coming,” Soucheray recalls. “The ratings systems are terribly unkind to talk radio. I knew we had more listeners than they said. I’d be in Germany and random people would come up to me and say, ‘Hail, flashlight king’… Podcasting has corroborated those instincts.”

This winter the Garage Logic Podcast broadcast its 1,000th show, a live event at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. The podcast has more listeners and generates more revenue for Hubbard than did the afternoon radio show of five years ago, even though it no longer airs live and is roughly half as long (90 minutes) as the old show.

It currently delivers 28,000+ downloads per episode, to 245,000 unique devices per month. It’s Hubbard’s most listened to local podcast.

Soucheray doesn’t buy that the show has exploded in reach. “Most of the [podcast] audience was listening on radio, I think,” he says. He does acknowledge teaching a lot of the show’s older audience how to access it. “I’ve told 15,000 people, probably, gimme your phone,” and set it up to follow GL.

The Garage Logic gang

After six months podcasting, the numbers were so favorable that Hubbard built Garage Logic a standalone studio at its Midway broadcast complex. Compensation is up and spinoff podcasts from the show’s cast of characters are blossoming. At press time, Sooch was kicking around the idea of starting a nightly “10 p.m. newscast” to cut through the slanted nature of today’s news environment. A membership option for die-hards, the “Town Council,” is marketed at $10/month and allows subscribers to watch/hear the show live as it is taped for download, plus other perks.

“I’ve grown to love the format,” says Soucheray. “There’s no clock [meaning no forced ad breaks during compelling segments], we go until we’re done. There’s so much more control.”

For Hubbard, it was an opportunity to experiment with creating content from radio shows that had run their broadcast course. The experience informed its decision to become the new home of radio’s Tom Barnard, who could not find a broadcast home after his KQRS contract ended.

“It’s hard to build brands in this environment,” says Seeman. “There’s so much noise out there.” He says Garage Logic’s digital growth has been beyond Hubbard’s expectations and all the data podcasts provide—far more than radio—tells management that listeners are highly engaged, rather than coming and going when in the car, which tends to define the radio audience. “Most downloaders listen beginning to end,” Seeman says.

Ad sales are limited by the podcast’s shorter duration and the audience’s expectation of fewer interruptions, but nonetheless, Garage Logic is a bigger economic engine than in 2018.

Soucheray has been framed in lefty media circles as a conservative firebrand, though that framing lacks nuance and does not account for his strong dissent in the Trump era. Garage Logic is mostly a paean to traditionalism and moderation of a type now out of fashion. “I call the show a respite of pragmatism,” he says, admitting he’s “never had less hope for common sense,” because so much political discussion is “detached from reality…. CNN exists to convince you the world is a dreadful, dreadful place. We push back against that.

“Everything we’ve ever done we built on our own,” Soucheray adds. Though he is quick to credit Hubbard, even though the push they gave him in 2018 could have just as easily ended Garage Logic’s storied run. Instead he is weeks from his 30th anniversary with the broadcaster. “We’ve never been told what we can or cannot say, not once,” he says. “I know that’s rare in this business.”