During the final part of a three-part Q & A with Patch, WNST radio station owner Nestor Aparicio chronicles how his love for the Baltimore Orioles—which he adored as a kid growing up in Dundalk—turned painful as he watched the organization slide into futility.
But the Orioles' decline also fueled Aparicio's passion, helping him take advantage of new technology, transitioning his AM radio station with a weak signal into an influential, Internet media power.
Aparicio also shared his thoughts on the Orioles' recent success versus their community service and how their franchise compares to the Baltimore Ravens.
Finally, Aparicio addressed a recently filed $800,000 defamation suit against WNST by female sports reporter, Jennifer Royle, of 105.7 The Fan radio station.
Part I of the interview from Monday is , and Part II from Wednesday is
Patch: Before turning to radio, what lessons did you learn from the relationships you had with former (Baltimore Sun sportswriter) John Steadman, and others you admired?
Aparacio: Well you learn a lot, you know. But a lot of those tenets that I learned are dead. To me, there is no replacing integrity and ethics and balance and the truth.
So much of our modern-day journalism is bought off. It's disgusting to me to see the corporate shakedowns and what it's doing to our culture and what it's done to the politics and what it does to greedy people. That goes from Wall Street, all the way to the White House, to what's going on with the Orioles and their inaction and the atrophy in Baltimore City.
That's been my issue with the Orioles. What's been going on with the Orioles the last 15 years, you know, I've talked about it to the point where people are tired of hearing it.
But it's still the truth. That's something that is near and dear to my heart, and it affects my business dramatically. But it doesn't just affect my business. It affects all of the businesses that I do business with. It affects every downtown sports bar, every downtown hotel, every downtown restaurant. You know, that's been a real problem for me.
There are corporate agendas within the local media entities. They're protecting the guilty parties that are profiting and then sharing that profit in the way of a media buy that's a muzzle. That's disgusting to me. It will also be disgusting to me as long as I live. That sort of thing, you know, it just will never sit well with me.
Patch: So what did you do after taking the buyout from The Baltimore Sun?
Aparacio: In 1998, I bought WNST for $1 million. A million sounds like a lot of money for a kid from Dundalk, but a million is the price of a nice house in 2006. ...WBAL would have been $50 million to buy in 1998. A regular person with a couple of investors couldn't buy WBAL in 1998.
But in 20011, we have far more daily web traffic and far more users from a larger community online than WBAL does.
Patch: How has technology helped WNST to move from an AM radio station with a weak signal to a web-based company that's been able to level the playing field and rival larger media entities?
Aparacio: This is part of my sales call, so this is pretty well rehearsed, so you're lucky. I did the "Free The Birds" thing with the Orioles and Peter Angelos in the summer of 2006.
And at that point, my radio station was rocking on all cylinders, making money, everything was good. But we've always been a zero-rated radio station per Arbitron. I mean, Abritron was always nothing but a bit of a scam for me.
Patch: How do you mean?
Aparacio: I mean, I've had 20 years of radio, but I've never had a listener, according to Arbitron.
In 2006, I had knee surgery after the World Cup, and I spent the summer in a wheelchair. And I kind of had a little bit of a mid-life crisis. I decided to be come a little bit of a civic activist in regard to the Orioles.
I mean, the Orioles' atrophy is not only emotionally painful for somebody who loves baseball and who loves the city. But I live in the city, and I live downtown. I'm sitting in my bedroom right now, and I'm looking out the window at Camden Yards from the 23rd floor. I mean, I see how empty the city is on summer nights.
And that began in 2003, '04 and '05. So by 2006, I decided to do this walkout. It was really only my way of doing a civic endeavor to say, "Look, man, you're killing the city." And I'm a business owner.
I mean, I would talk to other business owners and it's devastating what has happened down here on our summer nights. You know, I love the city, and I love the team, and I love baseball, and I love my company.
Patch: What was the goal of "Free The Birds"?
Aparacio: I wanted to shed light on something that I felt was the people at The Baltimore Sun, who were taking money from Peter Angelos and buying skyboxes, and the people at WBAL who were taking money from him and doing the rights.
And it was shedding light on the way that he [Angelos] likes to neuter the media. I felt that I was well within my rights as a fan, and as a resident and as a civic activist and as a taxpayer. I felt that I was within my rights as community advocate to say, "This is unacceptable." And I orchestrated a walkout. I did it for the right reasons.
I wrote a book, 19 chapters, about my love of baseball and why I was doing it. And, the days after I did it, I had 58,000 people come to my website. I had 41,000 people send me e-mails.
Patch: So that was the explosion?
Aparacio: Well, my website at that point had been more like a web page. It was Old World, it was a menu. It was, "Here is Nestor's picture, here's his bio, send him an e-mail." It wasn't content. It was more like a brochure.
It was a landing page for my radio station. I never really thought of using the website or the web page as a content model, and there weren't a lot of content models at that time—certainly not in radio.
When I got 58,000 people, it crashed my web page. When I had 41,000 e-mails, it crashed my e-mail account.
I realized that all of these tens of thousands of people were connected to me through a love of Baltimore sports, and that they were a part of my community. These were the people that Arbritron wasn't counting. I was never getting a fair head count to provide a return investment to sponsors.
Patch: How were you assisted by the success of the Baltimore Ravens?
Aparacio: That was the year the Ravens were really good—2006. They were 13-3 and made the playoffs that year. And during that period of time from September of the walkout, through January when the Ravens lost that awful game to the Indianapolis Colts that night at home, I started using the web page for more than I had previously used it for.
I started coupon, I started doing contests, I started doing offers, I started doing all sorts of different things. And it was amazing to me how much interaction there was. This was the time when videos started to work on the Internet and on WI-FI. You know, you went more from dial-up to broadband and DSL. People were getting faster connections.
People were starting to write blogs, and My Space was starting to come to life. It was at that point that I realized that I had built a company.
I'm a lifelong journalist, and this was a place I could take video audio, which we were already doing at a high level via the radio station, and the written word, which is what I do. I mean, when I die, on my tombstone, it's not going to say that I was a businessman, or a radio talk show host, it's going to say I'm a writer. I'm a writer. That's what I am.
So being able to write was not only cathartic, but it was therapeutic and fun for me, because it was my original craft. It also created the ability to give instant information. This was before there was a Twitter.
I started to see the possibilities of the web. So that's where the level playing field comes in. It's the distribution of my content in words, video, audio, contests, pictures, you know, whatever I want to put on the web site.
That was unavailable prior to 2005, 2006. I was awakened by how many people reached out to me and the interaction, where, at one point, I used to hate the Internet.
Aparacio: The Internet, prior to 2006, to me, was a place where people went on to The Baltimore Sun message boards and called me and my wife and my family names—nNames that I don't really want to go into. You can only imagine.
I thought of those message boards as a bit of a tawdry bathroom wall. I didn't really like the Internet. I thought that there was anonymity for cowards, and there still is. But I think a lot of that has been outed by Facebook now. But now, whenever someone goes on a message board and anonymously calls me a jerk, I mean, what do I care? You consider the source in those cases.
But in this day and age, there's a lot more accountability on Facebook and on Twitter. Because people are trying to build an audience rather than to just throw a name on a bathroom wall.
So that's the birth of the web for me, and the web happened, for me, after the walkout of Peter Angelos. Because I saw how many people were interacting and reaching out to me on the web. I saw how many people there were, and I started talking to people and learning about it. I just know that that's what helped me to level the playing field.
In the old days, you had to be within 37 miles of my radio station to get the signal during the day, and within eight miles at night. And the only content that I could distribute was my voice, and that was it. Now, I can distribute video, audio, blogs, live video, live streaming, contests, offers, coupons, discounts, anything that I want in real time and all into people's mobile devices. It's as revolutionary as Patch.com.
Patch: What are your thoughts on the Orioles' first 4-0 start since 1997, which has included a sellout crowd?
Aparacio: I've always loved the Orioles, and I've always loved Baltimore sports. I've said it a million times, that the reason that WNST exists is because I've loved baseball all of my life. So, the fact that the team has had prosperity in the first week, and it's really the first prosperity that they've had in 13 years, this is what I've fought for.
I've taken my fair share of criticism from these idiot fans who say that I'm not allowed to be a fan. That to me is ludicrous. These are the same people who have supported the tyranny of their awfulness.
I mean, the Orioles were awful for a reason, and that's because they're really, really poorly run, and they've been really, really poorly run for a long, long, long time. Now, they're being run better and they're having some success. I'm delighted with it, quite frankly, and I hope that it continues.
There's nothing that can help the city more, and there's nothing that's going to help the community more, and there's nothing that's going to help my business more than the baseball team winning. So I'm all for it.
But I'm still without a press pass. I had my press pass taken away five years ago, after supporting the baseball team and doing this for basically my entire life. Peter Angelos has done everything that he can personally do to me to put me out of business. That's unconscionable, and it's unforgivable.
But that doesn't mean that I don't want the team to win. The team needs to win. There are no losers when the team wins.
Patch: Why are they winning, and has that changed your views concerning their focus on community contributions?
Aparacio: I think that they've given incredible lip service in terms of serving the community. They're awful, awful stewards of the community in almost every respect when you consider that none of their players live here.
Their manager, Buck Showalter, talked about moving here and doesn't live here. He lied at his press conference saying that he was going to make his home here, and he did not and has not. Buck Showalter, the first day he got the job, they asked him if he was going to live here and he said that he would, and he has not done it. So he's lied, and I'm going to hold him accountable.
When they talk it, they had better walk it. In the case of turning it around, they've won four games. I've always known that the fans here are starving for them to win. Four games to start the season?
I mean, they won four games in a row a lot last season near the end of the year, but it didn't stir up everyone to go running to their televisions the way they will tonight. I mean, I think that it's wonderful. But I don't think that they're fixed by any stretch of the imagination. Their tyranny is far from fixed. I mean, I don't have a press pass.
When I get that press pass back, and when they stop charging walk-up fees to people who walk up with their kids to buy tickets—when that sort of behavior stops, then they will have fully healed themselves and fixed themselves.
But they've made great strides. They've done some things to be attractive. But from a business perspective, they're not a very attractive business to be in a partnership with, and that's for sure.
Patch: How are the Ravens by comparison?
Aparacio: I did a survey last year on my website, and I had almost 2,000 people participate. It was a very lengthy survey asking about their level of satisfaction with the Orioles and the Ravens.
I guess that there were about 1,900 people who responded. And their answers are the important answers for me, it wasn't about my opinion. I got 1,900 opinions.
I asked on a level of 1 to 10, your level of interest between the Ravens versus the Orioles, and the level of people who were at 10 was a 82 percent for the Ravens, and it was at 38 percent for the Orioles. When I asked about the level of satisfaction, it was like they were absolutely polar opposites. The level of
satisfaction was through the roof for the Ravens, and it was through the floor for the Orioles.
And I asked this last February, so that was even before the Orioles started out at 2-16 last year, and all of that. But it's not for me to say. The people will vote not just with their hearts this year.
But they will vote with their money. They'll vote with their money when they're buying Orioles swag, and when they're buying tickets, and when those green seats fill up with orange bodies.
That's when you'll know that the Orioles have re-awakened. My opinion doesn't count. That's only one opinion. It may be a louder opinion and come from a larger platform. More people may know my opinion than they know the regular fans' opinion. But it's very apparent when you see the empty seats, and you don't see cars painted orange in the city.
It's very apparent when you don't see Orioles stuff, because, quite frankly, the Orioles brand has become a brand that Baltimore fans don't associate with pride.
Patch: How about the Ravens?
Aparacio: The Ravens do everything in the community. They're almost ubiquitous. I mean, they've stolen the Orioles brand over the last 15 years, and they've done it the old-fashioned way. They've earned it at every level.
They've earned it from the ownership, to the way that the players behave in the community, to the way that they treat the media, to the way that they treat the fans, to the way that they treat the sponsors.
It's the way that they treat the PSL holders, to their level of commitment to excellence and their commitment to winning. All of that. There hasn't been an area in the last 15 years that the Ravens haven't beaten the Orioles. It's been a walkover, quite frankly."
Patch: What are your thoughts on Jennifer Royle's lawsuit?
Aparacio: WNST has done nothing wrong at all. It's a frivolous lawsuit, of which that's a societal problem. The fact that she could sue me while working for a multinational corporation, and attempt to bankrupt me and attempt to embarrass me is a disgrace to the judicial system and tort reform as much as it's about me or about Jenny Royle.
But we haven't done anything wrong, and I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I have nothing to be afraid of. I know that we've never said, spoken or written anything that validates the allegations that she has.