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S.F. Radio Station to 'Podcast' Programming


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, Liberace, Sinatra, Siegfried & Roy. Vegas turns 100, and Madeleine Brand gets the assignment. Why didn't they call my number?

Anyway, first, podcasting. It's breaking out of the pod and onto the radio. What began as an Internet phenomenon for amateurs is going pro. Two radio giants are now launching podcast-based programming. Here to explain how one can actually broadcast a podcast is DAY TO DAY technology contributor Xeni Jardin.

XENI JARDIN reporting:

Podcasting consists of just about anything: music, soundscapes from far-away places, or maybe you in your own voice, talking about your life. That's drawn internationally famous and infamous figures to the media. Pope Benedict and Paris Hilton are now podcasters. But because technology makes podcasts cheap and easy to produce, it's not just for the well-known and wealthy.

(Soundbite of podcasts)

Mr. CHARLIE GEORGE (Podcaster): Hi, I'm Charlie George, and we take a look at...

Unidentified Man #1: And by the way, I wanted to tell everybody we're on show number 10.

Unidentified Woman: Number 10.

Unidentified Man #1: Can you believe...

Unidentified Man #2: There's a big storm in the Northeast, big snowstorm. And there they were interviewing the fire...

Unidentified Man #3: Did you ever notice that you notice the sky gray the most when you're blue?

(Soundbite of music)

JARDIN: That's a sample of what you'll hear starting next week when AM radio station KYCY takes to the airwaves in San Francisco. It's operating by Infinity Broadcasting, a Viacom subsidiary that owns 183 commercial radio stations around the country. But this will be an industry first. All of KYCY's programming will be created by podcasters.

(Soundbite of podcast)

Mr. TONY RENO (Podcaster): Welcome to Dragon Radio 008. I'm Tony Reno, your host for the next 25 to 28 minutes, as always. I'm fresh out of the boat, out of the seawater. If I were to lick my arm, which I'll do right now, yes, I taste like salt. Dragon boat racing training.

JARDIN: And another podcasting first happens today when SIRIUS Satellite Radio launches a daily block of best-of podcast programming hosted and curated by former MTV veejay Adam Curry. He's the tech pioneer known to many as the Podfather.

Mr. ADAM CURRY (Host, SIRIUS Satellite Radio): I'm one of the people who actually, yeah, created podcasting, although I didn't come up with the word.

JARDIN: Curry created iPodder, the first software tool that lets listeners automatically download and listen to podcasts on their computers or portable players. His new radio show will air each weekday for four hours, featuring what he selects as the best of amateur audio programs. Curry believes the trend toward user-created programming could mean the beginning of a creative renaissance in radio.

Mr. CURRY: People were ready for this. Radio is pretty much owned by a couple of major players. And, you know, gone are the days of your local deejay. Here was an opportunity for anyone to create a radio show and distribute that worldwide, reasonably efficiently.

(Soundbite of podcast)

Unidentified Man #4: I just thought that was interesting because I never, ever hear anything about Nantucket.

JARDIN: If talk is cheap, podcasts are even cheaper. Infinity's pod station will not pay its contributors, but they do plan to run ads. The SIRIUS show will be available only to paid subscribers of that satellite radio service. Podcaster and San Jose Mercury News radio columnist Brad Kava says whether either venture will be a commercial success remains to be seen, but he hopes they will. He points out, for instance, conservative talk radio is now a hit even in liberal San Francisco.

Mr. BRAD KAVA (The San Jose Mercury News): So maybe on the other end, something avant-garde and free-form--maybe there's a market for that, too. I sure hope so.

JARDIN: Infinity Broadcasting CEO Joel Hollander agrees, and he dismisses critics who believe KYCY is destined to be a commercial flop.

Mr. JOEL HOLLANDER (CEO, Infinity Broadcasting): There's really no risk, 'cause we're taking an AM radio station that basically had no ratings and very little revenue and was not profitable. You know, we said, `Let's give it a shot.' I mean, the technology keeps on changing. You know, this might be a genre that may, you know, have some legs and create another revenue stream and programming.

JARDIN: Hollander says in the two weeks since Infinity started accepting submissions, they've received more than 400, and Hollander's confident of discovering audio gold.

Mr. HOLLANDER: I think that you're going to find that we might have some people that actually are pretty good at telling a story on the radio, whether it's, you know, music or sports or politics or whatever it might be. And you know, we might find lightning in a bottle. Maybe we're gonna find a radio star.

(Soundbite of podcast)

Unidentified Man #4: But you never hear about it. I mean, help me, people. You've never heard about Nantucket before. There it was.

JARDIN: For NPR News, I'm Xeni Jardin in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of podcasts)

Unidentified Man #4: You know, I've gone my whole life without hearing boo about Nantucket, and now all of a sudden it's in the news just 'cause I'm reading about it? Well, that's how that stuff works. It's called synchronicity.

JEFF (Podcaster): This is the weekend of April 23rd, 2005. I'm Jeff.

PAT (Podcaster): I'm Pat.

JEFF: And you're listening to "This and That With Jeff and Pat," thisandthatpodcast.com. Pat, you're back in the studio.

PAT: I'm back. I'm glad to be back, Jeff. I missed you.

JEFF: Oh, I missed you, too. I don't know if you list--I kind of got mixed reviews of last week's podcast doing it on my own, but...

CHADWICK: More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Xeni Jardin
Xeni Jardin can be heard on NPR’s Day to Day, offering technology insights for listeners nationwide. Jardin is also a contributing writer for Wired Magazine, as well as a tech culture journalist and co-editor of the collaborative weblog BoingBoing.net, the award-winning "Directory of Wonderful Things."