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Radio AM to FM: May 6, 2005

Podcasting Takes Over the World ...

One of the most amazing inventions ever is the portable MP3 player. Apple's hard drive-based iPod and others like it ushered in a music revolution unlike anything before: for the first time someone could literally carry their entire music collection with them, and listen to it while working out, jogging or just relaxing.

Of course you still have to get the music into the player. And while people were doing that, they discovered that they could do something else: download entire programs from the internet into their iPod for later listening, rather than being forced to hear the program through the computer. The process is called podcasting, a combination of iPod and broadcasting that has been building in popularity since it debuted last Summer.

Now things have come full circle. The product that threatened to make traditional broadcast radio a thing of the past is beginning to be embraced by the same stations it was going to replace.

KYCY/San Francisco is among the first stations in the US -- and the very first owned by a major broadcast group -- to fully embrace the idea. Beginning May 16, the station will dump its low-rated syndicated talk format and replace it with podcasts. The very same podcasts that you can download yourself right now: amateur audio programs posted on the web by their creators.

While observers are split on whether this will be a success or not, it is in some ways a bold experiment for owner Infinity Broadcasting, which lately is one of the worst offenders in pushing away younger listeners, the future of radio.

Or is it so bold? KYCY didn't even rate in the last Arbitron book, so in actuality they had nothing to lose. Podcasting gives them an even cheaper format than syndicated talk ... and that's usually free.

In any event, KYCY is not alone. Satellite broadcaster Sirius announced a podcasting channel hosted by Adam Curry to debut May 13th.

Is it a good idea for radio? I don't know. I suppose it can give exposure to new artists and talent, but that's what radio used to do before the likes of Infinity got involved and screwed everything up. And they did it with live, local personalities that became as important to listeners as the music they played. My gut instinct is that today's radio owners are just too stupid to creatively program a station, and that podcasts and formats like Jack-FM are the radio equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I'll withhold full judgment until later in the month.

This Just In

Westwood One is joining in on the Radio iPod bandwagon with a syndicated version of Jack-FM called (ta da!) Sam.

Available to affiliates that want to run it as of June 6th, the format will feature songs that "listeners 25-54 years old still want to hear but they're not sick and tired of," according to a letter to potential affiliates that landed in the hands of editors from industry newspaper Radio and Records.

A sample hour included the songs "Beds are Burning " from Midnight Oil (OK), "The Tide is High" from Blondie (ugh!), "Clocks" from Coldplay (good), "Sunglasses at Night" from Corey Hart (fire whoever plays that one), "When Doves Cry" from Prince (burnt), and "Sara" from Fleetwood Mac (doh!).

Westward One better go back to the drawing board.


Can't believe I forgot this last week: April 27th marked the 40th anniversary of the debut ("Sneak Preview") of "Boss Radio" KHJ. The station that changed the landscape of top-40 radio in Los Angeles for years to come. Perhaps, someday, Liberman Broadcasting -- current owner of KHJ -- will bring back the magic of the Boss format, and do top-40 radio the way it was meant to be done. I bet it would be a winner.


Copyright © 2005 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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