September 15th, 2009

pdx.fm: You got your podcasting in my radio schedule, you got your radio schedule in my podcasting


pdx.fm: You got your podcasting in my radio schedule, you got your radio schedule in my podcasting

I don’t think I’ll be causing any of you to burst into any awe inspired epiphanic fits when I say “radio is broken.” I mean, let’s face it. The format is outdated. And the idea of force feeding folks advertisements and only providing content on the broadcaster’s schedule? It smacks of ludditism. At best.

That’s why new models are emerging. Satellite radio for one. Podcasting for another.

But what if you could get the best of both worlds? What if you could get your regularly scheduled radio program and could still listen to shows on demand whenever you wanted? And what if you could still get all of that for free? Now, you can. Introducing pdx.fm.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the launch of pdx.fm since I saw the first rumblings of it earlier this year.

I think where they’re going with this idea—and by “they” I mean Robert Wagner of the Portland Sucks podcast—is downright brilliant. What’s more, I think it’s the kind of status quo smashing that the Web does so well. And the format—a Reese’s-peanut-butter-cup-esque “you got your podcasting in my radio schedule mix”—creates an interesting—and likely far more compelling—alternative to the current radio format.

The HBO analogy

If this model looks familiar, it is. It’s not TV. It’s HBO. Or at least an audio version of it. Only free. Thanks to the Internet.

Okay. There are probably better analogies. But I’m going to use HBO. Because I’ve been sitting in a hotel room trying to write this post. And watching HBO. Even though I’ve got it at home. Well actually, now I’m on a plane. Still writing though.

Um. I’m sorry where was I. Oh… so let me try to convince you that HBO was a good choice for the pdx.fm analogy. Besides the fact that I was sitting in front of it.

First, HBO broke the mold of series television by sidestepping FCC regulations. This gave them the ability to experiment. To produce content that traditional television couldn’t. Not only that, but they chose to broadcast that content at the exact same time—prime time—as the shows that were hamstrung by the very regulations that HBO avoided.

If Portland Sucks is any indication, pdx.fm will be taking advantage of this sidestepping, as well. And if you’ve ever listened to Portland Sucks, you’ve likely already heard Robert play this card.

“We’re not on the radio,” he’ll say. “Those rules don’t apply to us.”

Back to HBO. The second way HBO took advantage of  what was already borked? Making their scheduled regulation sidestepping content available on a schedule and on demand—so that they were available whenever people wanted to see them. They embraced the TiVo generation by releasing their series as DVD—where anyone could get the content whether they subscribed to HBO or not. And then by taking advantage of on-demand delivery from cable providers. Where HBO subscribers could call up the content whenever they wanted.

Again, same with pdx.fm. Listen live or listen to the podcast when you get time. Yep. Just like our beloved Strange Love Live—but with a whole bunch more shows. It’s a bunch of podcasts folks. You just happen to get to listen to them recording it. On a schedule.

Now both of those little HBO-like pdx.fm maneuvers are fairly interesting. But they’re nothing without the third—and most important—component: content.

Content, as they say, is key. And HBO took the opportunity to begin producing excruciatingly good content. Content that made the mind-numbing network fodder look like, well, mind-numbing network fodder. They created content about which people talked.

Again, pdx.fm is taking a similar path. They’re creating and pursuing content that is at least as good as what is available on the airwaves. And most of the time, it’s way way better than what you’ll find by spinning the dial.

In fact, that’s why Portland Sucks, for example, gets the kinds of comments it does. Those of the “you can’t say that on the radio” variety. Because the content is so good and so entertaining that people forget they’re not listening to radio. The production quality—coupled with the content—hearkens to a golden age of radio. Only with a lot more expletives.

Unrestricted compelling content whenever I want it? Another choice when I don’t want to listen to the same old, same old? Sign me up.

And that’s where pdx.fm aims to take radio. Or whatever we’re going to call it. As I’ve said before, it’s not really radio. But radio is about the only analogous bucket into which we can wedge it.

pdx.fm’s current line up

Okay, okay. I hear you. Quit the gushing and tell us the pdx.fm line up, jerky.

Fine. Here you go. The six day schedule currently runs from 8 AM until 5 PM most days. With Friday running up until 10 PM but no later—so folks can change channels to catch Strange Love Live.

Portland Sucks and the Meat Show hold the morning drive-time slots, five days a week. Portland Sucks will also rerun at 4 PM. In between, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to popular podcasts like Hike Yeah, iPhoneSlutz, and Man Time. They’ve even got a “sports talk” vibe with the 2 PM slot.

But that’s just the beginning. There’s more in planning. Like what? Like the list of shows that was posted to Oregon Media Central.

And if the pdx.fm bar that was running last week is any indication, they’ll likely be filling the times between the talk with music.

And that sounds like a winner.

A solution to a problem with an existing audience

I’ve got to say, this is one of the most interesting entrepreneurial pursuits I’ve seen in quite awhile. And it’s not because of the technology or the social aspects or the user experience. It’s not because of all the usual Portland-y things that make me giddy. And it’s not because they’ve created some insanely cutting edge product that won’t be understood—or accepted—for years.

It’s because there is something that is broken. And it’s something that everyone understands. And it’s not just a Portland problem. And pdx.fm is trying to fix it.

You see, pdx.fm is a solution to a problem with an audience. And it’s reinventing a business that already has a business model.

It’s so simple—and so forehead smackingly obvious—it just might work. And I, for one, can’t wait to see where this goes.

To start listening, visit pdx.fm.

(Hat tip to Dr. Normal, who has been filling my mind with all sorts of crazy ideas about pdx.fm.)

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7 Responses to “pdx.fm: You got your podcasting in my radio schedule, you got your radio schedule in my podcasting”

  1. Cory Huff says:

    I wonder when the family friendly crowd is going to get hip to the jive and start creating content? It’s awesome that there’s so much great content being produced by all of these talented people, but many of my older, more conservative friends grouse just as much about the lack of content as well; they just don’t care for expletive laden shows.

    What’s a good Mormon to do?

  2. Sabrina says:

    First of all, thank you Rick for this wonderful post about what we’re doing – we all really appreciated it!

    Cory, I agree! We’re working with some show hosts here to deliver just that. While we’re still small and have to put everything on the same ‘channel’ for now, our goal for winter and spring of next year is to be running two distinctly different streams simultaneously, one that caters directly to families and people who don’t necessarily like the ‘R-Rated’ shows. For now we have to keep them together for a few reasons but it is in the works. Our Parenting Unplugged show is one such show, it just hasn’t been scheduled in yet on the pdx.fm site but we’ve been working with them on this for months now in hopes of creating just what you’re talking about.

  3. [...] What will that entail? Well, my guess is that Robert has recruited talent from the Seattle area to complement the talent he’s recruited from the Portland area. And that the combined result will be something that appeals to the entire western seaboard and beyond. And that entity will continue to cause terrestrial radio a whole ton of heartburn. [...]

  4. [...] the tech and startup scene purely because he loves doing so – I know this firsthand because he has featured my own endeavors on multiple occasions without my ever having asked him to do [...]

  5. [...] no secret that I thought pdx.fm/Cascadia.fm had the potential to become a bigger deal in podcasting than Adam Curry’s h…. And no small part of that confidence was inspired by my faith in Robert’s business [...]

  6. [...] no secret that I thought pdx.fm/Cascadia.fm had the potential to become a bigger deal in podcasting than Adam Curry’s h…. And no small part of that confidence was inspired by my faith in Robert’s business [...]

  7. [...] too many mattress ads and payola music. It turned out that he was so good at this podcast thing, he launched his own live streaming internet radio podcast network with multiple daily and weekly shows as pdx.fm and later rebranded as cascadia.fm. The network was [...]


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