My road to becoming a podcast listener starts with radio. It was in the mid to late aughts when I was brought low by the collapse of CBS Radio/Clear Channel’s “Free FM” movement. The move to turn the two big radio stations in the two nearest cities into talk stations was one I had initially been against but over the year or so this lasted I had really come to appreciate the Free FM stations (94.1 WYSP in Philly and 92.3 WXRK in New York) populated with some often talented and frequently entertaining programing from the shock-jock stylings of the Kidd Chris Show, to the broader humor of the Penn Jillette’s Penn Radio, to the anger infused rantings of Nick Dipalo, and the return of Opie and Anthony to terrestrial radio the Free FM years, and the months following were a veritable gold mine of some creative, occasionally offensive, radio. It all ended of course. By 2007 92.3 WXRK (aka WFNY aka KROCK) had reverted to their original formats. In 2008 94.1 WYSP returned to its classic rock format and by 2009 Opie and Anthony were gone as 92.3 abandoned rock and talk to switch its format to Alternative as Now FM.
I haven’t really listened to radio since. While I was never a pest I had absolutely no desire to listen to Danny Bonaduce. Thankfully, it was about this time (maybe a little earlier) that I stumbled across SModcast and the world of podcasts. If you’ve been living under a rock it is suffice to say that podcasts are sort of like radio shows without the bullshit and typically free. SModcast is the podcast of writer/director Kevin Smith and his frequent collaborator and friend Scott Mosier. As a guy who grew up and still lives in New Jersey and who bonded with friends over all of Smith’s films (except Jersey Girl) stumbling upon SModcast was a major win.
Over the last several years SModcast has grown into a rather large collection of podcasts. In fact, it has grown so much that in May of this year Smith launched SModcast Internet Radio, or SIR, a 24/7 stream of live and archived content. Monday through Friday Smith hosts a show with his wife (Plus One Per Diem) followed by a show with Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob Get Jobs). Those two shows alone generate roughly 5 hours of content a day, but throw in the other podcasts hosted on SIR and you have a veritable mountain of aural content available for your listening pleasure.
All of it uncensored.
All of it unburdened by regulations.
All of it absolutely 100% free.
Who the hell wants to listen to the radio?
The strange brew that brought about this strange network of similarly humored yet surprisingly diverse individuals really hammers home the power of 21st century social networking. In a little more than a year Smith and the SModcast crew opened up a live theater to host podcasts, Smodcastle, and were successful enough that the operation outgrew its home and moved to a new location, The Jon Lovitz Podcast Theater (aka the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club) (for more details on SModcastle listen to SModcast #176). Through a combination of creative energy, excessive tweeting, and a tremendous enthusiasm Smith has reinvented himself as he heads into his self-proclaimed final years as a director and we’re the ones reaping all the benefits. As the media goes batshit criticizing how Smith is handling his own creative child (Red State) the emergence of SIR has been soundly ignored. As an information professional the emergence of SIR is a fascinating confluence of the right level technology at the right time with the right people. As Smith himself said in a recent podcast, “We’re in the 21st Century bitch!”