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(Re)making Poodle Radio, Part Three

Listener Participation Solicited


Monday, May 10, 2010

We closed the previous chapter of Poodle Radio’s history-in-the-making on a cliffhanger: Would the show, fresh out of its training stint at KJUC-AM, graduate to FM? If you regularly visit Independent.com, and especially its streaming Poodle Radio archive, it’s been spoiled; you already know the program successfully hit the FM schedule early last month. But the more interesting question isn’t whether we’d get the program there. It’s about what we’ll do with the awesome power of KCSB’s fully-equipped FM studios.

Okay, perhaps “awesome power” is something of an overstatement. But as I reportedfour months ago in this column, the station has enough neat stuff bolted onto its racks, plugged into its mixing boards, and installed on its computers that the creative possibilities are both practically endless and boldly explored with unfortunate rarity. As a six-year KCSB veteran working with this opportunity to bridge two respected Santa Barbara media outlets, I can’t help but experiment.

From my own perspective, the move’s many benefits mostly have to do with greater flexibility. The old sans-internet KJUC studio required most of what wasn’t being spoken into the microphones to be either played from a CD or a vinyl album, and while it would be technically possible to burn all the necessary material onto CDs each week, cumbersomeis not, I think, too strong a word to describe this procedure. (And as far as putting it all on vinyl albums instead, sure, that would carry a certain retro appeal, but, search as I might, I couldn’t find a hydraulic record press anywhere in KCSB’s offices.) The FM gear, by contrast, allows the airing of audio from the telephone, the internet, iPods—almost anything that makes sounds and can be plugged into a mixer or at least held up to a mic. News, even its audible aspect alone, comes in many different forms, and I’m grateful to now be able to seize them all and give them the Poodle treatment.

From the guests’ perspective, the best part of Poodle Radio’s AM-to-FM migration is an increase in comfort: The FM studio has slightly nicer chairs and, better yet, the control room itself has a couch. But that doesn’t translate to a whole lot of difference in the way of listening experience. What does is the ability to bring multiple visitors onto the air at once. We’ve thus far heard this capacity on display, to name two examples, when Indy senior editor Matt Kettman and winemaker Matt Brady stopped by to talk about the Santa Barbara County Vintner’s Festival, and when the food editor, George Yatchisin, momentarily joined former associate arts editor Elizabeth Schwyzer to discuss Larry Keigwin and his dance company’s “Bolero Santa Barbara”. More three- and four-way conversations are planned, and what with the varieties of political intrigue and excitement going on around here, the temptation to stage on-air debates grows by the day. Does the world need another Crossfire?

The most important perspective is, needless to say, the listener’s. While you’ve been able to stream Poodle Radio after the fact here on Independent.com, ever since its October 2008 KJUC debut, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve been able to listen live. Given how central “liveness” is to the show’s design—with its attendant dynamism, spontaneity, hard-to-pin-down humanness, listener participation, and so on, and so forth—I would submit that you’ve been missing out on a vital dimension of the listening experience. The KJUC signal is legendarily difficult to receive properly, but now that the program airs on KCSB, it could hardly be easier to tune in. If you’re driving your car or otherwise near a radio in the 805, simply turn the dial to 91.9 FM every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. If you’re not near a radio or happen to find yourself in some non-Santa Barbara corner of the Earth, fire up the KCSB web stream at KCSB.org. (As a KCSB listener as well as a KCSB programmer, I should divulge my own dark little secret: I listen on the stream even when I’ve got a radio handy. Why subject yourself to the vagaries of winds, buildings, and the ionosphere when you can tap into an unbroken digital flow?) I’ve also heard positive reactions from those truly on-the-go listeners who tune in with their net-equipped mobile devices of choice.

My goal with live listenability isn’t just to deliver the slightly more exciting experience to you of hearing me and my guests yammer at the very same moment we’re actually yammering. That’s certainly part of it, but my more interesting vision is to cultivate a culture of listener participation. While it’s a pleasure being lent your Poodle Radio-listening ears, it would be even better to get your voices in on the game as well. KCSB’s programs run across the spectrum where this is concerned: Some are one-way transmissions to their audience, and others are two-way interactions with them. We’d like to grow into the latter.

Next time, whether you get the show through your car stereo, your home hi-fi, your computer, or some sort of earpiece attached to your phone, feel free to launch all your observations, inquiries, pertinent points, or suggestions for on-air discussion our way via either the KCSB studio line at 893-2424, or my own e-mail address, colin@independent.com. You can plan to hear from me every Tuesday, and I’ll plan to hear from you.

Poodle Radio airs every Tuesday from 8-9 a.m. on KCSB-FM, 91.9 in Santa Barbara and streaming on KCSB.org. Please send questions, comments, or feedback of any kind to colin@independent.com.

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