Just when I thought November would quietly putter along, it’s been quite a news month. Avoiding the obvious, in the local media market the financial woes and mismanagement of Portland Community Media, the community access cable studio and network caught my eye a few weeks ago. Over the years, community access television and PCM specifically has provided the deep technical resources and broadcast network to small-time producers of political, cultural, religious, educational, alternative, vile, artistic and just plain weird shows whose only common thread was a legal requirement of local cable franchises to support the communities they do business in by providing the resource to citizen producers without prejudice over content. They were the real free speech factories. Yes, I said were.
Several years ago I was looking for an outlet for my video production side projects and PCM was the leading option at the time until a co-worker showed me his first generation iPod and introduced me to the word podcast. “Why the hell would I produce anything for such a limited audience? Content for a very privileged few who carried around a little white music player? No thank you!” Well I soon got religion and started to consume podcasts that were the primer for what the medium, and the new social media were all about. I was hooked. Not only because the social web was a new hack on old broadcast ideas, but simply that the production-cost barriers to entry were minute. Anyone can podcast!
And so we did.
And he did too, and the world changed a little bit. Well, at least the world of Portland, Oregon beginning in 2009. Robert Wagner began his no-holds-barred Portland Sucks daily podcast as a labor of love, birthed as many shows had from the loins of his blog of the same name. And it was good. Instantly better with dependable co-host Sabrina Miller. Better than any censored morning radio show in the market that plays 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 so good that he attracted top notch radio talent like Cort and Fatboy to continue their popular show post KUFO. For three years my mornings were filled with live cascadia.fm programming, often streaming to my iPhone during my morning commute- just like listening to “real” radio that magically didn’t suck. To think that Robert was the technologist behind the station, its executive producer, webmaster and designer, CEO, audio engineer and the star talent is a little mind boggling because he somehow was able to do all those things exceedingly well and survive it. I can’t think of anyone in media that has done all that by themselves at his level of quality. No one.
But now it’s all come to an end. It’s a bittersweet end for sure, and even if I can continue to download new podcast episodes I’ll still miss the shows live stream every morning. I’ll miss the chatbox derailing, or often in the case of Cort and Fatboy guiding the stream of consciousness humor through to the coda of the show. What’s the good news, then? Cascadia is going out on a high note. Robert sold the internet network as an encore to the final bow of one of the coolest media experiments Portland has seen. He made money podcasting!
Like he said he would.
And in a way it proves a point that this scalability of current media models can and will thrive and you don’t need to justify your multi-million dollars of bad fiscal management on a poor economy with the excuse of serving the public interest. The public interest is being served quite well over here without you: http://www.livestream.com/occupyptown and the many fine programs on cascadia.fm have been serving us thoughtful entertainment for the last three years without donations or pledge drives. It all just sort of works. That is, if you’re smart, hard working and have confidence in what you are good at. That’s Robert’s formula.
So congratulations to you Robert Wagner and thanks for having made cascadia.fm a destination of quality programming. I’ll miss it, but I’m also happy knowing you were rewarded for all your hard work. You deserve it, man!
More with Robert about media: