WBEZ’s Secret Radio Project (the voice of northwest Indiana ) now has a name: it’s “:Vocalo,” according to organizers “a combination of the words ‘vocal’ (for voices) and ‘zocalo’ (a Spanish word meaning public square).”
“Vocal” (for voices). Indeed. There’s nothing in the mailing about the colon, probably because the sentence would have to be amended to read “: (a marketing affectation meaning hep).”
A friend pointed out to me today that the concept behind the Secret Radio Be-In (“a creative free-for-all with no stuffy time slots,” says Chicago Public Radio’s Daniel Ash. “Some of the most brilliant scenes have been when there’s no programming and people are just there, coming together. . . . Take that vision and imagine a virtual space or a radio spectrum that brings that visual but the people are connecting”) has been tried before by CBS affiliate KYOU in San Francisco.
Most of the current KYOU lineup is good music with a few podcasts mixed in. Offerings include the laugh-tracked monstrosity “Jazz Diaries,” which promises to be “as if Garrison Keillor and Lord Buckley were hanging at a jazz lounge talking about women, music and martinis” but is more like Ken Nordine for people who listen to the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies; “Mac OS Ken,” the latest news from the Mac world; and “The Guy Bauer Half Hour,” a loud morning-drive-like show from New Jersey. There are also professional podcasts from Paste magazine, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ben Fong-Torres, Chrysler Music Legends, and PBS’s Rick Steves.
The station is probably a good indication of what the Secret Radio Project will sound like if it fails — lots of easily programmed content (music), with podcasts of wildly varying quality. I suspect that Vocalo has a better chance, public radio being more adventurous than big-media AM chains and catering to a different audience, but it’s worth remembering that creating audio content is hard because the technical barriers so high. Those interested in contributing to Vocalo should check out transom.org, a forum for amateur radio fans interested in breaking into NPR with invaluable advice and guides on the form.