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The Download on Podcasts: From cancellation to podcast

The Download on Podcasts is a weekly feature sponsored by PodcastOne.


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Many old guard radio shows are leaving the public airwaves these days:

  • A Prairie Home Companion will produce its final show next month.
  • Diane Rehm, widely revered syndicated host of The Diane Rehm Show, announced her retirement.
  • Car Talk faced a continuation crisis two years ago when a co-host died, and remains on the air sounding like new shows, thanks to the production wizardry of executive producer Doug Berman. (So, not off the air, but representing a generational turning point nonetheless.)

Then there is Michael Feldman, creator and host of Whad’ya Know, a variety-quiz show that has been on the air for over 30 years. Unlike the others mentioned above, Whad’ya Know was abruptly canceled by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Feldman is clearly unhappy about the situation, and is attempting a podcast comeback partially funded by Kickstarter. A modest support goal of $10,000 has been nearly doubled with a week remaining.

Feldman seems uneasy about the migration — both baffled and hurt. Cancellation does hurt, without question. He says this about podcasting:

“I don’t totally understand how this is possible since I only learned about podcasts last Tuesday. Apparently every body listens to them all the time. Kind of scary, really.”

The plan is to keep it a live show, including call-ins, then archive it as a video podcast. All that will clearly cost more than the Kickstart will provide, and Feldman says he will sell local sponsorships. The biggest adjustment from being part of a public radio group to being independent is owning the entire business. That’s similar to the adjustment of a musician who leaves a label contract and assumes all the marketing and distribution — in other words, the risk.

Michael Feldman is joining many thousands of podcasters facing the same essential challenge, except that Whad’ya Know is an established brand with a potentially retainable audience. The show bears some resemblance to success stories in production now — think the Dinner Party Download.

At the very least, notwithstanding how uneasy Michael Feldman might be with his transition from broadcast to on-demand, there is a more hopeful path forward now than there was 10 years ago.

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Brad Hill

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