Sound Opinions goes to PRX with new syndication moves
Public Radio Exchange is picking up distribution of Sound Opinions, the weekly talk show for rock music lovers produced by Chicago’s WBEZ. The switch, announced in May, takes effect July 1.
The distribution deal ends the show’s three-year relationship with American Public Media and is the first to bring an ongoing national production into PRX’s program portfolio. The Internet-based program distributor has incubated and helped develop new public radio series such as State of the ReUnion, Snap Judgment and The Moth Radio Hour.
The radio talk show about rock and pop music has been around the block a few times. It lands on PRX with big plans to upgrade its web presence. A mobile-friendly version of the show’s website is in the works and its producers are collaborating with PRX’s software development team to create ways for listeners to share signature content from the show, according to Torey Malatia, WBEZ president.
Sound Opinions is built around straight-talking conversations between music critics Jim DeRogatis, who wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times until recently, and Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune. Both bring deep knowledge and reasoned opinions to weekly coverage of the music business, new releases and the back stories of artists, albums and entire genres of contemporary music. DeRogatis recently left newspapering to teach full time at Chicago’s Columbia College; he also blogs for Vocalo, WBEZ’s radio-web hybrid for younger listeners.
From its earliest incarnation, Sound Opinions was a home-grown Chicago broadcast. It aired for many years on commercial rock station WXRT-FM. In 2003, WTTW sought funding to produce it as a national public TV series. When the show’s run on WXRT ended in 2005, DeRogatis and Kot moved to WBEZ, and American Public Media began syndicating it nationally the next year.
The show is now carried by 90 pubradio licensees, according to WBEZ spokesperson Daniel Ash. Weekly episodes are also distributed as free podcasts, and its website’s Sound Opinions Message Board, “the SOMB,” overflows with comments by “SOMBies.”
The producers and APM split amicably, according to both sides. APM decided to focus its efforts on other programs in its portfolio, Judy McAlpine, senior v.p. of content, said in a statement. WBEZ’s Malatia wanted to expand the show’s multiplatform presence and found that PRX, which created a paid iPhone app for the WBEZ production This American Life, was best equipped for the job.
“Nobody was unhappy with anything—we were just going in different directions,” Malatia said. “Whatever the show is in the future—APM has had an enormous role in it because they helped get it established.”
Landing an established public radio series is a new feat for PRX, but one that it’s been building toward intentionally, according to Jake Shapiro, executive director. “This is an example of us radiating out in a couple of directions at once.” PRX operates its web platform as a wide-open marketplace for audio programming, but is adding a new tier of exclusive national offerings for public radio distribution. “We’ve started to grow and understand where we can have an impact,” he said. “We think the programs we’re working on help expand the sound and reach of public radio.”
It doesn’t hurt that music-based shows are among the most frequently licensed PRX programs for station broadcasts. “The opportunity in the music space is exploding right now for a taste-making, curated guide through the world of new music,” Shapiro said. “Jim and Greg have the talents of being knowledgeable, wide-open, curious and enthusiastic. They are fans themselves, in an infectious way.” Sound Opinions has potential to open up the show to music lovers who scour the Web for new sounds.
Look for popular segments to be broken out into shareable bits and pieces, shared via social media networks, distributed to station websites and easily referenced on mobile devices. Sound Opinions music news and album review segments are the sort of content that “echoes all over the Internet,” Malatia said. “We want to make it easier for people to get it and send it to a friend. The audience is so into that stuff.”
Web page posted June 23, 2010
Copyright 2010 by Current LLC