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Silent Bob — On the Radio

Brett Moss is gear & technology editor.

So how does a guy known to many as “Silent Bob” get a radio gig? Well, it’s complicated yet simple.

Silent Bob is the creation of comic, actor, writer, director, producer Kevin Smith. The ever-loquacious Smith is nothing if not creative (and almost omnipresent). He’s inked a deal with Stitcher Radio, an Internet radio aggregator, to make Stitcher’s SmartRadio app (Apple, Android, BlackBerry and Palm smartphones) the “official mobile partner” of Smith’s new venture SModcast Internet Radio (S.I.R.). That’s an Internet radio-powered version of Smith’s podcast warehouse website, SModcast.

Smith and companions have been quite fruitful in creating podcasts — most with the same juvenile, drug-addled/sex-crazed low-rent (and low-cost) slacker humor that made Smith millions and famous. Rather than have them just lay there, Smith has decided to become active and “air” the podcasts. And just in case anyone claims that he’s doing nothing but running prerecorded material, Smith and friends are planning on generating live content and fresh podcasts — seemingly at a prodigious rate. Stitcher’s been making them available for some time to its audience.

For S.I.R. Smith and (wife) Jennifer Schwalbach will do “SMornings With Kev and Jen” and then Smith will don his cap and trench coat for “Jay and Silent Bob Get Jobs” — in tandem with Jason “Jay” Mewes. There’s a promise of “more” than four hours a day of new programming. Stitcher is promoting a contest to win a trip to L.A. to hang with Smith’s gang. Comedian Jon Lovitz seems to have been roped into the deal in some capacity as well. These people appear to mean business.

So why should anyone in radio pay attention to what might strike a lot as a vanity project (and one that cannot be kept going at the frenetic pace it has set for itself)?

Here’s Smith: “Podcasting is what indie film was to me in the early ’90s … The power to broadcast’s now in everybody’s hands. Podcasts democratize talk radio, allowing anyone a platform and everyone a voice. With S.I.R., we’re just taking that notion and running with it.”

Read that again, very carefully.

For anyone in FCC-monitored broadcast radio over, say 35, maybe 40, the whole Jay and Silent Bob thing probably strikes them as, and can be dismissed as, a morning zoo program taken to its logical conclusion and unairable. That’s correct but not the point to be taken away. The important points are that Smith made millions with the shtick (as did Cheech & Chong a generation earlier) so there is an audience, FCC be damned. While that audience is listening to S.I.R. they aren’t listening to your station. It might not be 24 hours a day but it might be a few hours of lost audience. Smith’s S.I.R. isn’t going to destroy broadcast radio single-handedly, even with a mobile outlet (not beholden to the FCC on content matters) tacked on, but he can take another nibble out of it. An unwatched cake can be nibbled away.

There is an opportunity here, larger than what Smith is doing. There is a lot of “podcast” material out there sitting on the Internet. Much of it is amateurish dreck. But basic radio production is simple and some podcasts are adequately if not well done. They are generally free. Importantly, many of them are different than typical radio programming. They offer an audience something they don’t normally hear. They can be fresh programming without a station devoting scarce resources into creating and producing them. Station owners, GMs, PDs, et. al. who think that most programming they are pitched is pretty much the same, only the hosts are different, might want to consider opening the door of the Guild of Radio Program Producers a little wider.