How does Charlottesville use podcasts?

At about 5’8", in jeans, faded Mets t-shirt and almost tube-brimmed Giants hat, Mike Bisceglia is an unlikely media mogul. But he is perhaps the first, at least locally, to monetize an emergent media form: the podcast. “At the radio station, we like it,” says Bisceglia, who rounds up the local sports scene on WINA’s Morning News and weekday mornings on 106.1 The Corner. “But sometimes you can’t be your own true self. I got to thinking, if I wanted to do a podcast maybe other people in the community want to do a podcast, too.”

Bisceglia’s side business speaks to how local organizations have embraced podcasts as a viable alternative to radio, marrying a community access ethic with NPR-level quality.

So toss him a hundred bucks, Bisceglia says, and he’ll put together an hour’s worth of studio-quality downloadable programming about whatever you want. Takers so far have included Beer Run (they do a semi-regular Beercast), The Great Harvest Bread Co. (a Breadcast) and the Ragged Mountain Running Shop (yes, a Runcast).

O.K., so selling podcasts—non-streaming media files that are released in episodes that can be automatically downloaded to your computer—probably won’t make Bisceglia the next John Kluge. But his side business speaks to how local organizations have embraced podcasts as a viable alternative to radio, marrying a community access ethic with NPR-level quality.

The podcast has been a part of local culture since Sean Tubbs, a reporter with Charlottesville Tomorrow, started the Charlottesville Podcasting Network in 2005. “Sean was way ahead of the podcasting game,” says Bisceglia. In its first years the network’s volunteers produced original local reporting, recording events at the Virginia Festival of the Book and the Virginia Film Festival. (All remain available on the Network’s website, www.cvillepodcast.com.)

Today, much of the CPN functions like on-demand local and public access radio. Other programs available for free download are local historian Coy Barefoot’s show “Charlottesville—Right Now,” also on WINA, featuring guests of local interest. Storytellers at Secretly Y’all and musicians like Lauren Hoffman and Alejandro Escovido passing through 106.1 The Corner’s Corner Lounge for a live performance can also expect to end up on the CPN.

Bisceglia hosts his own podcast, “Outside the Box with Mike and Leon,” with WINA producer Leon Oliver. The shows are filled with personality that might not fly on a commercial radio station; a recent one included Bisceglia singing a flat, drawn-out version of the Mets’ theme song, “Meet the Mets”—an homage to Christina Aguilera’s botched national anthem at the Super Bowl. The shows also feature local commentary.

Podcasting also serves a higher purpose, locally. Gabe Turner, a pastor at the Point Church of Charlottesville, says his sermons are uploaded to iTunes right when he’s done delivering them. “A lot of people who are looking for a church will go back and listen to our messages to get a bigger picture of what the church is all about,” he says. He also notes that those who miss Sunday services can download the podcast and partake in the church’s midweek discussions.

New head

Lest we forget the traditional airwaves, UVA’s Office of Public Affairs announced late last week that it had hired a a General Manager at WTJU. The hire, Nathan Moore, is an administrator at Free Speech Radio in Madison, Wisconsin, and has worked for Pacifica Radio, a progressive-leaning network that produces shows like “Democracy Now.” Moore replaces Burr Beard, who, with the Office of Public Affairs, caused a stir among the station’s volunteer staff by proposing format changes to the free-format station. Beard left the post in October, citing family reasons. 

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