Not every podcast has as twisted a history as mine, Mr. Media® Interviews, does.
And I literally mean twisted, as in hairpin curves, not perverse.
The show started life in 1994 as a weekly newspaper column in Players magazine–which was, in all honesty–a biweekly. Back then, it was a collection of funny, oddball media items and quotes I collected from magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, movies, CompuServ and America Online. (And Mr. Media was actually a twist on similar efforts I wrote in the 1980s: “Headliners” for the St. Petersburg Times and “Music News You Can Use” for the Tampa Tribune.)
Mr. Media became weekly pretty soon after it started, getting purchased in syndicated to roughly 10 daily and weekly newspapers around the country.
I bought the domain “MrMedia.com” on September 7, 1995 and launched the website shortly thereafter.
In 1996, Universal Press Syndicate — home of “Doonesbury” — picked up the column for global and digital distribution. It never really caught on, but writing a syndicated column was a lifelong dream, so I was thrilled. And legendary Universal editor Lee Salem, a journalism hero of mine and the man who discovered Garry Trudeau, was the person who acquired the column, so how cool was that?
On the cusp of the Internet boom, I expanded the format to include cool websites and 500-word interviews with media newsmakers such as: David Fury, co-creator of an HBO sitcom called “Dream On; legendary “Batman” comic book writer Dennis O’Neil; a promising young chef named Emeril Lagasse ; fellow Universal syndicated columnist Chuck Shepherd, creator of “News of the Weird” and a fixture of weekly lunches ever since; R. Seth Friedman, editor of the popular fanzine, “Factsheet Five”; c/Net editor-in-chief Chris Barr; CNN Interactive editor Scott Woelfel; and New York Daily News editor and journalism legend Pete Hamill; and the host of a new TV show called “The Site” on a new TV network called MSNBC, Soledad O’Brien.
Mr. Media was featured in Wired magazine as well as GQ.
Unfortunately, newspaper editors — who we relied upon to buy the column for their readers — didn’t get it. They were especially put off by the long strings of letters and numbers we called URLs that showed up in the column.
By late 1998, I threw in the towel.
MrMedia.com stayed up but I stopped updating it for almost a decade.
Bye the summer of 2006, Kit Boss, a young man I knew a decade earlier as an intern at the St. Petersburg Times, had gone on to become a successful comedy writer and producer on TV shows such as “King of the Hill.” His latest gig was as executive producer of “Creature Comforts USA,” a stop-action animated series from Aardman (Chicken Run) being produced for CBS. The show relied upon field reports recording digital audio of real people doing real things that British animators could adapt to animation of barnyard animals and make it funny. At least that was idea.
Boss hired me and others nationwide to capture digital audio.To do this, I purchase a DAT recorder at Best Buy for several hundred dollars.I sold several recorded situations to the show and at least two were adapted for the show. Unfortunately, there was an executive overhaul at CBS and the new regime wasn’t interested in “Creature Comforts USA,” burying it as a summer show in 2007.
Meanwhile I had a digital tape recorder and I was itchy to get my money’s worth out of it.
“Podcasting” was a hot new concept that few people were doing and even fewer knew how to listen. But I had a vehicle, Mr. Media,” and a desire to try something new.
David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” “The Corner” and “Homicide: Life on the Street,” was in St. Petersburg, Florida (where I live), teaching a short writing course at Eckerd College. My friend Eric Deggans interviewed him for the St. Petersburg Times and I asked if he could hook me up. We met at a bed and breakfast downtown (after I binge-watched all of “The Wire”) and had a wonderful conversation.
I also recorded a phone conversation with up-and-coming daily cartoonist Mark Tatulli, whose new, wordless comic strip pickled my funny bone.
My plan was to post a new interview at the end of each week — “Fridays with Mr. Media.” The first show — Tatulli — debuted on February 1, 2007. I loved interviewing people and hearing their stories, so it was a great fit. And interview opportunities started falling from the sky. That first year I talked to everyone from actor Billy Bob Thornton to the editors of Smithsonian and Cooking Light magazines.
Word of mouth was all I had but the show started growing an audience. In December 2008, Amy Domestico, representing a new podcast network called BlogTalkRadio, tracked me down and invited me to bring my show to BTR’s platform. It offered automated recording, live shows with listener call-ins, plus an advertising affiliate program. For the next two years, I was a BTR star.
The BTR recording system was pretty low quality, however, a characteristic it took me a long time to acknowledge. It compressed voice making shows sound lousy, especially compared to the digital recording with which I started.(In addition to BTR, I distributed shows to many other podcast networks of the era, including Current, True Slant, Poynter Online, Zencast, Digital Journal, Media Fly, Odeo, Vox and Podfeed, among others.)
Right around that time, another network reached out to me in early 2010 — CBS Radio’s podcast network, Chat About It.
Chat About It wanted Mr. Media and I wanted out of BTR, grateful as I was for its early support. And I discovered that Chat About It could do something BTR couldn’t: video. Mr. Media became a video pioneer on Chat About It, although the thrill was short-lived. CBS Radio threw in the towel on podcasting six months after I joined, in September 2010.
Once you’ve done video over audio-only, it was hard to go back. By December, I found software to record and edit Mr. Media from my home office/studio and I’ve been doing it ever since, posting the show to Vimeo and YouTube.
Today, new shows post first to YouTube and then, a week or two later, to MrMedia.com. The Mr. Media feed then simultaneously delivers the latest audio episodes to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, Amazon Alexa, I Heart Radio, Castro, Radio.com, RadioPublic, Castbox, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, MixCloud, Blubrry and SoundCloud.
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This was so cool, I had to share it again!
In 2011, I took a flyer on a paid commercial for the Mr. Media podcast on Kevin Smith’s new Smodcast daily, online radio show, Plus One Per Diem. The show features Smith, the director of Clerks, Chasing Amy and Red State, and his wife, actress Jen Schwalbach, discussing life, culture and family.
I wrote some suggested points for the live read of the commercial, but Smith improvised the best and rest of it. Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!