On Monday, the San Francisco airwaves began to quiver with the most inscrutable experiment in corporate radio since Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds.” KYOURadio.com—broadcasting on San Francisco’s 1550 AM, streaming worldwide on the Web, owned by the Infinity mega-network—has been live all week with the nation’s first all DIY format, playing nothing but user-uploaded content. Call it a broadcast podcast. Call it “open-source radio” (if you don’t mind parroting the station’s marketing copy). But drift through a couple hours of the KYOU Radio current—a rambling ex-stockbroker’s thoughts on time travel segueing into an armchair lecture on martinis followed by a half-hour of Gassaway, West Virginia’s finest bluegrass music—and you won’t be calling it anything but what it is: public access, 2.0.
Not that KYOU Radio isn’t its own sort of marvel. You have to wonder, for one thing, just what blend of podcasting hype and moldy bubble-think Infinity’s directors were mainlining when they approved this unprecedented big-biz foray into Wayne’s world. For another, note how starkly the station’s unbroken stream contrasts with the pick-and-choose modularity of podcasting proper (which, unlike KYOU Radio, lets listeners download their audio in discrete files). It’s like stepping out of a multiplex into a Zen rock garden, and it’s only with concentration that you start to notice the delicate pleasures in the flow: the Skvarek family’s dryly intimate narration of their road trip to Arizona (“We’re outside the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas,” reports Dad from the driver’s seat, almost reverently, while Pet Sounds plays in the background); the small miracle of somebody’s favorite jazz fusion track actually sounding good to you. What Infinity was thinking we may never know, but here’s hoping it’s a while before they remember and think better of it.