by Kevin Kelley
Len and Nora Peralta were not the first to post a podcast, a digital audio program, to the Internet. But they were among the first podcasters in the Cleveland area.
Shortly after they recorded their first program in the attic of their Lakewood home in February 2005, a Plain Dealer article about the couple was picked up by other newspapers. Soon, their podcast, which they called “Jawbone Radio,” was being heard by people across the nation.
The couple, who met while attending Baldwin-Wallace College and married a year after they graduated in 1992, produced 286 shows.
“It was sort of right up his alley,” Nora said of her husband’s interest in podcasting. Len had hosted shows on the Berea college’s campus radio station, WBWC. Nora became a “permanent guest” on his shows.
“Jawbone Radio” consisted of conversations between the two, pre-recorded skits and listener e-mails. The first show dealt with plumbing problems encountered during a home remodeling project, they recalled. A later segment, Nora recalled, was entitled “Bad Customer Service Theater,” in which she would recount horrible experiences with store or bank clerks and invite listeners to share similar stories.
“It was a cross-section of our lives,” Len explained.
Technology and pop culture, two big interests of Len, emerged as common topics as time went on. His burgeoning career as a graphic artist and illustrator was the source of more content.
The two conducted occasional guest interviews with celebrities such as John Hodgman, who would later gain fame from “The Daily Show” and portrayal of woeful “PC” in Apple computer ads, and Mike Nelson, the host of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
In May 2011, a series of family issues, including the death of Len’s father and the arrival of the couple’s seventh child, forced the couple to drop their hobby.
But by then Len had made a name for himself, both from illustration work and his reputation as an early podcaster. Two prominent technology journalist at CNET, Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont, promoted his illustration work on the tech site’s podcasts. In 2010, he launched another podcast, called “Geek-a-Week,” in which he interviews influential “geek icons” from the Internet community and pop culture, such as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and comic book writer Stan Lee. A series of trading cards with Len’s illustrations of the “geeks” accompanied the podcasts.
Although “Jawbone Radio” went on hiatus two years ago, several subscribers have continued to ask when Len and Nora would start producing new shows.
A fan of the show e-mailed Len saying he had listened to the show while training to run a marathon.
“We kept them company,” Len said of the “Jawbone” audience. “It was a neat little community we created.”
Now Len and Nora want to produce new episodes of “Jawbone Radio.” And they’re seeking fans’ help.
The couple, who moved to Westlake in 2009, have signed up with Kickstarter, a website that raises money for creative projects by means of crowd funding. Project creators using Kickstarter set a minimum funding goal and a deadline by which to meet it. Anyone can pledge money for the project. If the goal is not met by the deadline, no funds are collected.
Len and Nora have pledge to produce 10 new episodes of “Jawbone Radio” if they raise $5,000 through Kickstarter. As of Monday, they already received $2,845 in pledges. The deadline for pledges is 9:38 a.m. Sunday.
Some of the money would go to upgrade equipment used to produce the podcast, such as a laptop and microphone, said Len, who used Kickstarter to fund his “Geek-a-Week” projects.
Signing up sponsors for podcasts can be difficult, Len said, because most podcasts attract niche audiences. The amount of support a project receives through Kickstarter can also be a good indicator if it is viable, he added.
Just like public television offers “gifts” to viewers who pledge money, the Peraltas are offering rewards to supporters, such as original drawings by Len.
If they get the funding, the Peraltas say the new “Jawbone” episodes will be similar to the past ones, with “new stories and rants.” If the show develops momentum, they may continue beyond the promised 10 shows, Nora said.
Len and Nora have produced a “plead cast” in which they discuss their Kickstarter project. That recording, along with the earlier “Jawbone” episodes, can be downloaded from http://jawboneradio.blogspot.com. To donate to the “Jawbone Radio” project, go to Kickstarter.com and type in “Jawbone” in the search box.