Family’s podcast competes with Disney, Nick

AMinnesota family with a recording studio in the basement is giving entertainment giants Nickelodeon, Universal Studios and Radio Disney serious competition for iTunes listeners.

“Kid Friday,” a weekly podcast by Dave Swerdlick and his daughters – Hannah, 12, and Zoe, “almost 10” – consistently makes the top-10 list in iTunes’ Kids & Family section.

The show opens with “because you are a kid in the digital world.” Then the three of them spend 30 minutes talking tech. “Kids enjoy hearing about new stuff,” Swerdlick said.

And they do so in droves. Since its launch a year ago, “Kid Friday” has been downloaded or streamed online by hundreds of thousands of kids worldwide. In addition to hearing regularly from listeners in the United States and Canada, the trio has gotten e-mails from listeners in Australia, the United Kingdom, South America, Belgium, Germany, New Zealand and Sweden, Swerdlick said.

The podcast started out as a hobby that a dad and his two daughters could do together. In 2007, they launched “Webkinz Webcast,” which focused on the girls’ fascination with Webkinz, stuffed animals that let “pet owners” interact with the toys electronically.

The weekly podcasts lasted two years, until the Webkinz fad faded. “We just weren’t that into them anymore,” Hannah said.

Like the rest of their generation, they were into cellphones, MP3 players, computers and electronic games. That’s when Swerdlick came up with the idea of changing the show to focus on, as their Web site, trumpets: “apps, websites, gadgets, games, fun!”

Zoe is the more talkative of the girls. She blurts out something, giggles and then confesses, “I have no idea why I just said that.” Hannah’s offerings tend to stay more on point and often are preceded by a brief pause as she ponders the subject.

Swerdlick has had to stop only one show because the two of them weren’t getting along. “They are sisters, after all,” he said with a shrug.

Everyone in the family has a role. Mom/wife Kari isn’t on the show but often is present during taping to offer moral support.

A highlight for both girls is reading e-mails from listeners, many of which direct them to gaming Web sites. During one show, a listener in England tipped them off to a British Web site with kid-friendly games. They clicked on the site and exploded with “oohs” and “aahs.”

“I like learning about new stuff,” Zoe said after the show. “When we get done, I rush upstairs to get on the cool Web sites we just learned about.”

The family doesn’t make any money from the podcasts. In fact, they pay a fee to send the show to a syndicate that handles its distribution.

“This is all about a family activity,” Swerdlick said. “And when they no longer are interested in doing it, we’ll stop.”

– Jeff Strickler

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