Los Angeles has long been one of the great cities of the world, as fascinating to those who have never been there as it is to those who live within the county limits. Hollywood has long searched its own backyard for great stories, with LA-centric hits like Boyz n the hood, LA Confidential, Chinese district, and La La Land have an impact far beyond the south.
Now Southern California Public Radio, which operates KPCC, is launching a new podcast studio to tell more of these LA stories. LAist Studios — KPCC purchased local news site LAist in February 2018 — will create podcasts in three distinct categories: stories inspired by what Los Angeles talks about across cultural and socioeconomic lines, factual and fictional narrative programs inspired by Southern California and the stories rooted in award-winning journalism upon which the SCPR and its public radio network are built.
“The world has always been fascinated by LA,” says Herb Scannell, President and CEO of SCPR. “Sunglasses, palm trees, glamor and glitter. There is a diaspora of people interested in LA, which means we can connect with the world through the characters and people we populate our platforms with. The nature of LA today is exciting, and that’s what we want to share with the world.
Scannell, a longtime cable television veteran who joined SCPR earlier this year, previously served on the board of directors of New York Public Radio for 18 years, serving as chairman from 2009 to 2013. He points to the KPCC podcast. Great earlier this year as an indication of the types of stories LAist Studios will continue to pursue. A critically acclaimed program, the nine-episode series examined how LA would respond to a San Andreas Fault earthquake. “Great captured a great idea, ”says Scannell. “There’s a fascination with Los Angeles, whether it’s on TV or in movies, so I thought there should be a studio with a public radio mission that tells these stories.”
To help her do that, Scannell hired Angela Bromstad, former president of prime-time entertainment for NBC and Universal Television Studios, as senior advisor to LAist Studios. She will act as a key resource for the studio while overseeing the development of the initial podcast roster.
Scannell says the appeal of podcasts to former cable executives like himself, Bromstad and even Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s current content manager, is that as a storytelling medium it’s still in its infancy. “Creatively it’s greenfield,” he says. “Whatever environment you find yourself in, you love to invent things. “
LAist Studios joins Spotify (which acquired creative studios Gimlet Media and Parcast earlier this year), Wondery and Luminary as the latest in a growing line of branded podcast studios. “I think brands are important, especially in the emergence of a new thing,” he says. “This is one of the reasons we wanted to have a clear vision of what we wanted to do. Ours tells stories from LA to the world. Having a clear perspective on what you are doing is important. As something matures, the companies that have it, where consumers can understand it, are an important part of the value equation. “