Los Angeles has long been one of the great global cities, as fascinating for those who’ve never been there as it is for those inside the county line. Hollywood long looked in its own backyard for great stories, with such L.A.-centric hits as Boyz N the Hood, L.A. Confidential, Chinatown, and La La Land making an impact far beyond the southland.
Now Southern California Public Radio, which operates KPCC, is launching a new podcast studio to tell more of those L.A. stories. LAist Studios—KPCC purchased the local news site LAist in February 2018—will create podcasts in three distinct categories: Stories inspired by what Los Angeles is talking about across cultural and socioeconomic lines, Southern California–inspired factual and fictional narrative programs, and stories anchored by the award-winning journalism upon which SCPR and its network of public-radio stations is built.
“The world has always had a fascination with L.A.,” says SCPR president and CEO Herb Scannell. “Sunglasses, palm trees, glamour, and glitz. There’s a diaspora of people with interest in L.A., which means we can connect with the world through the characters and people we populate our platforms with. The nature of L.A. today is exciting, and that’s what we want to bring out to the world.”
Scannell, a long-time cable TV vet who joined SCPR earlier this year, was previously a member of the New York Public Radio board for 18 years, serving as chairman from 2009 to 2013. He points to KPCC’s podcast The Big One from earlier this year as indicative of the types of stories LAist Studios will continue to pursue. A critically-acclaimed program, the nine-episode series looked into how L.A. would react to a San Andreas fault earthquake. “The Big One captured a big idea,” Scannell says. “There is a fascination with Los Angeles, whether in TV or movies, so I thought there should be a studio with a public radio remit that tells these stories.”
To help him do this, Scannell has brought on Angela Bromstad, former president of primetime entertainment for NBC and Universal Television Studios, as a senior adviser to LAist Studios. She’ll act as a key resource to the studio while overseeing the development of the initial slate of podcasts.
Scannell says the draw of podcasts for former cable execs like himself, Bromstad, and even Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s current chief content officer, is that as a storytelling medium, it’s still in its infancy. “Creatively, it’s greenfield,” he says. “Whatever medium you’re in, you like to be inventing things.”
LAist Studios joins the likes of Spotify (which acquired the creative studios Gimlet Media and Parcast earlier this year), Wondery, and Luminary as just the latest in a growing line of branded podcast studios. “I do think that brands matter, especially in the emergence of a new thing,” he says. “That’s one reason we wanted to have a clear view of what we wanted to do. Ours is telling L.A. stories to the world. Having a clear point of view of what you do is important. As something is coming of age, the companies that have that, where consumers can understand it, is an important part of the value equation.”