Radio Waves: March 26, 2021

Paul Roberts podcasts Orange County

Is it fair to compare podcasting with broadcast radio? In a word, no. The two are totally different animals, with broadcasting by definition attempting to reach a broad audience and the podcast designed to appeal — at least as is usually done currently — to a very narrow, specialized audience.

There are exceptions, and sometimes the lines do blur. Ben Shapiro’s radio show heard from 3-5 p.m. on KABC (790 AM)? That’s actually a rebroadcast of his podcast you can hear every morning on line. And that is but one example.

But in general, as radio has abandoned much of its local focus, and with so many stations not even running public affairs programming at all any more, podcasting has come in to fill the gap.

You can listen to podcasts produced by Trader Joes, talking about products the store carries. Mike Stark and I do a weekly podcast talking about radio, usually promoting this very column. There are podcasts about music, concerts, business … just about anything.

Paul Roberts saw the potential of podcasting years ago. Struck by the fact that Orange County no longer has a local mass appeal radio station, he launched OC Talk Radio in 2010, available at 

At its launch, it was basically an experiment in a new form of media. Indeed, the term podcasting had only been in use for about six years, and podcasts were often far from professional. Roberts wanted to change that, and he realized that he could provide — via his network — a voice for Orange County.

He calls it a community radio station, though it is not “on” the radio. Or at least regular radio. But many feel the future of radio is on the internet, and podcasting may drive the move. More on that a little later.

Unlike other podcast distributors, not only does OC Talk Radio stream programming on demand, but Tuesdays through Fridays the online station broadcasts programming live from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Shows range from business, to religion to Women in Electronics. And everything in between and around, such as Impact OC, hosted by Dawn Kamber, which highlights people, businesses and organizations making a positive impact on the County.

In some ways it is like the very early days of radio in which programs were sponsored by individuals or companies trying to promote their ideas or products. You can hear the programs online at the website, or through such apps and services as iTunes, and you can subscribe so that you’re notified when a new show you’re interested in becomes available.

Check it out and tell me what you think.

The Next Limbaugh

He’s not really a replacement, as you can’t truly find a new host for The Rush Limbaugh Show. But with stations facing a hole in programming following Limbaugh’s death last month, and his former distributor lacking a clear plan moving forward, the rush is on, so to speak, to find programming that will fill the void.

With that in mind, podcaster and Fox News contributor Dan Bongino, who’s podcast has been carried on KABC (790 AM) from 5-6 p.m. weekdays, has been selected to host a show in Limbaugh;s time slot of 9 a.m. to 12 noon weekdays. 

To be clear, the program is not a replacement for Limbaugh’s. It’s actually a competing show designed to strike while opportunity is knocking. It will launch on May 24th, and will be carried in a handful of markets including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington D.C.

In Los Angeles, the good money is that it will be carried on KABC, seeing that the show is being distributed by Westwood One … which is owned by Cumulus Media, the same company that owns KABC.

In the meantime, Limbaugh’s show is still airing with guest hosts and “best of” recordings of “Rushbo” himself. This will continue while distributor Premiere Networks figures out a plan.

Online Rocks

I mentioned earlier that some people think online radio may just be the future of radio. And they may be right. Considering that it is almost impossible to find new rock music on the local airwaves, I’ve been using my iPhone and my HomePod to listen to various stations such as Rock 108 out of Waterloo, Iowa. It’s an Active Rock station not limited to a particular genre, and to my ears quite good.

I’ve mentioned this station before … it is among my favorites. I seem to always catch the Hard Drive XL show as I walk at night, which I find well worth the listen. I’m not sure how they do it, but ads heard in the stream include at least one local business based in Torrance, California.

Anyway, as apps and smart speakers get easier and easier to use, it is very possible that radio will indeed make its way onto the internet. And not just as a repeat of the broadcast radio signal. Is it possible that upcoming technologies will allow internet radio to reach the same potential audience as a standard broadcast? Meaning millions of potential listeners, not just a few thousand as currently thought?

I posed that question to master radio and audio engineer Greg Ogonowski, said to be the guy who could make an AM signal sound as good as FM and the man behind the fantastic app Streams HiFi Audio, perhaps the best-sounding streaming audio app in existence. He said it is indeed possible, And not in the future … now. New programs and standards are already in place that would allow this, and I’ll have full details in a future column. Stay tuned.