Years ago, San Diego had a pirate radio station. Its founders lugged around a towering handmade antenna and broadcasted over the FM airwaves illegally and in secret. Those close enough to the rogue signal could pick it up at 96.9.

Folks rejoiced: Finally, the democratization of the radio waves! Radio-making was no longer reserved for the few who landed jobs at a broadcast station.

But the proliferation of the internet changed everything. Now, thanks to podcasts, almost anyone can make a radio show – no bulky handmade antenna required. Thousands of people are recording audio and uploading it to distribution platforms like iTunes. “Serial,” the hit true-crime podcast that launched in 2014, pushed the medium in front of a bigger, more mainstream audience. Billions of people are now listening to podcasts.

Finally, the actual democratization of the radio waves!

San Diego hasn’t missed the trend. More than 100 people are part of the San Diego Podcasters meetup group. Podcasters are producing dozens of shows across the region.

There’s a local podcast about Burning Man culture and the people who live the so-called burner lifestyle even when they return from the annual art and music event. There’s one called “Gutter Talk,” about comic books and their creators. A local fictional 1950s-style detective radio podcast drama series called “Rex Rivetter: Private Eye” recently launched. And another locally made podcast offers tips for navigating life as a highly sensitive person. I compiled as extensive a list as I could.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

San Diego musician Alfred Howard cohosts a podcast for The Redwoods, a local independent record label he helps run. The show covers topics ranging from music to Donald Trump. The medium allows Howard, a natural storyteller, to let loose and be as casual, raw, honest and personal as he’s willing to be.

“I can’t have a baby,” Howard said on the latest episode of “The Redwoods Podcast.” “I mean, I did zap my testicles on an electric fence when I was a kid. … I don’t know that that necessarily prevents me from having a baby, but you know me pretty well and I’m the kind of guy who would, like, leave a baby on the roof of a car and be like, ‘Oh my God, I did that.’”

Voice of San Diego is on board. We produce four in-house podcasts and launched the Voice of San Diego Podcast Network, a collective of local podcasters that share resources and support. So far, the network includes VOSD’s four shows – the “VOSD Podcast,” “San Diego Culturecast,” “San Diego Decides” and “Good Schools for All” – plus the San Diego sports talk podcast “The Kept Faith,” and David Lizerbram’s podcast about business and creativity, “Products of the Mind.”

In our experience, people personally connect with audio stories and the people telling them, more so than in any other medium.

Adam Christianson is the host and producer of the “MacCast” podcast, a weekly tech show about Apple’s Mac products. Christianson, who lives in Vista, was an early adopter of podcasting and he’s one of the quiet rulers of the tech corner of the podcast world.

Christianson watched podcasting’s popularity rise dramatically since he launched his show in 2004. But it was the post-“Serial” surge, he said, that finally turned an obscure medium into something familiar, even if people hadn’t actually listened to a podcast yet.

“What I’ve noticed most is that when people ask what I do and I say I’m a podcaster they know what it is now,” he said.

Christianson saw a big leap in listeners in June 2005 when iTunes started including podcasts, making it substantially easier to listen to them. He said the launch took him from about 500 downloads a week to around 3,000 a week practically overnight.

Christianson started out by recording his show during his lunch break in his car with his laptop. He’s grown increasingly professional, picking up listeners along the way. Now the former web developer said he gets the majority of his income from BackBeat Media, which sells sponsorships to his show.

Tech podcasts like Christianson’s have a built-in international audience of tech-savvy folks for whom the medium is old hat.

It’s harder for niche, San Diego-centric podcasts like San Diego Beertalk Radio to gain a broad listener base. Beertalk Radio founder Greg Homyak said he still finds himself explaining to the local beer crowd what a podcast is and how to listen to them.

“But we are getting a lot more feedback and a lot more following on social media,” said Homyak, who also helps run the San Diego Podcasters group. “Our listenership is lower than I’d like but we are reaching the people who want to listen.”

Long term, Homyak said he might change the name of his podcast to just Beertalk Radio. He’d like to expand by partnering with hosts in other cities with bustling beer scenes. Until then, he’s been raising money by asking listeners to pitch to support the show. He said he won’t be quitting his day job anytime soon.

Joseph Aleo was an early adopter. He started his now-defunct Small World Podcast in 2005. He used a cassette recorder to tape interviews with interesting people in San Diego, then turned the recordings into digital files. He produced about 500 episodes before calling it quits, but still has his hand in the podcast world. He’s cohost of “Pop Culture Intelligentsia,” an interview-based show recorded live using a website and app called ZCast. It lets people livestream their shows and invite listeners to respond in real time.

Aleo, who also used to host shows on San Diego’s pirate radio station, said software like ZCast is making the barriers to entry even lower.

“Everybody who has a smartphone has a radio station in their pocket if they choose to,” he said. “That’s what I love about this stuff. It leverages all this technology and anyone can be a DJ. Anyone can be a talk show host. … The downside now is that a lot of people are doing it, so there’s a lot of terrible content out there.”

But he said there’s a lot of good content, too. So good that it’s forcing traditional radio stations to improve to maintain their audience.

“For the longest time radio was just terrible,” he said. “And I think radio is going to have to change the way TV has changed. Cable forced the television networks to step up their games, and I would like to say that’s happening right now with radio thanks to the rise of podcasts.”

San Diego Podcasts in One Long List

This is my best attempt at a comprehensive survey of San Diego-based podcasts. To add your podcast to the list, email kinsee@vosd.org.

The MacCast

N Equals One

The Beat Down Show

Talk Time with Reid Moriarty

San Diego Beertalk Radio

The Kept Faith

Good Schools for All

Products of the Mind

VOSD Podcast

Pop Culture Intelligentsia

San Diego Culturecast

The Beat Down Show

San Diego Decides

Live Free Podcast with Mike Maxwell

Pregnancy Podcast

San Diego Magazine Happy Half Hour

Voices of Women

Dudes to Dads

The Brand Journalism Advantage Podcast

Rock Your Retirement

Talkin’ Bout My Generation

The Solopreneur Hour Podcast with Michael O’Neal – Job Security…for the Unemployable

San Diego CityBeat’s Sordid Tales Podcast with Edwin Decker

BellyUp Live Podcast

The Highly Sensitive Person Podcast

Artists Leaving Legacies

The Degenerate Podcast

Impact Matters

Horrible Imaginings Podcast

Keep The Channel Open

Rex Rivetter: Private Eye

Say Something, Anything

Connected with Ruben Torres

Patti With an I

KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast

Farstuff: The Internet of Things podcast

The Redwoods Podcast

Special Circumstances with Maring Higa

Conscious Chatter, A Podcast Where What We Wear Matters

Casual Fridays Podcast

The Reindeer Club

The Intellexual Podcast

The Nardcast: Music Food & Booze

Battlecast

Three B Zine Podcast

The Hang Pod

A Sunny Place for Shady People

The Nerdwork

KPBS Incoming 

We Speak English Good

Life in Focus

This Week in Zoltan

Comics Talk Comedy

wsRadio.com

Podcast Revival

Coffee and Cake

Life’s A Binge 

Shot and a Beer

Stage Voices with Matt Warburton

Generally Speaking: A San Diego Sports Podcast

Everything’s Fine 

Life Moves Pretty Fast

Dishin’ The Percolator

Business of Beer Podcast

Baywatchin’

The Eater Upsell

A Few Reasonable Words

Breaking Español

Classy

SoccerNation

The Yoga Frequency 

The Startup Vault

All Forked Up

Breaking Bread

San Diego Sessions

Talk Time with Reid Moriarty

Book vs Movie

    This article relates to: Arts/Culture, Media, Must Reads

    Written by Kinsee Morlan

    Kinsee Morlan is the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She works to expand our reach and helps community members write op-eds. She also manages VOSD’s podcasts and covers the arts, culture, land use and entrepreneurs. Contact her directly at kinsee.morlan@voiceofsandiego.org. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe to her podcast.

    1 comments
    David Dawson
    David Dawson

    Thanks for including The IntelleXual Podcast on this list. We are approaching our 200th episode in the coming months! We are very proud of the show and are looking forward to Feb. 27th when we premiere the TV version of our show, The IntelleXual Talk Show on KSDY 50!