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LAist Is Taking Over Your Radio Dial: KPCC Will Be LAist 89.3

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For the past two decades, 89.3 KPCC has been L.A.’s National Public Radio station focused on news and talk. But soon you’ll see it (and hear it) under a new label: LAist 89.3.

It’s part of an effort the organization says is intended to address audience confusion and "better communicate cross-platform initiatives." Los Angeles listeners have long mixed the station up with L.A.’s other NPR affiliate, KCRW, and more recently wondered what the connection is between KPCC and LAist.

“The British expression is, the best products have the name on the tin,” said Herb Scannell, who has been president and CEO since January 2019. “It’s the idea that you know what you're getting. … When I got here, I thought ‘LAist’ could be fun.”

The rebranding creates one name across platforms, encompassing broadcast radio,, and podcasting arm LAist Studios. All are operated by Southern California Public Radio — a member supported non-profit media organization — which purchased the LAist archives in early 2018 after the site was abruptly shut down by its previous owner. was relaunched later that same year, with reporters writing for the site and also appearing on-air.

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“I think there’s a lot of pride in being of L.A.,” Scannell said. “Call letters may not have been something that had any kind of appeal, but a name oftentimes gives you a sense, ‘well, maybe I should sample that — what is that?’”

In market research, LAist already had higher awareness with audiences than KPCC, according to Scannell.

Fighting Radio’s Decline

Listeners will still hear the “KPCC” radio call letters at the top of the hour (that's an FCC regulation), but expect to hear many more references to "LAist" on-air. The change comes as the traditional radio audience continues to trend downward, a process which accelerated during the pandemic.

“Nothing ever goes away, in a way — except maybe Blockbuster,” Scannell said. “I think that radio will always have a place in people’s lives, for those who choose to use radio.”

Scannell added that statistics have shown that younger audiences don’t own a radio — but they do own a phone that they sometimes use as a radio, whether that’s in their car or at home. The rising average age of public radio donors has been a concern with organizations like this one for years, which has made reaching new members outside of broadcast increasingly important.

“The next generation of public media users may not be on the radio,” Scannell said.

Larry Mantle, host of the station’s long-running public affairs and call-in show AirTalk, sought to address possible concerns of current supporters in a letter to the station’s members. When reached for comment, Mantle expanded on his thoughts on the rebrand.

"For longtime KPCC listeners, including me, this will be an adjustment. Whenever I hear a radio station using a new identifier, I wonder what else is changing," Mantle wrote via email. "Fortunately, in our case, nothing in our content or presentation changes beyond referring to ourselves as 'LAist 89.3.'"

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He agreed with Scannell's comments about the way audiences get their news changing.

"Listeners now connect with us wherever they go, even across the country and internationally. We receive more listener calls and emails from outside our broadcast signal area than ever before," Mantle wrote.

Scannell said he expects mixed reactions.

“Some may think it’s abrupt and some may think it’s long overdue,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a clear, predictable path, but I think it’s understandable.”

In a news release about the change, the company notes that this rebrand comes as other newsrooms across the United States are either shrinking or shutting down.

Scannell said that using LAist across digital and radio is meant to “future-proof” the organization’s mission. The company that operates both LAist and KPCC doesn’t own the KPCC call letters, but licenses them from Pasadena City College — the new brand is a name the organization owns outright.

Growing LAist’s Audience

The rebranding is also an indication of the organization’s aspirations for growth both locally and, particularly through its podcasts, beyond the Southern California market.

It follows the 2019 launch of LAist Studios, which emphasizes podcasts from an L.A. perspective that are meant to appeal to audiences both locally and outside the area.

The company cited the launch of the show How To LA in a press release as an example of the new strategy. How To LA launched as a podcast, intentionally digital-first, before its stories began to air on the radio. The show is also part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to reach a broader audience with its content — particularly more Latinos. Host Brian De Los Santos has written and spoken about growing up as an undocumented and gay Latino in Los Angeles.

The effort to reach that audience has been ongoing for years. The station’s show Take Two was an early part of that initiative, recruiting host A Martinez from sports talk radio — he went on to become a national anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition. Scannell, whose mother was from Puerto Rico, has also been focused on reaching Latino audiences in his previous roles. That includes most recently at digital media company Mitú, which targeted young Latinos.

“The broader the awareness, the more likely we are to attract future readers, listeners, and members,” Kristen Muller, the organization's chief content officer, wrote via email. “Our new audience is coming to us on all platforms, from in-person events to social media and newsletters. Our challenge, and opportunity, is to meet more people where they are.”

The LAist name comes with its own complications — LAist covers not just the city and county of Los Angeles, but also the broader Southern California region. It also provides national and international news.

The organization hopes that, ultimately, there will be fewer complications with the new branding — as Scannell noted, even some of the organization’s own reporters felt that the KPCC and LAist names were confusing to the public.

“I’m excited,” Muller wrote. “No more confusion. No more splitting resources amongst brands.”

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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