Sacramento—off air and online.

Listen up:
Empire’s Open Podcast at
Five Songs with Paloma at; Beware of Podcast at,
Game of Bros at

It’s 8 o’clock on a recent night at Empires Comics Vault on Fulton Avenue. Inside, five black folding chairs are arranged in a circle, surrounded by two small tables. There’s a microphone on one table and on the other, a laptop computer running the music-editing software program, GarageBand. Here, four guys sit debating whether She-Hulk would make a good girlfriend while, nearby, Star Trek plays on a television set. It might not look like it, but the group is prepping to record a new episode of a Sacramento-based online radio show, Empire’s Open Podcast. Excitement mounts as their host gathers them around the microphone. Without skipping a beat, the show begins and the conversation continues—only now, it’s being recorded for the world to hear.

The world of online talk radio has grown to epic proportions since the rise of the podcast. Not only have established public-radio shows such as NPR’s This American Life and Fresh Air been made available for listening on-demand, but celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and Kevin Smith have also taken to the digital airwaves.

While the exact history of podcasts is a bit fuzzy, one early mention of the word dates back to August 2004, when writer Doc Searls linked readers to a Google search of the word in a blog post at Then, he wrote about how many hits the term generated at that time.

“That last link currently brings up 24 results on Google,” he said then. “A year from now, it will pull up hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions.”

Try 200 million, Doc.

The popularity of the medium took off a year later when Apple introduced podcasts as part of an iTunes update—a move that brought subscription-based podcasts to iPods everywhere. Within just a few days of Apple’s update, the company boasted more than 1 million podcast subscribers.

Now, the art of podcasting has become so easy that even your next-door neighbor is probably sitting in his garage right now, talking into a microphone as he dishes on the movies he hates or his favorite type of meat product.

In fact, Sacramento is home to a wealth of podcasters, if you know where to point your browser. Aspiring comedians, musicians, sports fans, gardeners and business owners across the region share a common thread: They have something to say and a means to say it.

Take Ben Schwartz, for starters. As the owner of Empires Comics, Schwartz launched Empire’s Open Podcast as part of a social-media campaign designed to boost interaction with customers. The campaign started with Facebook and Twitter and, eventually, a blog. The podcast, he says, was a natural evolution from there.

Now, Schwartz says he’s found the medium helps him better connect with customers and comic book fans.

“There are so many people that have so much to say and have so many great ideas, but there are also people who can’t come to their local shop and have the same experience,” Schwartz says. “We wanted to replicate that [with the podcast] and put it out there for them.”

So, each week, Schwartz gathers a small group of like-minded fans and engages them in a roundtable discussion of all things pop culture. While the subject matter usually revolves around comic-related topics, there are no restrictions.

“We’ll start with the newest Batman comic and [then] end up talking about the latest Jane Austen movie,” Schwartz says. “You just don’t know where it is going to go each week.”

But podcasting isn’t just a way to grow a business. For some, it’s an outlet for creative expression. Paloma Jordan, for example, doesn’t have anything to promote. She’s simply a music lover with a knack for conversation and her Five Songs With Paloma podcast focuses on music—mostly with musicians as guests. For each show, Jordan invites someone to talk about five songs that can be tied together, thematically. Past topics have included subjects such as good memories, songs about murder and breakup songs. In one episode, Jordan chatted with Keith Jukes from the Sacramento band Black Eyed Dempseys; the two discussed unusual things that have happened to the musician such as getting struck by lightning and being attacked by a bear.

“I’m kind of scared to hang out with you,” Jordan joked after hearing about Jukes’ many close calls.

The idea to start a podcast came about as an accident, she says. While helping her husband, local musician Bobby Jordan, check the equipment for his own podcast, Vowel Movements, she started talking about five songs that she likes to sing in the car. This test run turned into the first episode of Five Songs With Paloma. Initially, she says, she had no intention of turning the podcast into a regular show, but it was so much fun, she decided to continue.

“I’d been looking for an artistic outlet, and the one thing I had going for me is that I like to talk a lot,” Jordan says.

Guests of Five Songs are given some pre-show attention. Jordan says she realizes that recording a show can be intimidating—so she calms anxieties with a drink or two.

“It gives me a chance to have a little bonding time with them beforehand and makes them more willing to talk to me,” she says.

Discussing specific subjects such as comics and music is a great way to draw in niche listeners, but there’s also a growing popularity for podcasts that don’t fit a particular theme but, instead, wander through a bevy of subjects—whatever happens to the cross the host’s mind while recording.

For Devin Maple, Jesse Carter and Kyle Rothenbaum, the three best friends behind Game of Bros podcast, there’s no specific structure. The idea is that a few friends get together to discuss things such as movies, music and what part of anatomy they would eat first if forced to become cannibals.

“It’s almost just like the three of us sitting around having a drink at a bar together,” says Carter.

The trio started their podcast in June after realizing they needed an excuse to get together more often.

“We’ve all been fairly creative as people,” Maple says. “As we get older, the outlet for that gets less and less because life starts taking over.”

And, despite a lack of thematic unity, the friends’ resulting podcast, Carter explains, is actually aimed at a specific demographic.

“We cater to the guys and girls that are getting into their 30s, but still have a fun sense of humor and still like to go out and have a drink. We hope to be the companion to those types of people.”

While stream-of-conscience style podcasting can turn out surprisingly humorous results, there is something to be said for traditional comedy.

Aspiring comedian Junior Bruce is the host of Beware of Podcast. He and his long-time friend David “Just Plain Gordo” Gordon bring a humorous tint to life in general. Bruce had been mulling around the idea of starting a podcast and decided one day that his rapport with Gordon would make for good material.

Now, Bruce records and edits his podcast in a tiny corner of his bedroom, right under a window that happens to be near a duck pond. As nice as that sounds, the ducks can be an annoyance.

“I have to pick a time to record … when the ducks aren’t socializing,” he says.

Of course.

Although Schwartz, Jordan, The Bros and Bruce produce very different shows and discuss a diversity of themes, they have one thing in common: A desire to share and entertain.

It’s simple, really, Maple says.

“A podcast really doesn’t require that much other than creativity, some microphones and a couple of stupid ideas.”

And the possibilities are endless.

“Podcasting is kind of like the Wild West of radio,” Jordan says. “You [are] free to do what you want with your medium.”