Marketplace Grows as the Economy Tanks

In his latest column, LA Times media critic James Rainey sends some love to Marketplace–the LA-based public radio program that has helped create a mini radio empire of 9.3 million listeners per week. That’s up from 5.3 million back in 2001.

Rainey credits Marketplace with being virtually the only economic show not based out of New York to find any popular success. He credits this to the show’s emphasis on the human side of the economy, not simple CNBC-style sucking up to the moneyed elite. (He doesn’t put it quite as bluntly as that.)

Snippets of “We’re in the Money” or “Stormy Weather” accompany the show’s good or bad news on the markets, refrains so ubiquitous that they join talk doyenne Terry Gross’ purr and the incessant cackle of the “Car Talk” guys as the signature sounds of public radio.

“Marketplace”…has grown into a behemoth and spawned several spinoffs because it does more than merely “the numbers.” The half-hour show specializes in finding the owners who’ve lost homes in the mortgage crisis, commiserating with the growing legion of unemployed and, this week for example, personalizing the retirement of Apple’s Steve Jobs with a first-person account from a former co-worker.

Rainey’s story comes complete with a nice shot of host Kai Ryssdal, whose hair is far more Pat Riley-esque than we pictured simply listening to him on the radio.