Anyone with dreams of being a talk radio star — ranting about sports and politics, chatting with callers, sharing recipes or car-buying tips — can play host on their own show, right on the Web.
BlogTalkRadio, Talkshoe and Skypecasts are among the Web sites that have become popular for would-be radio jocks, and all it takes is a computer and a telephone.
"You can create a show within five minutes and be on the air within 15 minutes," said Alan Levy, the CEO of BlogTalkRadio, a site he started shortly after his father fell ill with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2006.
At first, Levy created a blog for his father, allowing him to easily keep in touch with family and friends. Later, Levy decided he wanted something more than a blog.
"I wasn't feeling like it was a conversation — it was all text." So he came up with the idea of creating broadcasts for bloggers, and BlogTalkRadio was born.
With BlogTalkRadio, hosts use a telephone and computer to create live, call-in shows. Unlimited participants can join, and the service is free because it's advertising-supported. After airing, the shows are archived and become available as podcasts for other listeners.
So far, nearly 46,000 shows have been created — with subjects ranging from entertainment to politics to sports and lifestyle. Actor Brad Pitt, politician John Kerry, baseball player David Wright and author Jodi Picoult are among those who have been interviewed.
"Some shows are good, some aren't so hot," said Levy. "The cream rises to the top."
Around 350 shows are on the air each day, some hosted by established bloggers, like Ed Morrissey (http://www.captainsquartersblog.com) or Flylady (http://www.flylady.net). Others are from people who are just beginning to gain a strong following on the Web site.
"There's a whole network of budding stars," says Levy, who himself hosts a program.
Shaun Daily is one such example. As a host of a radio show on BlogTalkRadio, Daily become involved in a campaign to save the CBS television show "Jericho," which had been canceled before the 2007-08 season.
Daily invited producers and stars from "Jericho" to his radio program, invited fans to call, and urged listeners to send nuts to CBS headquarters — a reference to a line used by a character in the TV show.
At one point, Daily's broadcasts on BlogTalkRadio were attracting 10,000 listeners a night. CBS eventually relented, extended "Jericho" by 7 more episodes, and wrote a letter to fans urging them to "please stop sending us nuts."
Like BlogTalkRadio, Skypecasts are another option for aspiring radio hosts. Essentially, they are free programs that can host up to 100 people from anywhere in the world.
A host can control who speaks and eject people if they wish, just like a radio broadcaster. Skype then chooses the most interesting or popular broadcasts and displays them on the home page. Skype is a unit of eBay.
Talkshoe, another site, requires users to download software for its "Talkcasts." Those who want to listen are then directed to a "Live Now" page to see what shows are playing. They can also download recorded shows, or podcasts, from the site.
Otherwise, you can host a "Talkcast" using features like phone muting, chat muting, request-to-talk queuing, and recording from a Web-based dashboard. You choose the topic of your show, schedule it on the site, and, unlike traditional radio, can have listeners from anywhere tune in or participate.
"We have some extremely loyal users," said Mark Juliano, a senior vice president and founder. "The kind of service we are providing is something people were paying thousands of dollars for not too long ago."