It is no exaggeration to say that without NPR, podcasting might never have become a thing. In the past decade, the publisher has seen enormous success in bringing high-quality, on-demand audio and video stories to the public with highly popular podcasts like Code Switch, Throughline, Invisibilia, The Indicator and others, currently providing more than fifty titles for listeners' enjoyment. For nearly a decade, NPR has dominated the top podcast charts on iTunes, Podtrac or Google Play on almost any given week. On Monday June 29, 2020, NPR launched its latest news podcast, Consider This, a rebranding and slight evolution of its critically important "pop-up" podcast, Coronavirus Daily, which launched in March 2020 to keep listeners informed at the start of the global pandemic.
In the most recent Harris Poll Equitrend study, NPR was named 2020 News Service Brand of the Year. Demonstrating their fulfillment of that recognition, Coronavirus Daily was created with the specific remit to provide audiences "high-quality information that was well-delivered from a trusted source" about the pandemic. As the pandemic story has evolved and its impact begins to fragment and differentiate region to region, state to state, NPR made the decision to evolve Coronavirus Daily and merge it with an idea that had been tantalizing them for a while, a dedicated, daily afternoon, on-demand spin-off of NPR's popular tentpole news magazine, All Things Considered, a show that has been providing enlightenment, education and entertainment to listeners, in particular commuters, since May 3, 1971.
Neal Carruth, NPR Senior Director of On-Demand News Programming, has been a passionate fan of the format since working on NPR's award-winning, accessible economics podcast, Planet Money. Consider This is an extension of a short-form strategy that has been in play for many years. "That strategy started with Up First which is a very big podcast for us. It is a daily, morning news podcast. After that, we created an afternoon business and economics show, called The Indicator, a spin-off of Planet Money. That was our second short-form daily show. Both of those shows were created in 2017," says Carruth. Those shows were followed up by a daily science show Short Wave,and a daily iteration of the very successful political podcast, The NPR Politics Podcast.
When discussing topics of such seriousness as a global pandemic, where literally lives are at stake, the trust an audience has in the hosts is absolutely key, which is one of the main reasons that NPR leaned into merging Coronavirus Daily with its core hosting team from All Things Considered. "This is not just about choosing a frequency on a radio dial" says Carruth, "It's about going onto an app where there are literally hundreds of thousands of podcasts sitting side by side jostling for attention. The more you look at the show tile, the more that tile evokes the good feelings you get hanging out with the hosts of that show."
Listeners of Consider This will feel immediately at ease that the stories being told are being relayed at the highest standard of journalistic integrity and by voices they've learned to trust. Host of Coronavirus Daily and NPR's investigative journalism podcast Embedded, Kelly McEvers, along with the core team from All Things Considered: Ailsa Chang, Audie Cornish, Mary Louise Kelly, and Ari Shapiro, are on board to host and report stories daily.
Consider This, just as Coronavirus Daily has done, will be a little bit more of a contextual, analytical, deep-dive. "We think many days it may give two, three different slices of a story. (and probably many days that story is going to be about Coronavirus)." Carruth says. "On other days it could be the economy or racial justice. We are lucky enough to have a newsroom filled with people who are doing original, enterprising work. We have a vast amount of talent who are subject matter experts. We can access people at bureaus all over the United States and all over the world. We can harness all of that to make this show a really valuable experience for the audience."
For Carruth, the key success metrics for the show are truly in the hands of the audience. "It's a crowded media environment out there. We don't want to waste the audiences' time. We'll hear back from the audiences in surveys, in the emails they write to us, and on social media. If they find it valuable, we will have succeeded."
Consider This is a daily podcast that will be uploaded each afternoon, prior to 6pm EST.
[Author's note: In writing this piece, my mind continually went back to a different type of crisis that took place in 1979 when more than 50 Americans were taken hostage in the Iranian embassy. ABC News started to update Americans daily on the status of the hostage situation on a late-night news program called Nightline hosted by Ted Koppel. Nightline, which is still on the air forty-one years later, became an incredibly successful and important source for news and opinion. We wish NPR similar luck with Consider This and hope that it brings some good out of the tragedy of Coronavirus.]
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