NPR’s Anya Grundmann on Bringing Listeners Closer

By NPR InSites Archives
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Have you been listening? A soundwave of successful radio and audio content has quietly elevated NPR and other podcast and audio content programmers to a new level of relevance among marketers. “In the past media was more highly packaged and a lot more distanced from the audience,” says Anya Grundmann, NPR’s Vice President for Programming and Audience Development. “We are seeing people coming closer -- wanting to be closer – to information, entertainment and the people who are delivering the stories.” This vision is guiding Anya, who explains that NPR is “actively exploring how can we be both a companion and really useful to our listeners. NPR has an opportunity to embrace story tellers in new ways and to explore the changing, challenging and exciting 21st century world.”

In this exclusive interview, Anya shares that “NPR is continuing to explore how we can evolve [our] voice to personally connect people to the stories they’re engaging with. You can imagine being friends with or getting a drink with many of our talented program and podcast hosts. It’s about embracing the voice of the talent and allowing us to have a connection with people around stories that matter.”

She believes NPR’s creative focus on the listener experience “differentiates [NPR] in the media landscape. NPR creates surprising, inspiring, useful, addictive stories and programs that become part of people’s habits.” And NPR sponsors also enjoy a connection with listeners, known as the NPR Halo.

Anya reports that NPR is “looking to bring new voices into the network” and has launched a creative studio -- the NPR Story Lab -- to be more open to creative pitches. Through Story Lab, NPR will be developing new talent and “looking at how we can thread new ideas to fuel the network and be more open to new approaches to storytelling.

“It used to be, as in most organizations, that innovation happened on the edges, to give it space from prevailing assumptions, and to create an exciting, fun and energizing environment,” Anya says. “At NPR, we are bringing that innovation to the core of the organization to find fresh new voices, new ways to express our mission. It’s a moment of great opportunity -- podcasts and audio are capturing more interest and NPR can both lead and follow the energy that is out there.”

NPR has been home to many of the biggest shows in all of radio over the years, with its popular All Things Considered and Morning Edition being the No. 2 and No. 3 most listened to drive-time programs in radio today, closely followed by Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Mewith host Peter Sagal, Fresh Air and the TED Radio Hourwith Guy Raz. In addition to extensive reach, NPR is the leading podcast publisher with 9.2 million unique monthly listeners and 69.2 million monthly streams and downloads. NPR has 264 member stations and 800 affiliated stations.

Anya began her career as an intern at NPR, with an early focus on music. In 2007 she launched NPR Music, an innovation initiative focused on creating a digital expression of the powerful music discovery work happening across all of public radio. Highlights of that work include the iconic and pioneering Tiny Desk Concert series, which now reaches upwards of 8 million views a month, has featured artists from Adele to T-Pain to Yo-Yo Ma and now hosts a nation-wide talent search, the Tiny Desk Contest. NPR Music now serves more than 20 million listeners across radio, web, video and podcasting. Anya shares that NPR is actively expanding its on-demand presence through new technologies such as Amazon’s Echo. “We’re gaining a better understanding of how the on-demand news and entertainment formats evolve and how NPR can be everywhere that people consume content,” she notes.

Anya defines NPR’s mission as “creating experiences and content that will move the dialog in the country forward in a positive way. Our world is increasingly complex and rapidly changing. We want to be there to help people across our great and diverse country sort through the most challenging issues, provide moments of inspiration and connect people with information and important stories in a way that cuts through the clutter. We represent the highest pillar of public service journalism our country has to offer.”

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