Americans can’t get enough of the news these days. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, there is little argument that the Trump Administration has stirred up the media and shaken up traditional news outlets. Newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post are regaining Watgergate-era importance. Cable news has been seeing historic ratings through the first months of 2017. Now, podcasting is stepping up its news game. Daily news podcasts are gaining a foothold in the marketplace as more and more people turn to podcasting as a primary source of content.
For years, news outlets have repackaged their content for delivery to podcast audiences. The radio offerings – by NPR, the BBC, and other major networks offered top-level content re-purposed for a different audience.
Television news providers similarly tried to capitalize on the medium, releasing podcast versions of their television news programs. But, TV is made for the eyes and not the ears. These shows, while often of good quality, also contained indecipherable moments where some visual package intended for a viewing audience provided nothing but a distraction to the audio listener.
Today, there is a new and growing breed of news content, offering a bespoke audio podcast product focusing on the day’s news. At the top of the list is an audio offering by The New York Times – The Daily.
The Daily started in 2017 and is one of several podcast offerings of the New York Times. The Daily is an out-growth on The Run-Up, another NYT product which chronicled the 2016 electoral season. Hosted by NYT political reporter Michael Barbaro, The Run-Up covered the historic election with access to all of the resources of one of the world’s most respected news gathering operations. Listeners embraced Barbaro’s compelling and sincere delivery. Once the election was complete, The Times reassigned Barbaro, a print reporter, to its Audio Division, to continue his storytelling through The Daily.
Delivered early each weekday morning, The Daily brings the big, ‘above the fold’ story of the day into close focus through Barbaro’s discussions with his NYT colleagues. Several other brief summaries of the day’s top stories are also offered, with all of it wrapped up in a package that typically lasts about 20 minutes. One of the strengths of the podcast is that it has embraced some of Times’ best long form journalism in a detailed and humane way. In one of the most memorable moments from the young show, Barbaro got noticeably emotional as he interviewed a coal miner who was fighting hard for the return of a job which had racked his health.
Barbaro is a treasure in his new-found position. He leads his listeners on a journey through the news and it’d hard to imagine a better guide. Smart, brave, and always on the lookout, Barbaro is the real key behind why The Daily has now been downloaded more than 40 million times. The Daily delivers – effectively, consistently, and daily.
Doubtlessly inspired by the success of The Daily, National Public Radio launched its own daily news podcast in April 2017. NPR is no stranger to delivering podcast content or audio news content, of course. NPR has, for a couple of years now, delivered news content through its NPR One app. NPR One allowed listeners to access streaming content from NPR’s national feed – or from many of its individual, local affiliated stations. Up First is more than just a copy of NPR’s news feed, however.
Up First is a 10-minute morning delivery that is original programming hosted by the ‘Morning Edition’ news team that NPR listeners are already familiar with. Like The Daily, the shorter morning podcast offered by NPR typically focuses on one or two main stories while offering a few headline summaries of other items expected to be in the day’s news. Host David Greene, in comments to the Columbia Journalism Review, said that Up First was designed to provide the unique Morning Edition product in a more immediate package.
The Outline is an online newsmagazine, now making its mark in the world of daily news podcasting. The Outline has three stories on each episode, one each falling under the three broad topics of “power (who has it, who wants it, and what do they do when they get it?), culture (the way we live and communicate), and the future (where we’re going next).”
Launched late in 2016, World Dispatch embraces its differences. While NPR’s Up First is embracing the tried and true delivery of Morning Edition, World Dispatch walks to a different drummer. The Outline has proudly proclaimed that their goal in making World Dispatch was “to make it distinctly weird … almost like an alternate reality NPR is sort of how we talked about it early on, like NPR from the world of Stranger Things.”
This genre of podcasting is still in its infancy. The impact of The Daily and the growth of the other just-for-podcast daily news offerings would seem a likely avenue for other established news operations to expand their outlets to a new audience. It won’t be a surprise to see the other major players in news delivery begin their own daily news shows.