What’s subsequent for America’s favourite information podcast

What's next for America's favorite news podcast


“Alex, Maggie, Jim, thank you for joining us on kind of short notice,” host Michael Barbaro stated on the prime to Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman and Jim Rutenberg, his Times colleagues who’ve been overlaying politics and the Trump administration for the final 4 years. “We now have President-elect Joe Biden and I just want to take a moment and have you reflect on the significance of that call.”

“I really see election night 2016 as the beginning of season one of The New York Times audio team, and I think of election night 2020 as kind of like the season finale,” stated Lisa Tobin, government producer of Times audio.

But with an incoming president who ran on restoring normalcy to a chaotic White House, what stays to be determined is whether or not listeners will nonetheless flock to “The Daily” for deep dives and explanations of the information. On prime of that, “The Daily” is dealing with new competitors from different legacy newspapers, digital publications and even Big Tech. Vox, Axios, The Washington Post, The Guardian and Apple all launched information podcasts lately. And all of them are competing with NPR, a legacy information group that helped popularize audio information consumption with applications resembling “Morning Edition” and “Up First,” amongst others.

‘There are simply extra tales on the market’

The Times has constructed an audio empire over the past 4 years. Its current investments embody the acquisition of Serial Productions and the launch of Kara Swisher’s “Sway,” a “podcast about power and influence.” The Times’ audio division has grown from three devoted staffers in 2016 to greater than 50 staffers, not together with those that produce audio content material for the opinion workforce, which is walled off from the information division.
But The Times’ foray into audio content material began with a concentrate on American politics. In August 2016, Barbaro, who was a nationwide political correspondent on the time, announced the launch of “The Run-Up,” a podcast that lined that yr’s presidential election. On “The Run-Up” episode that aired on election evening 2016, Barbaro’s first phrases admitted confusion: “It’s 3:30 a.m. in the newsroom, and we’re in a state of shock. This was not supposed to happen.”

Three months months after that, Barbaro launched “The Daily” within the distribution channels of “The Run-Up” with, “This moment demands an explanation. This show is on a mission to find it.”

“The Daily” launched the morning of February 1, 2017 with a 19-minute episode about President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee. Since then, the podcast has centered nearly all of its protection on the Trump administration — the folks and its insurance policies. The producers have strayed from that subject on some days, resembling an April 2017 episode on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s downfall and a March 2018 episode on the crisis in Venezuela.

Under the Biden administration, “The Daily” could possibly develop a lot additional past its roots in US politics.

“There are just more stories out there,” Tobin stated. “We have been so consumed by American politics for the last four years.”

Several staffers at “The Daily” instructed Source Business within the week forward of the election that they hoped to concentrate on telling extra non-political tales and extra worldwide tales within the yr forward.

“International news has always been a bit of a conundrum for certain American publications,” Barbaro stated. “I think the 20-minute, single-subject format was made for that. You can’t tell the story of what it means that the Taliban is about to regain power after 20 years in five minutes.”

Paige Cowett and Lisa Chow, supervising producers for “The Daily,” hope that overlaying worldwide tales may result in bringing new voices on the podcast.

“It’s amazing that The Times produces something like 250 pieces of journalism every day, and we just published one episode today,” Chow stated. “There are so many reporters that we haven’t even gotten on the show yet.”

Barbaro stated he plans on remaining because the host of “The Daily” for the “foreseeable future.”

“I think the DNA we’ve created for the show transcends whoever is president,” Barbaro stated. “It was certainly forged in the Trump era, but we know from the successful episodes that have nothing to do with the president that the show is highly sustainable no matter who is president.”

‘The new entrance web page’

“The Daily” reached two million every day downloads in April 2019, The Times reported at NewFronts, the annual occasion for digital publishers and advertisers. In October 2020, throughout a panel at Advertising Week New York, The Times revealed it had doubled that common to 4 million.
On Tuesday, Apple (AAPL) and Spotify (SPOT) launched the rankings for his or her prime podcasts of 2020 and “The Daily” is among the many prime on each companies. It is the third hottest podcast globally and second within the US on Spotify. On Apple, “The Daily” is the third hottest podcast within the US.

Part of its progress will be attributed to the overwhelming quantity of stories, together with developments of the pandemic, based on some workers members at The Times who spoke to Source Business for this story.

When she was on maternity go away, Cowen stated she relied nearly solely on the podcast as her fundamental supply of stories. Unlike the explosive graphics and shouty pundits on cable information, Barbaro delivers in a measured voice that has change into legendary, a lot in order that it was lampooned in an “SNL” sketch.

“I wanted a conversation that seemed less scary to me,” Cowett stated. “I needed to consume news, but there was only a version of it that I could handle. I wonder if that was a similar experience that others were having.”

Across information websites and TV networks, the pandemic spurred file audiences. The most downloaded episode of “The Daily,” up to now, is an explainer on COVID-19 from February 27, based on Tobin. Tobin stated her workforce heard from tons of of listeners who stated that it was “the first time that they took the coronavirus seriously.”
Tobin stated “The Daily” advantages from having a constantly engaged viewers. Most listeners of “The Daily” tune in 4 or 5 occasions per week, New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said in the course of the firm’s third quarter earnings name in November.

Nicholas Quah, founding father of podcast-focused e-newsletter Hot Pod, instructed Source Business that the pandemic might have “triggered an overdrive of more people” listening to “The Daily,” nevertheless it was a possibility The Times may seize on by already having a robust product.

“What The Times did is essentially took this 10- to 15-year-old technology at the time and build a premium product and assemble it as the new front page of The New York Times,” Quah stated. “At this point, it’s still unparalleled.”

The likening of “The Daily” as “the new front page” is ubiquitous — and debated — among the many Times’ audio workforce. Sam Dolnick, an assistant managing editor at The Times, dubbed it as such throughout a speech on the podcast’s one-year anniversary get together, according to Quah. The analogy was additionally utilized in The Times press release about buying Serial Productions.

“I find it deeply flattering,” Tobin stated. “I think that it speaks to the unexpected role that audio has come to play at The Times. A podcast doesn’t become the front page of a newspaper unless a newspaper lets a podcast become the new front page.”

To Dolnick, “the new front page” embodies the dimensions and resonance “The Daily” has achieved. It is agenda-setting for an viewers that will by no means have a look at The Times in print or on-line, Dolnick instructed Source Business.

But there are some flaws to the analogy. “The Daily” goes deep into one story, with a number of headlines rattled off on the finish, whereas a conventional print entrance web page of The Times can function half a dozen or extra tales. And typically, the subject on “The Daily” is just not aligned with the newspaper’s entrance web page story.

“I think the reason I chafe at the ‘front page of The Times’ is because we’re not picking the most important story every day,” Barbaro instructed Source Business. “We’re not a newsroom of a thousand people making that decision together. We’re a team of people saying this is the most compelling audio story that we think we can tell this day.”

‘Building a world each time’

“The Daily” has not strayed from its roots as a every day audio present, nevertheless it continues to evolve. On election day, November 4, The Daily held its first live show. Barbaro together with Carolyn Ryan, a deputy managing editor, co-hosted a four-hour occasion the place they mentioned the election and what may occur. They had been joined by Times journalists who incessantly appeared on the podcast all through the previous yr.

“We are a show that really experiments quite a lot for a show of this scale,” Barbaro stated. “I think we prize the fact that we constantly try new stuff and are not overly worried about whether or not it might succeed immediately or not.”

"The Daily" host Michael Barbaro and Carolyn Ryan, a deputy managing editor, on the day of the live podcast show for Election Day.

Each episode of “The Daily” is not restricted to 20 minutes or much less and at occasions the workforce has produced multiple per day. The episodes have additionally modified in scope, from two tales a day to at least one, and have improved in manufacturing high quality, which Tobin credited to the bigger workforce.

“If you listen to the show, it’s the same curiosity and ambition and desire to get to the heart of questions and ideas,” Tobin stated. “I think the evolution has just been in the more people that you bring onto the team, the more ambitiously you can answer those questions.”

Tobin, who joined The Times in 2016 from WBUR, and is engaged to Barbaro, stated about 20 to 25 folks work on “The Daily” and every episode “is likely to have had six or seven different sets of hands on it between producers and editors on the team.”

The Times audio continues to function as its personal entity inside the bigger newsroom. A producer will attend The Times’ morning masthead assembly to be taught what the newspaper can be overlaying the following day. Those tales might not essentially be a very good match for “The Daily” as a result of the podcast focuses on narrative storytelling, based on Chow, the supervising producer.

Chow stated the editorial technique of “The Daily” focuses on three parts: plot, character and a burning query. Recent episodes of a sub-brand referred to as “The Field” revolved round how sure teams — seniors in Florida, white suburban women in Ohio and Latinos in Arizona — had been voting within the US presidential election.

“We’re building a world every time we make an episode. This isn’t just here’s the facts. We’re building the whole context in the world in which the story lives, too,” stated Alex Young, senior information producer for “The Daily.”

That world is concentrated on Times journalism, as instructed by Times journalists, with 15-year Times veteran Barbaro because the gateway. While Barbaro has been the topic of a BuzzFeed appreciation post, a Vanity Fair profile, Page Six gossip and most just lately a function in The New York Times Styles section’s “Election Distractor,” Times staffers don’t need “The Daily” to be seen as “The Michael Barbaro Show.” Rather, they stress the enhancing and manufacturing that goes into it and the “family” of voices inside The Times.

“I think one thing that we do really well is we talk about our reporters as recurring characters on the show and our listeners really not only look forward to hearing from them, but they also really rely on them,” Young stated.

Over the previous yr, these “recurring characters” have included Haberman, a White House correspondent, nationwide political reporter Astead W. Herndon, nationwide political correspondent Alexander Burns, congressional editor Julie Hirschfeld Davis and science and well being reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr.

‘New York Times minutes’

In a means, “The Daily” acts as a public relations machine for The Times.

“We want you to have as many minutes in your day that are New York Times minutes as we can manage,” stated Stephanie Preiss, Times vp of TV and audio. “Increasingly, we want that to be kind of a habit that you have, whatever those moments during the day, and during the week are, we want you to consistently turn to The New York Times.”

As a enterprise, “The Daily” not solely promotes Times content material — encouraging listeners that one of the simplest ways to help the podcast is by subscribing to The Times — nevertheless it additionally instantly generates income.

Preiss declined to touch upon whether or not “The Daily” is worthwhile and the way a lot income it generates. But throughout The Times’ third quarter earnings name, Levien pointed to “The Daily” and audio promoting as an “area of continued resilience” amid pandemic-led uncertainty in advert income.

The podcast business total has gained extra curiosity from advertisers lately. Susan Schiekofer, chief digital funding officer at GroupM, the world’s largest media shopping for company, stated her purchasers have elevated their spending on podcasting tenfold over the previous yr.

Other established media corporations may need had this potential windfall in thoughts once they launched their very own information podcasts that compete with “The Daily.” In 2018, Vox unveiled “Today, Explained,” whereas The Washington Post and The Guardian launched “Post Reports” and “Today in Focus,” respectively. Apple rolled out “Apple News Today” this yr, and Axios launched “Axios Today” over the summer season.

Barbaro expressed help for the brand new entrants within the crowded subject of stories podcasts and defused any issues from critics who say that The New York Times has monopolized the media.

“I don’t think, when it comes to audio, there’s any risk of a single news organization somehow monopolizing the industry. Go on iTunes, go on any of the podcast charts, and you will see thousands of shows, and you will see hundreds of newsrooms making podcasts. They’re finding an audience,” Barbaro stated. “It’s difficult for me to understand how The Daily’s success is a negative for any other podcast. I think this is kind of like rising tide lifts all boats.”

With its attain, “The Daily” can act as a promotional car for changing extra subscribers to The Times as the corporate seeks to fulfill its purpose of 10 million subscriptions by 2025. It can also direct listeners to different Times podcasts, as was the case with “The Run-Up” and “The Daily” in 2017.

Dolnick stated the corporate continues to put money into “The Daily.”

“I have no idea what the ceiling for the show is, but there’s no reason to think that we’re anywhere close to it,” Dolnick stated.

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