Building on our broadcast expertise, NPR is reimagining the way we tell stories to serve audiences across platforms. In 2018, we experimented with immersive audio and video, launched two new podcasts and created original content for emerging devices, all in support of our mission to keep people everywhere informed.
Visual Newscast Launch
Korva Coleman on NPR's visual newscast on an Amazon Echo Show.
In 2018, NPR introduced a visual component to the famous 24-hour newscast heard throughout public media.
The Visual Newscast is available on smart speakers equipped with smart screens and includes photos, videos and animation.
Establishing a visual newscast has laid the essential foundation for NPR to expand coverage to more visual digital platforms, allowing us to keep audiences informed anywhere they seek news.
The NPR App Gets An Update
In an effort to accelerate our digital reach, we've made public radio more personalized. Our latest updates to the NPR App allow listeners to stream curated content based on listening habits right from their smartphones.
The NPR App gives listeners a personal experience, wherever they are. Users can scan headlines and explore a range of subjects through intuitive navigation. When news breaks, users are the first to know with push alerts.
Through a localization algorithm, users can quickly identify their primary Member station and access their local live stream, headlines, stories and podcasts and even donate.
Experimenting With Spatial Audio
Listener Augusto Rivero poses for a photo in Venice Beach, CA.
As immersive video formats grow in popularity, NPR audio engineers have been experimenting with techniques for how to record high-quality spatial audio—an audio format that allows a listener to experience sound in all directions.
NPR's initial foray into 360-degree video began as part of the Journalism 360 Challenge (J360), which focused on exploring some of the simplest ways to work in an immersive medium with a compact and portable equipment setup. During a recent trip to Puerto Rico, NPR's Andy Huether, with Audio Engineering, helped engineer an audio-video project to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Smart Speaker Growth
Smart Speaker Expo at the NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Radio isn't going away, it's going everywhere. According to a recent NPR/Edison Research Smart Audio Report, 16 percent of Americans over the age of 18 own a smart speaker. That amounts to nearly 39 million people. Another staggering statistic is, of those owners, about 71 percent are listening to more audio since acquiring a smart speaker for their home. In 2017, four percent of NPR's live streaming listening hours came through smart speakers. It's now at 19 percent, according to Joel Sucherman, Vice President of New Platform Partnerships.
"Everyone has smart speaker fever," said Chief Digital Officer Thomas Hjelm. "[We're] very eager for NPR in particular, but public radio in general, to take a leadership position and to be as accessible as possible."
It's also why we're continuing to develop smart speaker skills for the public radio audience. We've enabled users to access their favorite Member station—wherever they are— just by asking their device. Including Member station streams is part of the effort to provide the same local-national blend of news that our audience loves on broadcast.
In collaboration with Michigan Radio, NPR's first investigative podcast explores two decades of sexual abuse by former Olympic doctor, Larry Nassar, and how 150 women won justice in one of the largest serial sexual abuse cases in U.S. history. The series premiered at the height of the #MeToo movement, challenging society to believe sexual abuse victims, while calling out their abusers.
Believed episodes averaged 271,000 downloads per episode in the first four weeks after being published, placing it among other popular NPR podcast launches like Hidden Brain and Rough Translation.
The last episode of Believed underlined MSU President John Engler's ongoing dismissive behavior toward victims of Nassar. Engler has since resigned after mounting pressure. Believed won a Dart Award from the Columbia School of Journalism and has been nominated for a Peabody.
NPR's new collection of audio guides offers sound advice from the pros on life's to-dos, including deep dives into topics like personal finance, health and more. The podcast debuted in December 2018 and has since grown into collaborations with mentors and listeners alike.
For the first time, NPR collaborated with Sesame Workshop to produce a Life Kit series on parenting, backed by over 50 years of experience to help out with hard-to-have conversations with kids.
Through Life Kit, NPR is able to fulfill our mission in an entirely new way, delivering information that helps people to lead healthier, more productive lives.