This weekend I started listening to National Public Radio (NPR).
I once considered radio outdated. As it turns out, I was not alone. After polling my friends and family, one person listened to radio news (my dad) and only half had heard of NPR. And who says that’s a bad thing?
Change is good, right?
There is no doubt that news is changing. Many studies, including one by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, show that the number of Americans listening to their news on the radio has rapidly declined over the past two decades.
I decided to branch out.
Encouraged to listen to radio broadcasts by David Cupp, my audio reporting lecturer, I started with the classics: Edward R. Murrow’s rooftop broadcasts from The Blitz.
It brought me to tears. As I embarrassingly cried alone in my room, I decided, perhaps, that radio was for me.
I stumbled upon NPR’s “Morning Edition” this morning. While listening I tried to determine how they were combatting radio’s downfall. Here’s what I found:
The Web: Their online presence reaches new audiences (like me). I do not own a radio and I do not plan on ever owning a radio. Tuning in online is my only option. While radio consumers are disappearing, the number of consumers gathering news from the Internet is rising.
Listen, don’t read: When you select a story on NPR’s webpage your first option is to listen to the audio. There is an adapted script below but only after an eye-catching photo or graphic. Coincidence? I think not. Even those who get their news from TV rarely watch the video; most simply listen to the broadcast. And don’t they say ‘radio is like TV only the pictures are better?’
People care about people: Although NPR reports hard news the most popular stories are profile pieces with a human-interest element and universal themes. They tell stories people want to hear.
Share-ability: NPR gives the option to share stories on all forms of social media. In fact, the option is always there, scrolling right along your bottom left corner. (It even followed me to this page… kidding, I put it there).
Links are life: NPR links related or relevant stories at the bottom of each piece. Interested in MLK 2015? Check out these reports on national race relations.
You can listen to my favorite story of the weekend here. NPR chose to take an alternative view of MLK’s legacy: through the eyes of 5-year-old children.
Very few listen to radio news but I think NPR is putting up a good fight and is gaining listeners by adapting with new media. I can definitely hear them now.