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Sept. 16, 2020, 9:40 a.m.
Audience & Social

NPR adds localized news for 10 cities to its afternoon podcast Consider This

Listeners in 10 regions will hear local news after national stories thanks to geo-targeting technology being used in a new way.

NPR’s daily podcast Consider This began as Coronavirus Daily, but changed its name and broadened its scope in June as protests against police brutality and racial discrimination competed with the virus for headlines. Now, the shortform afternoon podcast, pitched as a bookend to the morning’s Up First, is morphing again.

Last week, NPR announced Consider This will evolve into the localized news podcast it had been planning to debut earlier this year — before Covid-19 upended the best-laid plans. Now, Consider This listeners in (or near) 10 cities — Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland, Ore. — will hear local updates after the national news show.

NPR sees a blend of national and local news as a public radio signature and it’s made several attempts to recreate the mix on digital and streaming options. Outside of its legacy radio newscasts, listeners can already hear local news on NPR One and smart speaker streams through Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. (More people than ever are turning to these digital platforms, even as fewer commuters has meant plummeting radio ratings.)

But Consider This is the first time localized content is available via podcast — regardless of platform. Whether you listen to episodes through NPR One, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts, if you live in one of the 10 participating regions, you will automatically receive about five minutes of local news from a member station after hearing about 15 minutes of national news along with everyone else.

In a press release, NPR called the localization technology “a first not just for public radio but for the podcast industry as a whole.” The solution it found, after wrestling with various technical and editorial challenges, is fairly straightforward.

NPR partnered with AdsWizz, its sponsorship vendor, to deliver the localized editorial content from member stations the same way the vendor serves location-dependent sponsorships and advertising.

“They use geo-targeting technology that allows for one message in one DMA [Nielsen Designated Market Area] and another message in a different DMA. Now we’re using that technology to serve content,” explained Neal Carruth, NPR’s senior director for on-demand programming. “The way it works is that national folks file each afternoon and then all of our local partners file and upload a local segment. That goes onto the ad server system and gets geo-targeted using IP addresses to the right DMA.”

NPR has been working to create an afternoon news podcast with local news since the end of 2019. The pandemic interrupted the planning process but producers soon saw Coronavirus Daily, which became NPR’s fastest-growing podcast ever after its launch in March, as a unique opportunity to launch the new show with a built-in audience.

“I think we were nimble over the last eight months and it ended up being a really good thing to launch the localized part of this knowing exactly how many listeners Consider This had in each of these DMAs,” Carruth said. He noted that information also meant that local partners — the 12 member stations publishing afternoon news updates — are able to sell sponsorship information against the local content with actual audience numbers, instead of forecasts.

Here in Massachusetts, the show has fostered collaboration between two rival public media organizations. Boston’s GBH (formerly known as WGBH) and WBUR are collaborating for the first time in their histories, after years of what has been called “a very civil war.” WBUR’s Paris Alston and GBH’s Arun Rath will alternate hosting duties each week and each host will feature reporters from both stations. The stations meet (virtually, for now) each morning to determine the stories that’ll be included in the afternoon’s segment.

“Boston has always benefited from two outstanding NPR stations in the market, ensuring listeners have access to the trusted quality journalism they have come to expect from public media,” Pam Johnston, general manager of news at GBH, said.“We are excited about collaborating with WBUR, drawing on the strengths of both stations, to bring the local news that matters most to our audiences.” In Los Angeles, KPCC and KCRW will also collaborate to create the local afternoon segment of Consider This.

Other participating stations are WNYC in New York, WHYY in Philadelphia, WAMU in Washington, D.C., WBEZ in Chicago, MPR in Minneapolis/St. Paul, KERA in Dallas/Fort Worth KQED in San Francisco, and OPB in Portland, Ore. NPR is planning to add more participating member stations in 2021.

POSTED     Sept. 16, 2020, 9:40 a.m.
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