NPR's Year in Review: 2021

December 2021

2021 brought new challenges and changes for many as the world continues to adjust to a new reality. Throughout the year, NPR continued to provide top-notch journalism and programming across platforms to keep its audience of 163M informed and entertained. Check out some of the top moments and accomplishments from the year below.

Diversity of Programming

NPR was proud to share a variety of programming in 2021 delivering on its strategic goal of amplifying diverse voices and programming. From celebrating Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month with Tiny Desk (home) concert series to a new season of the hip hop video series The Formula to the annual Student Podcast Challenge, NPR delivered a breadth of content for diverse audiences.

Award-Winning Hosts and Content

NPR won its first-ever Pulitzer Prize in Audio Reporting for No Compromise, an investigative podcast illuminating the world of Second Amendment gun rights activists. No Compromise was one of two finalists in the category from NPR, the other from NPR’s newsroom.

Daniel Alcarón, host of Radio Ambulante — NPR’s Spanish language podcast — was named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow and recipient of a prestigious MacArthur “Genius Grant,” awarded annually to talented individuals who have shown exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits.

New Podcast Launches in 2021

NPR released a lineup of new podcast programs, series and seasons in 2021, including:

Expanding Podcasts to Broadcast

In 2021, Morning Edition and All Things Considered maintained their status as the #1 and #2 national news/talk-radio programs in the country. Beyond the traditional newsmagazines, NPR brought some beloved podcasts to the radio airwaves. Code Switch and Life Kit now share a joint radio program, and NPR’s popular history podcast Throughline can also be found on member stations across the country.

Virtual Events, Year Two

NPR virtual events were at an all time high in 2021 spanning across Zoom, YouTube, major festivals, and its very own multi-day conference. NPR brought its famous live shows like How I Built This and Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! back to the virtual stage, and introduced some new programs like Alt. Latino and Throughline, even partnering with major festivals like SXSW, Afropunk and Sundance along the way. The first-ever virtual How I Built This Summit was a multi-day event featuring focused networking sessions, sponsored sessions and activations along with main stage conversations with notable speakers like Brene Brown, Adam Grant, Gary Vaynerchuck and Rashad Robinson.

NPR Digital Audience Holds Steady

For all the changes 2021 brought, one thing stayed the same — NPR’s total digital audience was the same year-over-year: 36M people on average consumed digital content each week, including podcasts,, NPR app, NPR One, station live streams, voice assistants and YouTube content.

Audiences turned to for breaking news and to get answers to the most pressing questions, like how to sign up for a COVID vaccine, or the mask mandates where you live.

At the same time, NPR provided audiences a reprieve from the news across platforms. Here are some of the other popular stories of 2021:

Sponsorship Highlights for Brands

In 2021, NPM’s in-house creative team took custom production to the next level, launching its first-ever custom podcast, “The Upload: The Rise of the Creator Economy” with sponsor YouTube, and bringing dozens of sponsor campaigns to life. In total, the team produced custom audio for 38 brands, including:

What’s more, interaction rates on Center Stage units promoting Brand Soundscapes are up 18% from last year, and over 22% of people who listen to Soundscapes in the NPR Player click through to the sponsor website.

Attribution tools including Podsights, Chartable, Barometric and more allowed our sponsors to track the impact of their NPR campaign. We’re thrilled to see more and more NPR sponsors are investing in attribution: Nearly 2.3B impressions ran with Podsights tracking this year. These tools revealed the the average conversion rate for a pre-roll spot on NPR was 1.1%, compared to the industry average of 0.88%!

Interested in what NPR sponsorship can do for your brand in 2022?

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