Unplug your earbuds for this one: 2016 was the biggest year in podcast listening to date, and as the industry’s leading podcast publisher, NPR was an important driver of that listening. Topping more than 70 million monthly downloads and streams and introducing new NPR podcasts into the mix, we’re proud to say audiences are listening to more NPR podcasts than ever before (The Infinite Dial 2016, Edison Research & Triton Digital and Podtrac).
It was a busy year of development and production. NPR premiered a suite of new titles including breakout hit How I Built This and earned six spots in the iTunes Best of 2016. The NPR Sponsorship team launched award-winning, high-performing new podcast opportunities for brands. And from stages at Now Hear This and Vulture Fest to podcast panels during Podcast Movement and Advertising Week, NPR joined so many talented podcasters to celebrate the expansion of this medium and collaborate on solutions to achieve continued growth.
Check out some of the highlights from the year below.
New NPR Podcasts: Highlights from 2016
This summer at the IAB Podcast Upfront, NPR introduced How I Built This with host Guy Raz, featuring intimate and inspiring interviews with today’s brightest entrepreneurs – Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Kathy Hughes of Radio One, Joe Gebbia of Airbnb and many others. Since the show’s launch, How I Built This has been ranked among iTunes’ most downloaded podcasts each week and praised by The Guardian for “pumping out moments of inspiration.”
NPR began distribution of its first Spanish-language podcast, Radio Ambulante. The radio show and podcast captures stories throughout Latin America and Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S.
NPR’s Code Switch blog expanded from “required reading” to a “must-listen podcast,” as the The New York Times put it. Through the weekly show, which made the Times‘ list of Best New Podcasts of 2016, blog, radio stories and social media reporting, the team explores ways race, ethnicity and culture collide in daily life.
All Things Considered Host Kelly McEvers took listeners with her outside of the studio when she launched Embedded. The program goes deep to investigate stories even after they stop making headlines and was named one of The Atlantic‘s best podcasts of the year.
And to guide audiences through the ever-growing podcast landscape, NPR began distributing The Big Listen.
These new NPR podcasts diversify and strengthen NPR’s programming lineup, which includes Hidden Brain and Invisibilia, both returning for second seasons this year; the NPR Politics Podcast, recognized for sporting “genteel objectivity (and abstinence from punditry)” during an unpredictable election season; and longtime favorites such as Planet Money and Fresh Air, which Apple cited as its most downloaded podcast on iTunes in 2016.
Podcasts in NPR One & the NPR Player
To match NPR’s essential programming heard by 9.2 million monthly podcast listeners (Podtrac), NPR introduced new ways for fans to consume podcast content through NPR One and the NPR Player.
‘How I Built This’ & Hyatt: Podcast Halo in NPR One
NPR One, named one of year’s best apps by The New York Times, enhanced its podcast capabilities in 2016, so users can now easily tune into a broad lineup of shows from NPR and beyond. Podcast listens now account for more than half of all content played in NPR One. Users are looking to the app to discover new NPR podcasts too – nearly half are listening to discover new titles. And the heaviest users of NPR One tend to be more podcast driven with 58% of users accessing the app to listen to their favorite podcasts (NPR One July 2016 Listener Survey).
NPR launched the NPR Player this year. The new persistent Player brings audio – including podcasts and radio stories – to the forefront of user experience at NPR.org. Named Digiday’s Best Brand Platform of 2016, the Player also offers a range of options for brands to be part of the experience for the 39.2 million monthly NPR.org users (Google Analytics, 3-mo average, Aug-Oct 2016).
With dedicated audiences across these digital platforms and radio, NPR has the unique ability to offer a cross-platform approach to podcast sponsorship. Hyatt did just that this fall as a launch sponsor for How I Built This. The hotel brand leveraged co-branded episode promos in the NPR Player and Podcast Halos in NPR One, a growing platform for NPR podcast listeners, to extend their alignment with the new show and enhance effectiveness of their campaign.
A Promising 2017
This momentum will continue in 2017 as NPR continues to expand its programming portfolio and listening options.
“NPR is continuing to explore how we can evolve the voice of NPR to personally connect people to the stories they’re engaging with,” Anya Grundmann, NPR’s head of Programming, told MediaVillage earlier this month in an interview about the network’s programming strategy and the NPR Story Lab, a creative studio for incubating new programming for NPR.
The network already has new titles lined up for 2017. On January 2, 2017, 1A will join NPR’s strong programming lineup as a weekday radio show and podcast. Host Joshua Johnson will build on the legacy of The Diane Rehm Show with a smart, thoughtful voice in conversation around public affairs.
Johnson is the voice the country needs right now – Diane Rehm in Poynter, 11/16/16
The New Year comes with new NPR sponsorship opportunities too. In 2017, brands will have another unique way to share their brand’s story with podcast listeners. With the new Brand Soundscapes, brands can work with NPR’s Sponsorship team at National Public Media to capture audio on location and expertly craft their distinctive audio story for a podcast mid-roll or one of NPR’s other Digital platforms.