published August 2, 2018

Breaking News and the Daily News Podcast

Should daily news podcasts worry about breaking news? Probably not.

Just a quick thing on this: when writing about daily news podcasts for this week’s column, I initially developed this entire section about how the daily news podcast still has a long way to figure out how to deal with breaking news. After all, in my focus on the genre’s core variable to grapple with being the concept of time, the fundamental issue here is the threat of an edition being rendered irrelevant shortly after publication, and there being no existing structural capacities at the moment to immediately address those updates when they happened. (Unless, of course, somebody actually gets out there and experiments with dynamic ad insertion technology and what it can bring to daily news podcast dispatches.)

And then, at some point writing that section, I realized that maybe the task of tackling or actively accommodating for the possibility of breaking news shouldn’t actually be the responsibility of daily news podcasts. In many ways, that problem has already been solved with the widely adopted practice of dropping emergency podcast episodes when something big happens.

That thought caused me to throw that entire section out the window and rethink the daily news podcast’s relationship with breaking news. I couldn’t quite find a good way to articulate it for Tuesday, so I didn’t end up broaching the topic at all, but NPR Politics producer Barton Girdwood (great name) evoked it over Twitter shortly after the newsletter went out. To paraphrase his question: “Where do you see podcasts like NPR Politics and FiveThirtyEight Politics, which treats the news as flash points instead of a daily dispatch, fitting into the discussion?”

The question helped me articulate this hypothesis: the “daily news” need and the “breaking news” need are two very separate things, and they therefore should be served with very different products. One is a thing you expect in your life in a certain way everyday, the other is a thing you need when something happens. It’s the difference, perhaps, between a morning newsletter and a push notification.

Anyway, just rudimentary thoughts. Thanks for playing with me.

As an aside: I think the best execution of breaking news through podcasting is the responsive coverage by The Ringer’s NBA Show all throughout this insane off-season. When Lebron announced he has heading to LA, I was hit with a Bleacher Report push notification, and I knew that very second what I really wanted at that moment: a space to digest, feel, and think through the news, facilitated by people who I’ve been developing a listening relationship with for a long time.