Something New Coming To Every Device Near You (Very Early In The Morning)

Apr 3, 2017
Originally published on April 5, 2017 11:43 am

Q&A with Neal Carruth (general manager of podcasting) and Sarah Gilbert (executive producer of Morning Edition and Up First)

Q: What is Up First?

Sarah: Think of Up First as an on-ramp to the day's news. By joining our conversation, you'll get just what you need to know about what's happening now, and what's coming your way that day. In 10 minutes, as you enjoy your first cup of coffee, the Morning Edition team gives you the smartest take from NPR's hosts and correspondents on what's going on in the world and what new developments to look out for throughout the day. We're up all night to make sure you're set up for the day.

Neal: Up First will be 10 minutes long and available by 6 a.m. ET Monday through Friday wherever you get your podcasts — NPR One, iTunes, Alexa, Google Home. Its format will be a conversation between NPR's Morning Edition hosts — David Greene, Steve Inskeep and Rachel Martin — and NPR correspondents about the news that will drive your day. They tell you what you need to know to be up to speed about news and current events by the time you get to work.

Q: Why is NPR doing this and why now?

Sarah: This is something we've wanted to do for a long time. What you hear is the result of many hours of pitch and counter-pitch. In the end it came down to something pleasingly simple: a podcast which is just the right length to be useful to people at the very busiest time of their day. We're offering an on-demand experience which is also absolutely current and essential: the information you need to face the day ahead.

Neal: It is the right time. We are constantly thinking about how we can evolve our programs and launch content that will introduce new audiences to the voices, rigorous reporting and compelling storytelling that NPR is known for. We wanted to do something different — something that would appeal to podcast listeners but also enrich the sound of Morning Edition (which by the way has a bigger radio audience than ever — 14.65 million listeners per week.) It's a win-win: This podcast will attract digital audiences who may not have yet discovered public radio.

Q: How will this affect Morning Edition?

Sarah: We're kicking off at 5 a.m. with an agenda-setting line-up and a creative camaraderie that infuses the rest of our show. This new rundown also creates the opportunity to refresh topics and offer listeners something completely different for the 7 a.m. top of the hour — which is crucial in a world which moves this quickly.

Neal: There are a couple examples of where we've seen the interplay between on-demand and our newsmagazines. Take the NPR Politics Podcast, where a vibrant, dynamic conversation in the on-demand space spilled over into the newsmagazines and special coverage. We have seen it with Kelly McEvers, who hosts Embedded and All Things Considered. The work she does for the podcast enriches her on-air work and vice-versa.

Q: Why are you excited about this project?

Sarah: The relationship between the podcast and show is symbiotic. We're pulling down the wall between the broadcast and digital worlds, and what we learn from one will improve the other. Listeners who haven't heard us on the air will hopefully fall in love with these smart, friendly voices and decide to tune in after they've listened to the podcast to find out where else Rachel, David and Steve take them every morning.

Neal: NPR and NPR member stations operate in a competitive media environment where new habits are constantly being formed. We believe there's an audience for a morning news podcast, and public radio needs to provide the best product possible in all the places and ways this audience wants to listen. Up First is the answer.

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