WORLD Radio’s 5-year anniversary

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, May 4th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Today is the 5th anniversary of the radio program The World and Everything in It and here to talk with us a little bit about some of the history and how we got to where we got and where we go from here is Kevin Martin. He is the CEO of WORLD News Group. Kevin, good morning to you.

KEVIN MARTIN, CEO: Good morning. Good to be here.

Well, hey, I guess all I need to say at this point is thanks for believing in this.

MARTIN: Well, did you think I didn’t believe in it? (laughter)

I’m not sure I did! (laughter)

MARTIN: Well, I suppose it’s like any start-up business you do. There’s a level of uncertainty going in. We really knew we wanted to do it, but there were a lot of things we didn’t know. And it’s the kind of thing you don’t really understand what’s going to happen until you start doing it.

What you hope for is that you have the resources to keep it going long enough to sort out what doesn’t work and keep it going long enough to do that.

Well, it is a kind of taking stock time and let’s do a little bit of that. Let’s walk through the history of how we got to this point.

MARTIN: Well, in the earliest conception of WORLD Radio, our goal was to find an audience outside of WORLD Magazine for our journalism, for our biblically objective journalism and we were approached by a national radio network who was interested in putting our journalism into a radio program. So, we actually started doing, two years before we started the daily program we actually started doing the weekly The World and Everything in It for that radio network. And I think we were on hundreds of stations, 400 or 500 stations with that weekly program before we tried to tackle the daily program in May of 2013. And even in May of 2013 we were still thinking of the daily program as a radio program. And so that’s how we were approaching the program back then just as a way to find a new audience for our work.

It’s interesting, Kevin, that we’ve got so many devoted listeners to a program in such a young medium. You wrote this in your CEO notes column in WORLD Magazine citing a research agency called Edison that one-third of all Americans are unfamiliar with the term “podcasting.” More than a half of all Americans have yet even to listen to a podcast of any kind. So it’s small now but it was a lot smaller back then.

MARTIN: Yeah, that’s a pretty recent survey. I think back then most of us, if we were familiar at all with the term “podcast” we hadn’t really experienced podcasts. People weren’t really doing podcasts back then. But when we started in May of 2013, five years ago today approximately, podcasting really wasn’t on our radar. We were thinking of it as a radio program. It took us a few years to figure out that most of our engagement was coming from the podcast audience. So, at the end of 2015 we really made the transition away from radio and fully into podcasts, which was a little bit scary but we knew what we knew.

What we didn’t know was how many people there were. We had no idea back then how to measure who was listening to our podcast, where they were picking it up, how they were listening. We just knew that we were pushing our podcast out.

So, in the end of 2015, beginning of 2016 we began to try to calculate how many people were listening, where they were getting the podcast. What we figured out very quickly is that information was a lot more complicated than we hoped. It ended up taking a lot of effort just to get a rough estimate of how many people were listening back at the beginning of 2016. I will say that we used that rough estimate and tracked that throughout the first year or two of pure podcast delivery. From 2016 forward we saw that audience triple from 2016 through September of 2017. So, as unreliable and as difficult as it was to come up with those numbers of podcasts, we saw the audience triple.

And I don’t want to diminish that, but it went from a tiny group to a small group, and that was progress, but then there seemed to be a sort of inflection point that hit in September of last year. And I noticed it anecdotally just by the emails and the calls to our listener line. But our measuring has gotten more accurate and the audience is more than twice as big as it was in September.

MARTIN: Yeah, we’ve talked a little bit internally about what the cause of all of that was, but suddenly from September through March we had explosive growth in audience and I think that’s almost solely attributable to the fact that we had listeners who were really interested in sharing that with their friends.

Well, let’s talk about what’s ahead.

MARTIN: Well, in the short term what we hear more and more from listeners is we’d like a way to share segments of the program with our friends and share or read transcripts of the program. And so recently we put up a blog site––that has both segments you can share and transcripts of every segment that you can read or share. But what we want to do in the short term, probably in the next six months, is create an online home for all of WORLD Radio, which includes our weekly interview program Listening In, that would give all of you listeners a place to go to find the transcripts, to find segments, to find information about the programs. So that’s what our goal is for the next few months. When you ask me what’s ahead, I think of my responsibility here to find resources to do more of what we’re doing. And so in a way I’d like to turn the tables on you, ya know. It’s my job to come up with the resources, it’s your job to tell me what’s ahead.

Yeah, well, we’re getting our bags packed to put on our 20th World Journalism Institute course. I’m heading up with several colleagues to Dordt College in Northwest Iowa. Our friends at Dordt are hosting us, as they did last year as well. We will be doing two weeks of intense lecture and practice — and we’ll have the biggest group of students we’ve ever had.

So I’ll be doing my part of the radio program from there.

We’re constantly working to develop new reporters, because we spend on technology, but in journalism, the big expense is people: recruiting, teaching, training, investing in internships, and developing young professionals.

At the end of the day, the only way we expand the journalism here, tackle more stories, develop new radio programs, that all begins with World Journalism Institute. That’s our investment in the future. Not just WORLD, but we want Christian journalists all over the journalism profession, understanding biblical objectivity, and increasing the quality and fairness and impact of journalism far and wide.

Well, I could go on all day on that topic. Kevin Martin, our CEO of World News Group. He’s our leader here and, Kevin, it’s great to spend this time with you on this special day, on this anniversary. Thanks for taking the time.

MARTIN: It’s great to be here. Mary, Nick, thanks for having me on.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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