The Most Urgent, Exciting Podcast Since Serial.

I’ve just listened to a riveting edition of “The Daily” – the first-rate morning news podcast launched in February by The New York Times.

Among the latest episodes is a dramatic behind-the-scenes account of how FBI director James Comey handled investigations into Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during last year’s Presidential race. 
Many Democrats blame Comey for throwing the election to Trump. But are they right? As with many of the best podcasts, the story is the thing. Listeners are left to draw their own conclusions. 
“The Daily” is not a radio show. This weekday morning news podcast doesn’t start with “the things you need to know” or a rundown of the top stories of the day.  
Instead, it’s designed to be a daily companion. Something you lend an ear to while working out at the gym, walking the dog or driving the car.  The topics may be deadly serious but the tone is surprisingly informal. Relaxed, even.

Host Michael Barbaro is your podcast pal. And he has a sense of humor. 

Always intelligent and never patronizing, he manages to combine a sense of urgency and charm while quizzing Times reporters about the biggest stories on their beats. Listen to “The Daily” daily and Barbaro becomes much more than a newscaster or anchor.  He’s a true podcaster.  The voice between you ears. The guy who takes you by the hand – so to speak – leads you down a trail and tells you a story.  
In “The French Election Explained” he started the Q and A on Paris correspondent Adam Nossitor with a warning about his poor pronounciation of French names – using Jean Luc Melanchon, the socialist candidate, as an example. Nossiter schooled him with the correct pronunciation.  May-lan-shon.

Such a nice podcasty way of starting the segment. And a far cry from tone of the gray lady’s print edition. 

The script at the top of the show is tight, especially Barbaro’s opening sentence, which sets up the main topic for each show. With that done and the listener hooked, “The Daily” feels fairly spontaneous.  Sound is used sparingly but with great effect.  Like a fine photo on the front page of a newspaper, actualities illustrate, setting the tone for what reporters discuss with the host. Kudos to the show’s production team.

Winston on a stroll in the park.

As you may have guessed, “The Daily” has become my morning fix. I listen to it when walking our dog each morning.  Winston doesn’t know it, but he gets a better and slightly longer walk now that I have my “Daily” routine. He flat out loves this show!

How fascinating that a newspaper – not NPR or PRI – has come up with most exciting thing in our business since “Serial” blew the doors off podcasting in 2015. 

With 100 million-plus “Serial” downloads, our humble industry went from nerdy niche to the coolest dude in the media ‘hood. Newspapers, magazines, online sites and (gasp) even radio expanded their coverage of podcasting. Media giants jumped in, trying to grab a spot in the podcast limelight. But many have stumbled – not understanding the difference between a radio show and a podcast.

Before listening to “The Daily” I’d never heard of Michael Barbaro. Had no idea what he looked like. But it doesn’t matter if podcast hosts start out as unknowns. With each new episode they can win us over. 

Another thing about The Daily – and I’ve written about this before –  it’s short. Not a heavy lift each morning. Barbaro takes his time to unfold a story. Episodes feel unhurried, but they’re usually less than 20 minutes. 

Smart move. 

The average commute in the U.S. is less than 25 minutes. Unlike most podcasts, this one leaves me wanting more. And besides, Winston is a middle-aged dog. He doesn’t need a 40 minute walk every morning.

Richard Davies is a podcast consultant and co-host of the weekly podcast, “How Do We Fix It?” – a solutions journalism show. 


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