How NYT’s The Daily Grew to 5 Million Monthly Listeners and Became a Breakout Star

The podcast launched in Feb. 2017

The New York Times launched its first marketing campaign for its audio show, The Daily. The New York Times
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After launching its daily news audio show, The Daily, about a year and a half ago, The New York Times started its first marketing campaign to garner more listeners.

Hosted by NYT reporter Michael Barbaro, The Daily spends about 20 minutes tackling a particular topic that might lead the news conversation of the day.

The team kicked around the idea of a daily news show until the 2016 presidential election, when it became apparent that there was a “real need to understand what was going on and make sense of things,” said Lisa Tobin, NYT’s executive producer for audio.


As Barbaro wrote in a post announcing the show, “This moment demands an explanation. The Daily is on a mission to find it.” Borrowing that same sentiment, the NYT’s marketing campaign uses the slogan, “This moment deserves to be understood.”

The campaign launched earlier this month and will run through the first week of September. It will feature advertisements in three cities, such as a highway billboard and a light rail wraparound. There will also be 15- and 30-second spots on TV, Hulu and YouTube as well as Spotify and acast.

“We feel like we’re building a real bond with our listeners. We’ve quickly become a habit, we’re part of their lives,” said Sam Dolnick, assistant managing editor at NYT. “We feel like we’re building stronger relationships than we ever have.”

The first episode of The Daily aired Feb. 1 last year and tackled Trump’s nomination, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court. Since then, the show has tackled a range of subjects from policies under the Trump administration to an examination of Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death.

The team that works on the show has grown to nearly two dozen people, many of whom have a background in narrative production rather than news, Tobin said.

According to NYT, the show has garnered 5 million monthly unique listeners, airs on more than 30 radio stations nationwide and was the inspiration behind a new FX show co-produced by NYT called The Weekly.

“The Daily has been this kind of phenomenon for us, and we have had this kind of unprecedented success for a daily news show, but we don’t know what that number could be or should be—5 million, 10, 20?” Dolnick said, later adding, “We hope this campaign starts to tell that story and invites them to give us a try.”

As sources, the Daily considers the hundreds of NYT reporters who are able to come on the show and explain the topics they’ve been covering for years. Those candid conversations have led to varying and enriching relationships with readers and listeners, Dolnick said.

“I think it’s brilliant that the NYT realizes it has more to offer than just the printed word,” said Clint White, president and founder of WiT Media. “ … I give them a lot of credit for enabling that type of content.”

He added that a number of publishers have launched podcasts that have become popular recently due to a number of factors including shorter attention spans and a decrease in downtime. “And furthermore, since they’re enabled by phone and devices, it’s a perfect way to utilize that device,” he said.


The number of podcast listeners is continuing to increase. In 2017, 40 percent of Americans who were 12 and older said they’ve listened to a podcast, up four percentage points in a year. And 24 percent said they had listened to one in the past month, an increase of three percentage points from the year prior, according to the Pew Research Center.

As far as listeners go, Dolnick said he believes the show has provided a fresh outlook on the publication to a new audience who might have previously consider the publication intimidating or chilly.

“The NYT is no longer that distant, cold place. It’s something that speaks to me every single [morning],” Dolnick said.


@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.