How WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show Efficiently Serves Their Online Audience

Mar 3, 2014

Brian Lehrer checks Twitter during a staff news meeting. The staff uses Twitter for story ideas, crowdsourcing and to talk with listeners of The Brian Lehrer Show.
Credit Jody Avirgan
Here at Digital Services, we're checking in with shows around the country about their digital best practices and strategies. 

  As part of that project, we spoke to two of the brains behind WNYC's long running midday show, The Brian Lehrer Show - host, Brian Lehrer and producer, Jody Avirgan. The team has been experimenting with how to best serve and engage their audience online for a long time, and have learned a few important lessons along the way. Here are a few:

Put a Plan in Place for Online Stories in Your Workflow:

Jody is not a dedicated web producer – time for refreshing content online after a segment airs has to be found between booking guests, researching and writing questions, and preparing for the next day’s show. He uses spare minutes to do what he can. “The show’s going from 10-12, I have 15 minutes at 11:30, I am going to listen back to a segment that aired at 10:25 and write up some great quotes,” Jody shared. Then, before the show is even over, a segment is updated online.

Create Original Stories for the Web:

Credit Emily Alfin Johnson/NPR
The staff is now going one step further and creating web original content. Short articles, independent from 

what is on air, do a great job at marketing the show and serving the consumption habits of online listeners, Brian shared. For example, one of these posts, A Running List of What We Know the NSA Can Do. So Far, was picked up by Slate, and even inspired an on air segment for the show. They don’t have to be long according to Jody. Quick lists or important facts can engage people beyond your regular audience and serve how people read online. 


 Pay Attention To What People Are Interested In:

Jody’s system for prioritizing what segments get that extra webification time or a more extended refresh is simple: pay attention to what people are already gravitating towards. He checks in on Google Analytics, Chartbeat and even what is getting traction on Twitter. 

Then Make The Post the Best It Can Be: 

When Jody knows what’s attracting attention, he takes a write-up that was done before the show, and makes it an A+ post – adding in visual elements, highlights and context. This way, the segments that are already resonating with your audience are also spectacular write-ups that people will be eager to share. 

Research For A Piece Can Also Be Web Content:

Another way to be as efficient as possible with digital content is to not recreate the wheel. Jody found the research and scripts he and other producers were preparing for Brian as part of their daily work, such as bullet points about surprising numbers from the latest census data or great quotes from a book, could easily be re-purposed for the web and get traction when paired with a strong headline. Jody also suggest making the most of your live tweeting efforts.

Embedding those tweets into an article is a great way to fake a "transcript" or highlight list,” Jody said. 

 Jody joined us for a webinar to talk more about their approach to online on March 5. Watch the recording and read a summaryFollow Jody and The Brian Lehrer Show on Twitter. Have a suggestion for a post or show to profile? Email it to or tweet it to us @NPRDS