Training On Demand: How Public Radio Shows Can Help Their Stories Succeed Online

Mar 13, 2014

A panoramic view of the WNYC offices, including the Brian Lehrer Show workspace.
Credit Jody Avirgan

Here at Digital Services, we're starting an ongoing project checking in with shows around the country about their digital best practices and strategies. From some of these conversations, we'll share many of the tips various public radio show staff have for succeeding online. We'll also point to relevant resources and training from our own archive. Have a suggestion for a person or show to talk to? Email it to ejohnson1@npr.org, or send us a tweet @NPRDS. 

Few things are as disappointing as seeing a great radio piece not resonate with your online audience. Here are a few tips curated from our web writing and headline trainings to keep in mind when adapting on-air segments and shows for the web

1.  Make sure you have a great headline.  

A solid, effective headline is crucial. We recommend this post to learn more about headline writing. If possible, think about what your headline will be before the segment or story is written -- that can help focus and strengthen your headline writing. Here are some examples of clear and compelling headlines:

2. Don’t just paste in your script or promo from air

A well rounded buildout from WUWM.
Credit Emily Alfin Johnson/NPR

  Transcripts are rarely, if ever, the answer. Our numbers show that most listeners do not read them.  Instead, incorporate relevant images, links, and rewrite the story in a web friendly way:

  • Rewrite the lede so the most timely information is at the top. 
  • Include an image in the post. An engaging and topical image will help your piece make its way around the web. 
  • Include highlights from the conversation, but be brutal with quotes to get only the best lines.
  • Add details, numbers and context. This shows you know what you’re talking about, rather than being confusing as it can be on air.
  • If appropriate, consider including other forms of media, such as a playlist for a music hour, a trailer for a movie related interview or an excerpt from a new book you are discussing.

These posts from shows utilized other media, have copy that is rewritten for the web and overall are more approachable for the web audience. 

You may not have the time or the resources to do this for every show or segment, but make the effort when it is a piece you know readers would enjoy, or can add something new or noteworthy to a larger conversation.

Find more about writing for the web, headline writing and aggregation in our archives.

Learn more about how WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show and NHPR's Word of Mouth are putting tips like these into action.