Thursday, December 8, 2016


Tamar Charney
I don’t know Tamar Charney well but I am impressed with her and her work. My previous contact with Tamar happened when I was marketing programs to WUOM. Tamar was always kind when WUOM dropped one of my shows, plus she also told me the reason for the change.

Since January 2016 Tamar has been Managing Editor at NPR One, a new position at the network. Now I consider her to be one of my teachers. I am grateful for her writing and reporting on NPR Digital’s web pages [link].

Here is how Tamar described herself earlier this year in a Public Radio International (PRI) newsletter:

“I’ve been a public radio jack of all trades — DJ, newscaster, arts reporter, talk show producer, and for almost a decade I ran Michigan Radio’s on-air, online, and news strategy and operations. Currently, I'm the managing editor for NPR One, which is a new way to listen to public radio news and podcasts from stations, networks and producers you've never heard of before, but will love!


One of the things I like about Tamar’s posts about NPR One is that they apply to all phases of mass communication. A good example is her recent post titled Five things your editorial team can learn from NPR One data [link]:

(Note: I’ve edited her comments for clarity and copy space.)

1. How stories start matters...a lot. 

Whether it is a news story or a podcast, the content that does well starts strong. It grabs listeners with a big idea or something intriguing that they care about. Don’t start with a guest’s credentials. Make your story “sticky” by making it matter in the first words.

2. Newscasts are an important part of the public radio diet. 

Listeners value short roundups of the most important things that are going on in their world and their community. NPR One data shows newscasts (local and national) are the least skipped type of content in NPR One. Listeners also ask for them when they are missing.

That said, data also shows repetition of the same story without significant added depth and context doesn’t do well. Keep newscasts less than five minutes long. There is a steep drop off in listening after that.

3. Listeners want features that help them make sense of things.

Newscasts tell people what is happening in their world, features unpack why those things matter. Local stories that listeners have liked and shared the most are most often ones that help them understand what defines their community.

4. Everybody and their dog has a podcast, but doing one well takes skill. 

A successful podcast is one where you are on your A-game every step of the way. The start of your story has to grab ears from the first word. Podcasts have their biggest audience at the beginning and lowest audience at the end. A great podcast uses storytelling techniques to keep as many listeners as possible through the show.

Pro-tip: Never save your best stuff or your most important point for the end of a podcasts, because that is when your audience will be the smallest it will ever be.

5. Lots of data points combined with great editorial judgment is the secret sauce.

When I was programming a station, anytime a big news event caused a listening spike, I’d think about what I could do to keep those new listeners. The data from NPR One provides a good clue about what people respond to and when they listen.

A FEW THINGS ABOUT TAMAR CHARNEY YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW (from various sources in her own words)

Tamar Charney's #1 Advisor
Fun fact: I’ve done voiceovers for funeral homes, truck engine repair training modules and even a cartoon hepatitis virus — yes, you read that right.

I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, before the city was full of hipsters, moved to Michigan for school and I stay here because I fell in love with snow, the Great Lakes, and the stories there are to tell about this area.

I’m one of those people who is perfectly content to sit alone in a restaurant, observing the people around me. It’s no surprise I became a journalist because I enjoying wondering what other people's lives are about.

1 comment:

  1. Bravos, Ken. Thanks for sharing. We can all learn something from Tamar (and from you). Cheers