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The jump from print to audio


WORLD Radio - The jump from print to audio

Co-founders Nick Eicher and Joseph Slife recall how WORLD Radio got its start

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: It’s Monday the 9th of August, 2021.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Paul Butler.

MARY REICARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

First up, humble beginnings.

Ten years ago this Wednesday, our first program aired on the Salem Radio Network. We’ve heard from some of you who listened to that broadcast on August 11th, 2011 and have listened to every program since!

But perhaps you joined us more recently and might not know how WORLD Radio got started.

So we asked our founding fathers, so to speak, to reach back into their memory archives and tell us the story.

NICK EICHER: I'm Nick Eicher. I'm the Chief Content Officer and one of the inventors of World Radio along with Joseph Slife.

Before I came to WORLD, radio broadcasting was something that I was highly interested in. And I have always been a big fan of National Public Radio. NPR, for all of its secular sort of faults, it's, uh, insufficient worldview, they were the best in the business in a lot of ways. They did seek to do serious journalism. And I thought, well, WORLD does that. What would World Magazine sound like if World Magazine were a radio program? It was just sort of a thought experiment.

JOSEPH SLIFE: My name is Joseph Slife. And I was the senior producer and co-host for World Radio from its inception in 2011, until spring of 2017.

For years, my longtime boss, Steve Moore, at Crown Financial Ministries, he and I would kind of discuss in the hallway, you know, it's a shame that there's no type of thing like that. A longer form radio, well-done, good sound production that's done from a Christian worldview standpoint. So one day, we hatched this idea that maybe we should go talk to the people at WORLD Magazine about this because WORLD had been in the print business for a good long while by that time and was doing a very fine job of print journalism.

EICHER: The funny thing is, we both sort of separately had ideas for radio programs. And when Joseph called me one time, he said, "You know, I'd like to, I'd like to pitch a program idea to you." I said, "Oh, man, come on, come on up. And let's talk about it." And we did.

SLIFE: And they said,"That's a wonderful idea. We would love to do that. You guys figure out a way to pay for it. And we're with you." Of course, this was the, this was the problem, because we couldn't figure out a way to pay for it.

Well, fast forward to 2011. And Nick called me and he said, "I feel like the dog has been chasing the truck for a long time. And he's finally caught the truck and doesn't know what to do with it." And I say, "Well, what are you talking about?" And he said, "Well, we have an opportunity—an invitation from the Salem Radio Network to do the type of program that we've been talking about."

EICHER: The way we approached it was, well, here's a chance to reach an audience with the kind of journalism that we do at WORLD. And if we can take that content, put it out in front of a new audience, maybe it will attract more magazine readers.

The board was, the board was appropriately skeptical, let me say that. Nobody really thought back then that podcasting was going to be a viable enterprise or a viable sort of platform for journalism of this sort. It was, here's an opportunity to go on a radio network to do a magazine style program for broadcast, for commercial broadcast.


SLIFE: And Nick said, we have an opportunity to do a pilot program for Salem. They won't just sign off on the whole idea. They want to hear a pilot first because we're magazine publishers. We haven't done radio, and they want to make sure we can pull this off. And he said, "Will you help me?" And I said, "Yeah, I'll help you do the pilot. I'm not going to commit to anything else. But I'll help you do the pilot."


SLIFE: And so for Memorial Day weekend in 2011, we produced a Memorial Day themed pilot program that aired on the Salem radio network and with which they were very pleased. And actually, we were fairly pleased with it, too, for our first venture out.


EICHER: And that led to a weekend radio program that they green lighted for August of 2011.


SLIFE: It was very, very difficult to get that first program out the door. But by the grace of God, somehow we did. And it wasn't bad. And then the next week, we did another one, and it got a little bit better. And the next week a little bit better, and the next week a little bit better.


And so we continued with that weekend program for quite some time. And the day came when Nick said, "Alright, we want to do a daily program now."

EICHER: It didn't take us long to figure out there wasn't much of an audience. So we thought, well, maybe maybe the audience is weekday. So maybe we better find a way to get there.


SLIFE: Well, at first it was Nick and it was me. Now we did bring in some of the people from WORLD Magazine, the folks who had been writing who would come in and do some segments for us.


And so that's how we began sort of cross pollinating with the magazine and bringing those people in. But what we realized is that, ultimately, we needed to build out a radio team.

EICHER: And, you know, we did we did have some freelancers that we went to and, you know, Joseph had a bunch of people that he knew from, you know, from his radio days. So that's where people like Kent Covington came from and Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz. These were all people that that Joseph had worked with. Jim Henry.


SLIFE: Nick and I prayed about this program. I can remember, he and I were at a National Religious Broadcasters convention, this is probably in early 2012. So we'd been doing the program, you know, maybe six months at that point. And it was very difficult. And we were just, weren't sure how we were going to continue to make this work. Because it was so hard. And there were just not enough people putting their hand to the plow, so to speak. You know, we didn't have enough workers, enough laborers to get done what we needed to get done. And he and I were in a stairwell at this hotel where the convention was taking place. And there was a little bench there. And he and I sat down on that bench and just prayed together, just begging the Lord to help us—to put us in contact with the right people so that we could carry on this project. And the Lord answered that prayer over time and in wonderful ways with the people He provided.

EICHER: So we, you know, we created a radio station friendly daily program. And we just took the content and put it up as a podcast. You know, there's no extra effort, really. The main effort was in producing the program. So we'll throw it out there and make it available as a podcast.

SLIFE: But podcasting wasn't quite the thing then that it is now. As a matter of fact, in 2011, if you had a podcast, the only way people could get this on their device, on their iPod, was to download the program to their computer, and then you had to take a wire and plug it into your device and you had to sync.

But then in the summer of 2012, so we'd been doing the weekend program for about a year at that point, Apple announced an innovation going forward. You would be able to download a podcast directly to your device. And this was the big game changer for a lot of people, but certainly for World Radio, because we knew at that point that access to the program was about to become much easier. People no longer had to download and sync. They could just get it directly to their device.


EICHER: And so what we pretty quickly discovered was that the radio audience wasn't really for us. What we found was that people really loved it as a podcast, not necessarily as a broadcast


EICHER: At first, we had purposed to put the podcast behind a paywall, and create our own app as the only place that you could get it. And just sort of package it as here's a bundle of content. That is maybe more attractive than just the print magazine, you get all of this stuff. And what we, again, this is accidental. This is accidental, in one sense, providential and another. We couldn't quite make the app work the way we wanted to. And that's just being honest about it. So what we did in the mean time is we thought, well, let's just, you know, we're putting a lot of effort into producing this program. Let's just put it out where it's the easiest to get. That is, make it available on the Apple platform and just give it away. And when we did that, the audience exploded.


It used to be that World Radio was there to promote the legacy product World Magazine. Now, it's its own thing.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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