NPR has been a mainstay in podcasts for years. With shows like Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Planet Money, and Fresh Air, they’ve mastered the art of reacting to and analyzing American culture. All of these shows teach us about the world around us, but from a journalistic perspective. With their most recent series of shows, called Life Kit, NPR hopes to be more proactive than reactive.
Covering topics such as health and money, NPR hopes to help you, “get your life together” with the help of Life Kit. Planet Money will help you understand the American economy, but Life Kit will help you understand your economy with practical tips on investing in stocks and saving your money.
NPR’s Audience Engagement Editor, Carol Ritchie, gave me the chance to look behind the curtain and understand the strategy behind their new show. She says that Life Kit’s focus on empirical and practical advice exemplifies the organization’s expanding coverage of “lifestyle issues and news you can use”.
So far Life Kit is living up to that promise of utility. Instead of evangelizing one fad diet over the other, the show actually takes a moment to slow down and understand the basics of food science. Life Kit answers the overlooked questions of “what is a calorie anyway” or “what makes a whole grain a whole grain?”
Life Kit covers these topics in NPRs tried-and-true pleasantly approachable style. With each episode being less than 20 minutes, the podcast cuts the fat out of learning self improvement. NPR isn’t interested in making you an expert, but rather in consulting the experts to help point you in the right direction.
Its utility combined with its brevity also works to defang some traditionally intimidating topics. For the first time in my life, personal finance has felt accessible. It’s one of those adult skills that everyone is supposed to know, but nobody actually teaches you. Life Kit allows me to drop in and drop out to brush up on whatever skills I’m lacking.
I see this as the show’s greatest strength, but Carol says that it’s also the show’s biggest hurdle. Most podcasts have a built in mechanism to keep it’s audience returning week after week, but Life Kit doesn’t follow the drama of the news cycle, or present you with a cast of lovable personalities. Instead, the show shotgun blasts a variety of topics and hopes that a few of them stick with their audience.
As Life Kit is still fairly new and limited in scope, I view this hurdle is more of a growing pain than an existential threat. In my mind, the solution is simply more topics and more content. Luckily, Carol says that more is coming. In addition to Health and Economics, Life Kit (in partnership with Sesame Workshop) will be adding parenting to their portfolio in February.
So if you need a primer in any of those topics – which we all probably do – give Life Kit a try and let us know what you think by reviewing the show on Podchaser.
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