President Biden brings back weekly addresses with a podcast-like format

Expect more internet than radio.

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2021 -- U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Jan. 20, 2021. At an unusual inauguration closed to public due to the still raging coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday at the West Front of the Capitol, which was breached two weeks ago by violent protesters trying to overturn his election victory. (Photo by Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images)
Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

President Biden is poised to resurrect the weekly radio address, but he’s hoping to keep it relevant through a simple strategy: ditch the radio. As the New York Times explained, the White House has launched a “weekly conversation” series that embraces the more informal style of podcasts. The first episode, a chat with a worker laid off during the pandemic, is available on YouTube (below) and social media platforms, but probably won’t reach your local radio station.

The aim is to use the formats and platforms “where [people] are,” White House digital strategy director Rob Flaherty told the Times.

This isn’t an in-depth, heavy-hitting discussion like with some podcasts. Like classic weekly radio addresses, this is about amplifying the President’s message. You’re theoretically more likely to support Biden’s agenda as he discusses it each week, especially if it’s presented in the same way as a podcast or YouTube show.

It’s far from certain that this approach will work. Past presidents have had varying degrees of success with weekly addresses, ranging from Reagan’s triumphs to Carter’s failures. There are many political shows online, and many of those will ask questions that won’t come up in an official presentation. If nothing else, Biden is acknowledging a digital-first media landscape where formal radio broadcasts are a thing of the past.

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