Preparing for the release of some major statistics about the U.S. economy, AP’s Business News team paired up with audience experts in Digital News to analyze the types of questions that were emerging around the term “recession.”

Reader interest in the term and its ramifications was spiking, and knowing that trend would likely intensify, the team identified a suite of explanatory content that would publish over successive days:

— A piece by Paul Wiseman examined the mixed signals coming from the U.S. economy.
— Chris Rugaber coordinated with Washington-based team leader Fred Monyak for a look at the definition of a recession, carefully explaining why looking at successive quarters of shrinking gross domestic product is not the only indicator of a recession.
— Financial literacy journalists Adriana Morga and Cora Lewis offered readers advice to “recession proof” their life, with practical day-to-day tips for a broad audience.
— A final piece by Rugaber looked at how everything from mortgages to student loans to crypto would be impacted by interest rate increases.

Econ combo

In photo at left, traders work the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, July 1, 2022. At right, women pass out gallons of milk at a food distribution by the Farm Share nonprofit food bank in Miami, July 20, 2022. Americans overwhelmed by inflation have increasingly turned to handouts to help feed their families.

AP Photo / Lynne Sladky

Audience engagement specialist Josh Cornfield studied the relevant search traffic to focus on readers’ queries and make the explanatory coverage easily accessible. The goal was to familiarize readers with the economic data and discussions dominating the news, and develop a mini library of content that AP can reference in the future.

The recession explainer proved critical. The term itself was rapidly being politicized, with many accusing President Joe Biden of redefining or hiding a recession. The AP explained directly that the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research declares a recession, often well after one has begun. AP also described the multiple factors, other than GDP, that the committee weighs. The explainer was promoted and linked as conversation heated up around a possible recession.