Editor’s note: We are updating an article by tech and media journalist David Tvrdon written in late 2020. In it David reflects on how the forces of business, technology and journalism intersect and what that means for the media industry.
Do you have podcasts? Do your reporters read their own articles, or do you have an automated audio format? Are you working on your own voice assistant? Are you working on your smart speakers audio strategy?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, great, you are off to a good start. If you couldn’t answer yes to any of them, that’s fine, too. We are here for you.
Audio has been a constant presence in the news in the past few months with many tech giants trying to copy the initial success of Clubhouse.
Live audio chat room features appearing on various social media might have rung someone the bells of past live video craze. Thankfully, in 2021, we are already talking about monetization from the get-go.
But it’s not just the live audio that has been the center of the debate regarding audio, both Apple and Spotify announced support for paid podcasts. And there is a lot of consolidation going on with big tech companies buying up podcasting companies, like Amazon acquiring the enterprise podcast hosting and ad sales company ART19 or Spotify buying another exclusive podcast, just to name a few.
To get you started on audio in general, its opportunity or how some big players like Spotify are thinking about it I recommend reading these pieces:
- Analyst Matthew Ball published a long essay called Audio’s Opportunity and Who Will Capture It
- Another News Impact Summit took place, organised by the European Journalism Centre and powered by the Google News Initiative, called Newsroom Strategies: Audio & Voice (I also presented, here is the written version of my talk)
- In the latest a16z podcast, Gustav Söderström, chief R&D officer at Spotify, talked about the future of audio and how Spotify’s focus on podcasts has guided them
More from The Fix: Paid podcasts are here, this is what you need to know
Should your newsroom have a podcast? Yes
When I interviewed Dan Oshinsky, the renowned newsletter expert and consultant, for The Fix and we talked about all things regarding editorial newsletters. My first question was whether any newsroom should have a newsletter strategy in place in 2020. His answer was a definite Yes.
After going through all the takeaways from the above mentioned sources I can tell you with a high confindece that your newsroom should have an audio strategy. And probably the easiest way to start is by doing a podcast.
Audio is great for building a relationship with your community or your audience. Again, back to the newsletter interview – Dan explained that if you have a reader, who is reading your content, watching your videos, subscribing to your newsletter and also listening to your podcast is very likely to support you.
That’s actually something more newsrooms all over Europe have seen and even The New York Times’ leaving CEO Mark Thompson confirmed – the more types of content the reader is engaging with, the more likely he or she is to subscribe or support you and keep on doing that.
In 2018, the World Association of News Publishers published a report called Engaged Readers Don’t Churn. In that report they interviewed many newsroom across Europe and one of the takeaways was that building habits (newsletter subscription, podcast listening, website visits, app usage…) is a sound strategy for not losing existing supporters.
In that regard, podcasts are another way for your newsroom to strengthen the relationship you are building with your audience, whether or not you have a reader supported revenue model or not.
Starting a podcast
As I mentioned, probably the easiest way to kick-start your audio strategy is to start a podcast.
There are many approaches you can take but one of the most popular for newsrooms, according to Nic Newman, a senior researcher at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism who presented at the News Impact Summit, is a daily news podcast.
Now, for a smaller newsroom that can be overwhelming, nonetheless it turns out it is very popular also among audiences. The idea is to have an on-demand audio experience of a news broadcast with the most important news of the previous day.
Anyway, if that’s too much for you, start wih a weekly one. The most popular podcast genres in US and Europe are comedy, news and culture & society.
If you are looking for ‘how to start a podcast’ resources I have a couple of good ones for you.
Podcasting 101, is a video series with two famous podcasters produced by PRX & the Google Podcasts creator program. The series explains everything from recording to editing and publishing your podcast.
Gimlet Academy is a five-episode series from podcast pioneer Alex Blumberg, and Spotify for Podcasters, that teaches the craft of audio story-telling.
As I said, podcasts are a good start but that’s not all if you want to start taking audio seriously. Even with podcasts there are a couple of ways to go.
It seems as of 2021 it will get easier to connect paid podcasts to your subscription or membership. That means you will no longer have to fiddle around with multiple apps and integrations, at least that’s Spotify’s promise. Based on what the analyst Ben Thompson, one of the very first to have the authentification ready, showed when revealing his Passport platform, it seems to work just fine.
The big publishers will probably continue selling ads but paid podcasts might be a good way forward for memberships and outlets with thousands of subscribers.
Podcasts like newsletters have proved to be good retention tools for reader funded models. Plus, with audio you give your audience an extra personal touch as you talk to them directly because people mostly listen to podcasts by themselves over earphones.
From podcast production in the newsroom there is just a small way to having articles also in the audio form. Publishers such as Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and others are using Amazon’s or Google’s synthetic voices to automatically read the text. And there are outlets like the Danish digital magazine Zetland which famously makes its authors read their own articles.
Of course, you can also set up your own voice assistant reading news aloud via the smart home speakers. As mentioned in the beginning, live audio chat rooms are one of the things you can throw into the mix when crafting your newsroom’s audio strategy.
More from The Fix: Future-proofing your media business. Lessons from bookstores and Netflix