Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
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Eight media brands with innovative podcasts

Publishers are using podcasts to increase brand awareness, change, pivot away from existing media models and even bridge the gap between audiences and senior executives.

Harriet King profiles eight media companies who are using podcasts in interesting ways.

Once written off by media watchers as an interim technology that would be most likely superseded by video, podcasts have nevertheless confounded the critics and become the surprise media trend of the last few years.

The demand for immersive audio content shows no sign of slowing down either. “Research shows that podcasting has grown 105 per cent and it is extending and personalising our audio consumption,” says Hattie Brett, editor of Grazia magazine. 

So why have podcasts become so successful and a key part of media brands’ strategy of expanding brand awareness and developing communities?

“There’s something very intimate about podcasts – you’re literally letting an individual into your personal space for 30 minutes,” adds Hattie Brett. “As such, you develop a relationship with the person who is hosting the podcast and, over time, really come to trust them. So for media brands, that have been built on developing trust with their readers, it’s a natural extension; a way to show a more intimate side of your team to your audience,” she continues.

Here then we profile eight media companies who are using podcasts in innovative and highly effective ways.

1. Thirst Aid Kit – Buzzfeed UK 

One of the ways that the venture-backed publisher has shifted away from its original core proposition of listicles and viral articles is to focus on podcasts. Launched in November 2017, Thirst Aid Kit was labelled with the strapline “everything your parched self ever wanted and more” and promised to “explore the ways women express their desire” in an era where we are asking more “pointed questions about Hollywood, representation and opportunity.” Three seasons later and the shows co-hosts – Nichole Perkins and Bim Adewunmi – have been praised by listeners as “articulate” and “absolutely hilarious” presenting a pop culture podcast that is a “hilariously candid, bundle of naughty.” Listeners can tune in every Thursday via popular podcast platform, in addition to Stitcher Radio and the Apple podcast app.  

2. Dear Viv – The Pool

The British indie website The Pool pioneered a unique time-focused approach (similar to radio/TV) to its content when it launched several years ago. Podcasts fit well within this structure and have always been a priority for the site, with many of its audio offerings attracting large listener figures. Among them is this agony aunt style podcast, hosted by Viv Groskop, which invites listeners to share their most intricate personal problems, from romance and family issues to self-confidence and employment concerns. Aired at 5pm every Tuesday (in keeping with The Pool’s timed approach), these 10-15 minute snippets “dispense the tough-love that your friends are too polite to give you,” as described by podcast platform Acast – which hosts Dear Viv.

3. The Glossy Podcast – Glossy

The Glossy Podcast was launched in May 2016 by Glossy – a digital media brand owned by Digiday that “explores the evolution of fashion and beauty through the lens of digital and technology.” The brand describes their podcast as a “half-hour, no-holds-barred conversational about how technology is transforming the fashion, luxury and beauty industries with the people making change happen in space. Featured guests discuss the challenges of navigating an increasingly complex digital environment.” Guests have included well-known actresses such as Hilary Swank, high-end models such as Miranda Kerr and successful blogging influencers such as Blair Eadie. The podcasts air two to three times a week.

4. Grazia Life Advice – Grazia

Mainstream female focused media in the UK has not been slow to embrace podcasts. Grazia magazine launched their own life advice podcast back in May 2018. “My challenge to the team was what was the right concept for a Grazia podcast. Through insight we learnt that the Grazia woman was listening to podcasts in a very intimate way – one on one, whilst commuting or cooking – and that she wanted a format that left her feeling enriched and inspired; which is why we came up with the idea of interviewing smart women about their best pieces of life advice,” said the magazines editor, Hattie Brett. Celebrity hosts discuss the intricacies of their lives, asked by Grazia to “pass on six pieces of advice that have served them best – plus the worst piece of advice they’ve ever received. As well as learning from their wisdom, we [listeners] hear the intimate and often hilarious stories that have brought them where they are today.”

5. Commons People – The Huffington Post UK 

The Huffington Post has always been an innovator in multimedia content. Commons People, a panel hosted podcast covering a multitude of politically centred topics based in the UK, actually debuted as long ago as October 2015. Every Thursday the “HuffPost UK politics team take a look at the week in Westminster and the repercussions of the motions and personality clashes.” Recent episodes have included enticing titles such as “Tories Are Better at Killing Their Leaders” and “Writing Off Jeremy Corbyn” – balancing opinion and criticism across the two leading parties.

6. The New Stateman Podcast – The New Statesman 

The New Statesman uses podcasts to not just increase brand awareness and bring its audience closer, but also, like several other current affairs focused print brands, to sell subscriptions. Much of its success has been down to the very popular “The New Statesman Podcast with Helen Lewis and Stephen Bush which covers politics. The publication also issues other podcasts including SRSLY with Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz on pop culture, etc.

7. UnStyled – Refinery29 

UnStyled is a slightly unusual weekly podcast in that it is hosted by a media company’s senior executive. It features Refinery29’s Global editor-in-chief and co-founder, Christene Barberich, who presents her take on the woes of work, life and love, often referencing issues she faces as a publisher/entrepreneur. Barberich has pulling power as co-hosts have included the likes of Alexa Chung, Lena Dunham, Aly Raisman and Hilaria Baldwin. The last episode of season 2 was aired in November 2018, and Refinery29 have told listeners to catch up on season 1 and 2 and ‘get ready’ for season three which is coming soon.

8. Currently Trending – Harper’s Bazaar Arabia 

There is growing evidence that podcasts are becoming a global phenomenon. Currently Trending is Harper Bazaar Arabia’s fashion podcast exploring the realms of Middle Eastern style and the latest trends. Editors are joined by “special guests from the industry to lend their expert opinion” and discuss “the hottest topics from the Middle East and beyond.” Episodes have included “The First Arab Hijabi Women to Become a Model for Nike” and “Ramadan Collections and the New Supermodel of Saudi,” enlightening listeners of the modern twists of female-empowering fashionistas transcending the Middle East. All 29 episodes are available on Spotify, and listeners are encouraged to ‘join in the conversation’ by Hashtagging #HBACurrentlyTrending on Instagram and Twitter – adding an audience-led interactive spin to each episode.

This story is authored by Harriet King, MA Global Intercultural Communications at University of East Anglia. 


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