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Daily news podcasts are “critical brand ambassadors for the next generation of listeners”: Reuters Institute reports

“Daily news podcasts make up less than 1% of all those produced but account for more than 10% of the overall downloads in the US and 9% in France and Australia,” according to a new Reuters Institute report.

The report, “Daily news podcasts: building new habits in the shadow of coronavirus,” authored by Nic Newman and Nathan Gallo, focuses on daily news podcasts which it calls “one of the fastest growing areas of media consumption.” It studies the production and consumption of these podcasts across the US, the UK, France, Australia, Sweden, and Denmark. 

For publishers like the New York Times (The Daily) and the Guardian (Today in Focus) these on-demand audio briefings are now attracting large daily audiences, building habit and loyalty for their brands, and driving significant revenue too.

Daily news podcasts: building new habits in the shadow of coronavirus

“Clearly punching well above their weight with audiences”

“Publishers remain extremely bullish about the prospects for daily news podcasts,” the authors write, “while recognizing that it may be only one of many new products that they need to develop to engage audiences and drive new revenue.”

These shows are clearly punching well above their weight with audiences and have played an important role in helping to inform the public about a range of subjects.

Daily news podcasts: building new habits in the shadow of coronavirus

The researchers found 102 daily news podcasts across these six countries, of which 37 were launched in the last year. The format has seen steady growth in consumption and production, and these trends have been accelerated by the pandemic.

“Publishers see daily news podcasts as a crucial way to attract younger audiences and to engage them more deeply with their brands,” according to the authors. “News organizations pursuing subscription business models say podcasts – specifically daily news podcasts – help increase loyalty and reduce churn.”

An internal study of subscriber behaviour at French daily newspaper Le Parisien, has shown that podcast listeners are three times more likely to remain subscribers. “It’s a strong retention rate for a non-premium offer,” says Pierre Chausse, Head of Digital at Le Parisien. 

“Podcasting is a way to diversify our online offer. It’s a showcase that highlights the quality of our newsroom,” adds Pierrick Fay, host of La Story, France’s most successful daily news podcast. The podcast now reaches 770,000 downloads a month. It’s growth has more than doubled in the year to September. 

“A very major news platform in ways we had never expected”

Some daily news podcasts reach more people than traditional print or TV. The New York Times’ The Daily now averages 4M downloads per day – double that of a year ago. “The Daily is now becoming a very major news platform in ways we had never expected. It has become as big, if you do the math, as primetime Fox News,” said presenter Michael Barbaro at a podcast event in September 2020.

The Daily offers a deep-dive of around 25 minutes to listeners. The format has been widely adopted by publishers around the world.  

We all fell in love with the New York Times’ The Daily and felt our journalism could translate into a daily dive. We also looked at it as the biggest funnel into our other journalism. And the most accessible way of taking in serious news.

Rebecca Costello, CEO, Schwartz Media, Australia (7am podcast)

However, this exploration of one story in depth, often using narrative storytelling techniques, is only one approach used by publishers. The report also identifies three other types of podcasts. They are:

  1. Extended chat; 
  2. Concise news round-up; and 
  3. Microbulletin aimed at smart speakers and streaming apps.

Overall, the deep-dive format is the most widely produced and accounts for nearly half (43%) of all the podcasts analyzed.

“We’re delighted how quickly advertisers came back”

Podcast consumption was affected at the beginning of the pandemic due to lockdowns and loss of commute time (when most people listened). However, after an initial dip it bounced back quickly with daily news podcasts faring better than most other genres.

Source: Daily news podcasts: building new habits in the shadow of coronavirus

Podcasts have also held up better commercially than other forms of media where advertising has been adversely affected. Many publishers have reported revenue matching or exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels, according to the report.

There was an initial pausing and cancellation of campaigns, but we’re delighted how quickly advertisers came back.

Joe Coperman, SVP Sales, Acast

NPR’s top news shows NPR News Now (+71%) and Up First (+67%) have continued to grow rapidly over the last year despite intense competition and the impact of COVID-19. The publisher expects to make more from podcast advertising in 2020 than from broadcast radio ads.

“Crucial way of attracting the next generation of listeners”

For many publishers podcasting is a “crucial way of attracting the next generation of listeners,” according to the report. They tend to attract a younger (under-35s in the UK are four times more likely to consume a podcast compared to over-55s) and much better-educated audience. This is a highly prized group for advertisers and for publishers looking for potential new digital subscribers.

Our podcast audience, our core podcast audience is about 20 years younger than the core [radio] news magazine audience. We know that if we want to reach those folks, it’s going to have to be on-demand and it’s going to have to be digitally.

Neal Carruth, Director of On-Demand News Programming at NPR

They also offer a way to reach diverse audiences. “Podcasting is almost certainly reaching a different audience to our traditional readership,” says Robert Abel, Head of Commercial Strategy for Audio at the Guardian. “Different in terms of geography, different in terms of social makeup, in terms of ethnicity, and in terms of age particularly.”

“It’s ticking all the boxes”

In the course of the interviews, the researchers found that more daily news projects are in the pipeline. French daily Le Monde is planning to launch a new show in early 2021. “We clearly see the point of having a daily audio appointment to engage with a new audience,” says Alexis Delcambre, Deputy Managing Editor in charge of digital at Le Monde.

It’s really raising awareness of us and the other things we do. It’s ticking all the boxes. 

Rebecca Costello, CEO, Schwartz Media, Australia

The aim is not just to make money. Senior executives also see audio as an important way to attract and then engage new users. ‘What we do is use audio as a hook,’ says Ainslee O’Brien, GM of Commercial Networks, News Corp Australia, “and a marketing channel for our journalism with the hope that we redirect back to our masthead to become a subscriber.”

Daily news podcasts will often only be one part of a wider audio strategy but for many publishers these flagship products will drive the biggest audiences as well as being critical brand ambassadors for the next generation of listeners.

Daily news podcasts: building new habits in the shadow of coronavirus

The full report is available from Reuters Institute:
Daily news podcasts: building new habits in the shadow of coronavirus

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