News media companies have found distributing content through new channels to be a popular way to stay relevant and engage with new audiences. From social media bulletins to daily email newsletters, modern media companies are diversifying their delivery channels to broaden the reach of their content. But one channel, in particular, stands out from the rest: audio content.
In many industries, audio content is experiencing a resurgence in popularity unmatched since the golden age of radio. Lockdown and the rise of remote working have only reinforced what we already know: people like listening to podcasts. Insider Intelligence predicts there will be 424.2 million worldwide podcast listeners in 2022 — a 10.6% increase YOY — while Statista reports the top countries for podcast listenership are South Korea (53%), Spain (39%), Ireland (37%), Sweden (35%), and the United States (35%).
To better understand the potential of audio content, let’s explore how publishers have successfully leveraged audio to connect with new audiences, strengthen brand awareness, and convey valuable information.
Podcasting in the media
Back in 2014, NPR’s This American Life practically invented mainstream podcast journalism with the launch of the true-crime podcast Serial. Eager to attract similar attention — and to offset the decline of print revenue — other major media outlets began adding long- and short-form podcasts to their content funnel. In 2017, The New York Times launched The Daily, a twenty-minute podcast/radio show summarizing recent articles and news headlines. And in a true full-circle moment, The Times purchased the production company responsible for Serial in 2020 for $25 million. In 2018, popular UK magazine Grazia launched an interview-style podcast, Grazia Life Advice, and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia debuted their fashion podcast, Currently Trending. And as of 2019, The Financial Times had nine podcasts, one of which with over 1 million monthly listeners and a 75% listen-through rate, tripling audio ad revenue YOY.
Those media companies without a podcast don’t plan to be so for long. Reuters 2022 trend report states 80% of publishers plan to invest more resources into podcasts and digital audio.
Multitasking and podcasting
One of the major reasons audio content is such a good fit for news media is the ability to multitask while consuming it. You can listen to a podcast while working from home, doing the dishes, or driving. Nielsen data shows 22% of podcast listening happens in the car.
The ability to multitask while listening is arguably audio content’s biggest boon — and certainly a reason why podcasts have grown in popularity since the onset of the pandemic and the rise of remote working. Media corporations have seized on this, increasingly prioritizing short-form podcasts marketed as news bulletins or productivity boosters — bite-sized pieces of audio content that can easily become a part of the listener’s daily routine, as the morning newspaper once was for their parents. Indeed, routine does seem to be a major benefit for audio content; The Infinite Dial reports that in 2021, 28% of the U.S. population twelve and older were weekly podcast listeners.
The benefits of podcasting
Media companies that have prioritized podcasting have reaped the rewards. Take, for example, Tortoise Media, a news website co-founded in 2018 by former BBC News director and London Times editor James Harding. Branded as “slower, wiser news,” Tortoise Media eventually began prioritizing the production and distribution of audio content. Reuters reports that by the end of 2021, Tortoise Media’s podcast “Sweet Bobby” topped the Apple Podcast charts in the U.S., “introducing many more people to the brand, including much-sought-after younger listeners.”
Reuters also suggests “audio offers better opportunities for both engagement and monetisation” than similar spend on text and video content. Potential subscription revenue offers even more incentive to start a podcast; in 2019, after years of open-sourcing their abundance of podcast content, The Financial Times began experimenting with subscription-based podcasts with the launch of “The Rachman Review.”
Another major benefit is more effective branding. A 2019 BBC report showed only 53% of radio listeners remembered branded content, compared to 78% of podcast listeners. The BBC also noted that language frequency in podcasts often results in brand association — for example, after listening to a branded podcast that mentioned the word “innovative” 12 times, there was a 6% increase in descriptions of that brand as “innovative.”
With benefits like these, it’s no wonder media companies are rushing to produce their own branded podcasts — but like any good content channel, podcasting is at risk of oversaturation. That’s why savvy media companies are looking beyond podcasts and to the potential of other audio opportunities.
Beyond your standard short- and long-form podcasts, audio content has recently expanded to include some new forms. Let’s take a closer look at three of the most popular innovations in audio:
- Flash briefings — No more than a couple of minutes long, flash briefings are intended to provide essential, often topical information. One of the most prevalent examples of flash briefings are those produced by Amazon’s Alexa. Thanks to the scalability and personalization of AI, Alexa’s flash briefs can be customized to deliver the news a listener is really interested in. Expect AI to continue revolutionizing the creation and dissemination of short-form audio content.
- Social audio — Launched in March 2020, audio platform Clubhouse added an inevitable social component to the world of audio content creation. Since then, major social media platforms have started adding their own social audio spaces, such as Twitter’s live audio feature Spaces, Reddit’s Talk, and LinkedIn’s recently launched Audio Rooms. But as Forbes notes, if social audio is to last, platforms will have to address user privacy concerns and incentivize audio content creators to contribute.
- Audio messaging — In the same vein as social audio, audio messaging leverages the power of social connection to produce user-generated audio content. For media, this burgeoning technology can be used to collect feedback, share listener stories, and increase content engagement.
As Reuters rightly points out, “More content means more competition for attention and it may be harder for professional content to stand out.” However, future-focused media companies will find creative ways to overcome the content moderation challenge if they want to capitalize on the engagement and brand visibility audio content affords.
How other industries can use audio content
For media companies with a surplus of content, the benefits of incorporating podcasts and other forms of audio are clear. But how are other industries leveraging the power of audio?
For General Electric, diving into the world of podcasts is part of an innovative content marketing strategy. In 2015, they launched The Message, an eight-part science-fiction podcast that topped the iTunes podcast charts. For banks and fintechs, podcasts have become a popular means of communicating valuable information and educating prospective customers on the benefits of their services. While medical professionals are using podcasts for everything from advising medical students to disseminating healthcare news.
The beauty of audio content is that the only limit is a brand’s creativity. Whether you’re sharing client success stories or offering industry advice, there’s a podcast format right for every business — and an audience waiting to hear what you have to say.
Making audio integration easy
As we’ve seen, adding podcasts and other audio formats to published materials is an effective way of increasing engagement. But managing and incorporating audio content can also be quite time-consuming and technically complex for publishers.
That’s why at Eidosmedia, we have been looking at ways of streamlining this process, allowing content creators to add audio features to their features with simple drag & drop and point & click gestures.
Integration with podcast-hosting services like Whooshkaa and partnerships like that with BeyondWords (Speechkit) are making audio enhancement fast and cost-effective for content creators in news media and other sectors.