A Newsworks panel of news brand podcast experts at Adwanted’s Future of Media event discussed the medium’s opportunities for journalists and advertisers, with the growth of podcasts allowing publishers to reach new audiences
Evening Standard head of audio David Marsland and Metro podcast host Jess Austin joined The Media Leader’s Ella Sagar to speak about how podcasts are powering new ways to engage with audience editorially and commercially, why the format particularly lends itself to news brands’ storytelling strengths, as well as what the future has in store.
“Unhindered by a word count”
To begin the session, the panelists explored how the longer and more narrative format of podcasts enhanced news brands’ journalistic output, leaning into its more intimate setting to build trust in its content. Marsland pointed to the “more informal aspect” of podcasts compared to other mediums, where experts can explore complex subjects in deeper and “non-judgemental ways”.
Austin added that her podcast ‘My Platform’, inspired by Metro’s column spotlighting under-represented voices and issues, allows her and her guests to be “unhindered by a word count”, allowing Austin to explore the issues behind contributors’ stories in considerably more depth than a written column can allow.
She also explained how podcasts from news publishers benefitted from being produced by trusted sources, where listeners can be sure podcast teams are using news brands’ resources and legal frameworks to produce regulated, trustworthy content compared to independently produced series.
Marsland also highlighted the importance of podcasts as a trusted source of information, sharing that “one in five podcast listeners use podcasts as their primary news source”. News brands, with their loyal audiences and coverage across a spectrum of hard and soft news subjects, are well placed to build trustworthy relationships with listeners, he said.
Podcasts “bridging” journalism and branded content
Also on the agenda were the commercial opportunities within news brand podcasts, with Austin highlighting the significant potential for bridging commercial and editorial content. She explained Metro has had “success with branded podcasts and hope[s] to extend them into editorial”.
Meanwhile, Marsland again pointed to news brands’ wider strength of producing trustworthy news coverage more generally, with brands attracted to authoritative podcasts on subjects readers care about. Podcasts from news brands doing the content they do best is what “brands are looking to be associated with”, he said.
He also stressed the importance of separating the trusted environment news brands provide advertisers from the trusted editorial content itself, avoiding host-read ads around hard news topics to allow journalists to scrutinise in a way listeners can trust without impacting on commercial content. “That separates the advert from the podcast…listeners know what’s an advert and what’s a podcast and that enhances that trust.”
A “golden age” on the horizon
Both panellists saw plenty of growth opportunities for news brand podcasts both editorially and commercially, with publishers continuing to experiment with the medium to tap into its storytelling potential. Marsland noted that “audiences have grown year-on-year in the 10 years I’ve been working in podcasts”, but a weekly listenership of 25% of UK adults, he was keen to stress the untapped opportunity for the medium to reach new listeners as it develops.
Coupled with innovations in technology and how journalists use podcasts to tell stories, Marsland said the medium was on the verge of a “golden age”: “The best is still to come; we’re not there yet, but it’s in the horizon.”
Austin was particularly keen to develop a more ‘360’ approach to journalism and storytelling, with the podcast being just one format used to engage audiences alongside written content, videos and social media.
Providing quality context for brands
News brand industry figures also spoke on other panels during the day, talking about the importance of quality content and context for advertisers against the backdrop of made-for-advertising sites featuring unregulated information.
The Telegraph’s chief commercial officer Karen Eccles and The Sun’s managing director Ben Walmsley joined Ozone chief revenue officer Craig Tuck to discuss publishers’ vision for the future of media online. EVP, publishing at The Sun, Dominic Carter, discussed the news brand’s international expansion and providing quality context for advertisers with The Media Leader’s Omar Oakes.
Later on, the Guardian’s chief advertising officer Imogen Fox joined a panel of industry leaders for The Media Leader’s ‘Fish Bowl’ panel.