Podcasts value lies in marketing journalism

By Nathaniel Bane

Herald Sun

Melbourne, Australia


Podcasts. Editors in digital-print newsrooms demand them. Journalists clamber to get their names on them. People listen in big numbers. And advertisers can’t stop talking about them.

Good supply and strong demand. It sounds a recipe for commercial success. Yet, here we are, which is to say, almost nowhere interesting.

The Life and Crimes podcast is moderated by a well-established journalist.
The Life and Crimes podcast is moderated by a well-established journalist.

Despite years of trying, the four ingredients haven’t come together to drive enough significant new revenue from podcasts for traditional news services to invest heavily in this space, even with the boom in audio driven by the mobile phone revolution.

The ease in clipping up existing content makes it an entirely different proposition for radio and TV services. For digital-print news organisations, the overhead in creating the additional content is easing with the realisation they don’t return enough advertising money — or can be easily tied to existing subscriptions models — to reallocate a bunch of staff in this direction. At least that’s the Australian experience.

What is falling out the bottom is something that may be a little more interesting. Podcasts are a good marketing tool for journalism. Amazing, in fact. Especially for newsrooms investing in original journalism.

In a world of fast and fake news, the deep and personal value of storytelling via this medium cuts through arguably more effectively than any advertising campaign. Journalists telling the story behind the stories are especially compelling.

In thinking of the best podcasts of late, the talent stands out as much as the subject. As proof, the most compelling podcasts of recent years took serious time and serious talent to create: S-Town, Serial, The Teacher’s Pet by The Australian, or Who Killed David Breckenridge by Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph. Each was utterly compelling and a celebration of true journalism.

At the Herald Sun, we produce a small suite of podcasts focusing on what we do best — sport and crime. We focus on producing content delivered by the best journalists covering those areas. Our Australian Rules football and SuperCoach fantasy football podcasts are hosted by the best reporters in the business.

The sports-related podcasts produced by the Herald Sun are led by reporters who are well-versed in the sports.
The sports-related podcasts produced by the Herald Sun are led by reporters who are well-versed in the sports.

We also produce a standout podcast on crime called Life and Crimes, another subject matter our newsroom is renowned for. (I strongly suggest you download and listen!) This podcast is led by Andrew Rule, one of the top crime journalists in the country. A regular guest, Anthony Dowsley, is an investigative crime journalist who helped expose one of the biggest police and judicial scandals in Victoria’s history. Their knowledge of the subject matter is second to none, and their product takes audiences into places nobody else can take them. The number of people listening to Life and Crimes are healthy — approaching the 1 million mark.

But the true value in this compelling content is in reinforcing the value of excellence in journalism and excellent storytelling. We are helping reconnect listeners to the value of journalism — the importance of the craft in exposing truth, challenging norms, and holding officials accountable.

For now, this will do.

About Nathaniel Bane

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