Starting with a blank piece of paper, we were tasked with creating a podcast for a traditionally print-focused media organisation. The company, ACM, wanted to add audio to its repertoire. So, we looked at what made ACM unique and how we could tap into the strengths of that brand.
ACM is Australia’s largest independent media organisation, made up mostly of hyper-local and specialty rural brands. The company publishes more than 160 newspapers across rural and regional Australia. What we saw was a network of quality regional titles and 600 trusted journalists in every state and territory.
We also saw a gap in the industry. Nowhere amid the plethora of podcasts were stories from regional Australia being told for regional Australians. Almost 9 million Australians, or 36% of the population, lives outside the big cities — and those numbers are growing.
It’s an underserved market. For example, only 10% of national advertising budgets are spent regionally. The majority of podcast listeners live in one of our seven capital cities. But the audience in regional centres and rural areas is expanding, and is not to be ignored.
We realised regional Australians were under-represented in mainstream podcasts, and we wanted to change that.
Creating a new voice
Voice of Real Australia is a documentary-style podcast that tells character-driven stories from across Australia, focusing on the experiences of regional communities. It amplifies voices in the country, bringing people, places, and perspectives from beyond the big cities to listeners.
Through ACM Web sites and newspapers, we had access to this audience, and through our network of journalists, we had access to its stories. Voice of Real Australia allowed us to fill the gap and serve that rural audience.
Where else would you learn about Australia’s forgotten fossils, what’s killing our iconic snow gum trees, why Tasmanian devils have been released on the mainland, the struggle of farmers under archaic lease laws, how an alternative community is faring after a fatal fire wreaked havoc, why the town of Dubbo is crying out for a drug court, or how Indigenous athletes are under-represented in our national sport?
The long-form narrative podcast style gives us the space to allow people to tell their own stories in their own words. In addition to our work as part of the regular audio team, nine other ACM journalists have so far collaborated on the podcast, bringing their stories to new audiences and diversifying their skill sets.
Seven months and 14 episodes in, ACM has established itself as a podcast creator through Voice of Real Australia, with more than 23,000 listens — and building.
Creating an audio market
Voice of Real Australia is primarily an editorial product and acts as ACM’s flagship audio offering, but it has also converted subscriptions to ACM newspapers through geo-targeted dynamically inserted ads. Audio subscribers have proven to be twice as engaged with digital content as regular subscribers. A significant advertiser has also recently come on board with the sponsorship booked in for later this year.
Initial figures reveal people outside metropolitan areas are listening to Voice of Real Australia. Analytics show an over-representation of regional listeners to the podcast, and that its audience skews older than the average podcast.
ACM understands its audience like no other Australian publisher and our point of difference is providing local news and stories to local audiences. Voice of Real Australia expands on that: We get to introduce those local audiences to each other.
Voice of Real Australia has made room for regional and rural stories in the podcast space. It has created podcast listening habits among regional consumers. It has also created a new and highly engaged audience for advertisers interested in reaching a national audience at a local level. And we’re just getting started.