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Funke explains its path to becoming the region’s No. 1 podcast publisher

By Oliver El Nemer

Funke Services GmbH

Berlin, Germany

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Sales of printed newspapers have rapidly declined since the dawn of the Internet. News publishers had to change fast in the face of digitalisation, which meant finding new ways to reach large audiences for Funke’s strong and independent journalism.

Podcasts play an important role in transforming our organisation to stay future-proof.

Audio and podcasts are direct and emotionally touching forms of communication with listeners. This is especially interesting for news publishers because it is crucial to reach new audiences to stay relevant in a fast-paced media world. People who listen to podcasts tend to be much younger than those reading newspapers, which is also why it is one of the most strategically important growth areas for Funke.

Funke's vision began with setting a goal to become the No. 1 regional podcast publisher in Germany.
Funke's vision began with setting a goal to become the No. 1 regional podcast publisher in Germany.

To create inspiring and captivating podcasts, we leverage our existing competencies in research, distribution, and our large network of personalities and experts.

How we started

Funke Mediengruppe encompasses over 12 daily newspapers, 50 magazines, 12 local radio stations, and 70 digital brands. Our decentralised structure allows us to create diverse content from all over Germany.

In the past two years, we have more than doubled the number of Funke podcasts — from 53 to 108  (65 still active) — thus raising the number of generated downloads from approximately 4 million in 2021 to 9.5 million in 2022.

How did we do this?

To get as many media makers as possible to be interested in creating audio formats, Funke employees were encouraged to create their own podcasts. Many of the editors-in-chief at Funke newspapers started their own (regional) podcasts, thus creating momentum and getting other editorial offices interested in creating their formats. The aim was to try out as many topics as possible; some formats that work still exist today (since 2019), while others have been cancelled.

To grow its podcast network, Funke encouraged editors to start their own regional podcasts and cross-promoted many of its titles.
To grow its podcast network, Funke encouraged editors to start their own regional podcasts and cross-promoted many of its titles.

How is it going?

In the next phase, Funke implemented a central podcasting unit which bundles know-how from the different Funke studios and extensive market research, distributes it across the subsidiaries, and helps guide new podcasters within the company to leverage the learnings from mistakes and experiences. The central unit is a point of contact for all regional and national Funke podcasts and content specialists for our advertising team.

Until now, most of the podcasts were distributed through their own newspaper brand. However, we realised that many of our regionally produced podcasts were also listened to by people all over Germany since those topics were relevant across borders. So we rebranded over 15 of our regional podcasts under the brand “Funke” and included them on all our newspaper Web sites in Germany.

Furthermore, those podcasts were included in all Funke e-Papers, resulting in growth rates of up to over 120% more streams in total (e.g. Wir. Der Mutmach-Podcast) through our e-Papers.

To make use of our existing podcast network, we connected the editors of “Der Tod auf der Spur,” “Tatort Niedersachsen,” and “Der Gerichtsreporter.” These three true crime podcasts began cross-promoting each other, resulting in more than 100% growth in followers for “Tatort Niedersachsen.”

Today Funke has built a strong podcast network and dominates the market.
Today Funke has built a strong podcast network and dominates the market.

To better promote our shows on third-party platforms, we implemented Funke channels on Apple Podcasts and Deezer. The Funke channels can be found on the starting pages of Apple Podcasts and Deezer, creating visibility for the Funke brand as a podcast production company.

Furthermore, we publish all our national podcasts on YouTube, which has proven to be a great success for some podcasts. For example, “Dr. Matthias Riedl – so geht gesunde Ernährung” earned over 4,500 subscribers and more than 330,000 streams since October 2022.

This brings us to another big learning: The value of using big brand personalities. Dr. Matthias Riedl is part of a weekly food doctor TV show, has written multiple books, has a great social media following, and is known as the leading health doctor in Germany.

With his podcast, we wanted to test the impact of brand personalities in podcasting. He is now our best-performing newcomer and one of our most successfull podcasts (sixth place in Apple Podcasts charts in January, with over 300,000 monthly streams).

Next, we plan on further professionalising our podcast marketing sales to generate more ad revenue, acquire existing podcasts to gain reach, and identify relevant niches in which we can further thrive and generate great content for our audience.

About Oliver El Nemer

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