In 2017, The Netherlands’ NRC launched its first podcast, which was a weekly show about politics. Over the next three years, it continued adding to its audio offerings with both daily and weekly podcasts, as well as some topical podcasts with a limited number of episodes, such as a series on the U.S. presidential elections. It now has about 10 different shows.
As the number of podcasts it offers has grown, so has its audience. The more popular podcasts draw between 30,000 and 50,000 downloads per episode, while smaller ones generate between 5,000 and 15,000. Overall, it adds up to about 2 million downloads per month, making podcasts a vertical that is growing stronger. While the numbers aren’t always precise due to the limitations of RSS, deputy editor-in-chief Harrison van der Vliet.
“Those numbers do not directly translate to actual individuals [listening], but is likely to be a percentage,” he explained. “However, they do provide the best impressions we have.”
Based on the strength of its podcast audience, NRC launched its NRC Audio App in October, allowing listeners to access all of NRC’s podcasts but also including podcasts from around the world, such as The Daily podcast from The New York Times. The idea of the free app, which is offered through Google Play and Apple App stores, is to bring a variety of podcasts together in a platform that is more accessible to the user.
“A lot of podcasts have been added in recent years and it is not always easy to find your way around,” said René Moerland, editor-in-chief. “We want to change that with NRC Audio.”
A different format for a different audience
As it has for many publications, podcasting has opened the door to a newer, younger demographic.
“Based on our data and our own research, we’re seeing a young and highly engaged audience among our listeners,” van der Vliet said. “About two-thirds are under the age of 35 and around half had little prior relationships with NRC other than visiting the Web site now and then.”
NRC has been energised by the capabilities created by audio. The format allows NRC to interact with its audience in new ways and to develop a deeper relationship with listeners.
“It has opened up new moments during the day in which our audience can interact with us. Moments during which we didn’t have anything to offer them before,” he said, noting the portable, on-the-go nature of the medium. “Prior to launching our podcasts, you had to either pay attention to an actual newspaper or screen in order to consume NRC content.”
But as rewarding as it is for listeners, it also has created new opportunities for journalists.
“Podcasts allow us new and exciting ways of telling stories. Our journalists are able to take you with them when they’re doing their reporting by letting you hear what they’re hearing.”
Monetising a platform
When the company launched NRC Audio, it changed its monetisation approach as well. Before the launch, NRC relied on an ad-supported model that used pre- and post-rolls in editorial podcasts. Additionally, the branded content department created some commercial podcasts independent of the newsroom.
“With NRC Audio, we’re working toward a future in which our audio becomes part of our subscription model,” van der Vliet said. “Right now, we’re still including ads in some of our podcasts, so we’re not abandoning that route just yet.”
The overarching goal is for NRC Audio to become a true destination app for users. By curating podcasts similar to what users are listening to, NRC can save them time and become of even greater value to them.
“We can provide some guidance on what might be worth your valuable time,” he said. “Access to [others’] podcasts is free, while some of the exclusive NRC content will be paywalled in the future.”
As the platform matures, NRC will continue refining the interactive experience, add some features for the community and expand its catalogue of original programmes.
“Investing in a good audio department is worth it,” van der Vliet said. “It has brought us a lot, both in terms of audience and of journalism. It takes some time and effort to make it worth your audience’s while. But if you do, you might find yourself with a very loyal group of new potential subscribers.”
This case study originally appeared in the report, The Engagement and Economic Promise of News Podcasts.