What happened to 30-year-old Nerid Høiness?
As a documentary journalist, I found myself wondering about this question as Norway — and the rest of the world — locked down during the beginning of the pandemic.
I had heard about this woman who I had several things in common with; we were the same age, loved practising yoga, and shared friends online. Now, she was brutally murdered in the Laotian jungle. Her family, back in Norway, was left devastated with loss and unanswered questions.
And one thing had stuck with me: Her friends told me Nerid had changed — dramatically — right before she died.
What happened to her?
Walking in Nerid’s footsteps
At VG, Norway’s largest newspaper, we produced an in-depth investigative podcast documentary about her to answer some of these key questions. The journalistic objective of the Nerid podcast was to find out what happened to her — not only from a legal standpoint but also to help her family fill in the blanks on the love-affair-turned-nightmare she lived through.
From a publishing perspective, our objective was to find an innovative way of reaching a large, preferably young, audience with an audio production — and make them sign up for a subscription to listen to a podcast.
This podcast became a huge listener success. It cracked the code of how to convert new subscribers with quality audio content, fueled by its innovative multimedia storytelling format, reaching a massive audience — and breaking records for engagement time.
Beyond “audio isolation”
Podcast journalism often exists in “audio isolation,” only reaching existing users of podcast apps. With the Nerid podcast, VG wanted to bridge this gap between a “podcast-only” publishing strategy and “newspaper-only” digital text format. We did so by combining investigative audio journalism with tailored use of multimedia (audio, video, text) formats to create a unique digital story about Nerid.
Users could either discover the Nerid documentary as a stand-alone, five-episode podcast, or the large audience of VG.no could discover and consume the content as a four-chapter, scroll-navigated multimedia story — which ultimately led the user to a subscribe-to-listen option for the full podcast documentary.
The Nerid online story consists of minimal use of conventional text; instead, the user scrolls through a carefully curated selection of still photos, video clips, and audio clips as the story progresses. This format helped us succeed in our two campaign goals.
Firstly, we recruited new subscribers to our audio-only subscription platform. Throughout the online story, users were given small samples of audio paired with an intuitive “click to subscribe for full podcast” button at multiple strategic places.
Through exposure on VG.no, the podcast reached 150k listeners within a few days of being published, sending it to the top of the Norwegian podcast charts. More importantly, Nerid became the single most successful production of 2022, converting new subscribers to our podcast subscription platform Podme.
Secondly, we were able to reach a younger audience who we know prefer an efficient mixed-media storytelling approach. The story of Nerid not only reached a massive audience (1.5 million) — it also kept them engaged for a record amount of time.
The median user spent 13 minutes and 15 seconds navigating through the story, actively listening to the audio and video content rather than just scrolling. And 40 % of users listened, read, and watched the entire story before exiting the article. Compared to the average news article published by VG, the audio story of Nerid reached a younger and more feminine audience — which is an important strategic campaign goal.
At the time VG decided to make an in-depth investigative podcast documentary, Nerid’s murder was, unfortunately, a highly under-reported story. Through our podcast and multimedia article, the story of Nerid reached the top of the national news agenda and her family was provided with answers to some of the toughest questions they were left with after her sudden death.