Schibsted takes control, publishes its own podcasts

By John Einar Sandvand

Schibsted

Oslo, Norway

The use of podcasts is exploding, and most media houses today produce one or more podcasts. In Norway, Aftenposten’s podcast “Forklart,” for instance, is approaching 1 million streamed episodes every week.

Schibsted, like most of its competitors, has depended on external partners for distributing its podcasts. Media houses have published podcasts on the podcast platform Acast, which then redistributes them to other platforms, such as Spotify and Apple. Also, uploading ads has been done through Acast.

Integrated with Schibsted’s own platform

Schibsted is now integrating publishing its podcasts as a part of its proprietary editorial technology platform, Core News Product. This includes a built-in podcast player, and the setup gives newsrooms much better control over what has become an important content channel.

Erik Saastad, product manager for Schibsted’s new podcast platform, sees many advantages of bringing podcast hosting in-house.
Erik Saastad, product manager for Schibsted’s new podcast platform, sees many advantages of bringing podcast hosting in-house.

“I do not know any other media companies that have done the same,” said Product Manager Erik Saastad.

He explained the new solution gives the media houses the possibility to use podcasts in new ways:

  • Newsrooms can place podcasts or individual episodes behind a paywall or require users to log in to listen. It can also be set up so the first episode is free for all, while the rest of the series is only available for subscribers. 
  • A media house can choose if a podcast should only be available on its own platform or also on external platforms.
  • Journalists can easily embed relevant podcast episodes in the articles as they write them.
  • Schibsted will have a bigger ad inventory on offer, and it will no longer depend on external platforms’ solutions.

New podcast section in the apps

The last versions of the iOS apps for most media houses now have a new podcast section. This is where users can play podcasts directly in the apps, while simultaneously continuing to browse news articles.

Schibsted’s new podcast platform has been designed so podcast streams inside Schibsted’s own products will be included in the official Norwegian podcast top list, Podtoppen. Similar integration is planned with the Swedish top list, Podd Index.

Increased podcast listening

“We have done many tests and observe that publishing podcasts both in our own channels as well as on the external platforms increases the total listening, of course depending on the content and how it is promoted,” Saastad said.

Media houses will use the new possibilities in different ways, depending on their business models, he said: “We have built the platform to support all our business models. One media house may choose to use podcasts as an exclusive offer to its subscribers, while another media house may prioritise increasing the traffic to their site and thereby the ad inventory.”

With the new platforms, podcast ads can now be booked in Schibsted’s normal ad tools. Previously, sellers had to do this manually with Acast. Acast will now collect the ads that will be played on external platforms, while Schibsted will administer the display on its own Web sites.

Opening up for new target groups

Helle Skjervold, head of podcasts at VG, explains that the new podcast platform allows VG to improve the user experience in its own channels: “For us, podcasts are a part of our total editorial offering and a format that is about to become a mass medium. That is why this is very exciting.”

Helle Skjervold, head of podcasts at VG, sees podcasts as part of the larger editorial offering.
Helle Skjervold, head of podcasts at VG, sees podcasts as part of the larger editorial offering.

VG currently has about 15 different podcasts and is planning to launch an additional five to 10 podcasts this autumn. The podcasts vary from news, sports, and entertainment to consumer advice.

“The new podcast platform makes it much easier for us to experiment and test a number of hypotheses,” Skjervold said. “We also get much more data about how people use our podcasts, for instance at what stage they stop listening to an episode. It is crucial for us to have more data in order to develop our podcast journalism.” 

Podcast inventory

Aftonbladet in Sweden now offers almost 20 different podcasts. One of the most popular is the news pod “Aftonbladet Daily.”

Many new podcasts will be launched soon, according to Head of Podcasts Patrik Syk.

The new platform will make audio a more natural part of Aftonbladet’s content, he said: “We will have a podcast player that is seamlessly integrated as a part of our digital platform. And that is a natural development for a newsroom publishing audio content.”

Patrick Syk, head of podcasts, is helping audio integrate into the overall publishing platform.
Patrick Syk, head of podcasts, is helping audio integrate into the overall publishing platform.

Podcasts now can be part of the premium product, Aftonbladet Plus, Syk said. For instance, this summer the newsroom tested using the podcast “Spring - så snackar vi” as a premium format in its app. In the podcast, users could listen to experienced running instructors while jogging.

Testing options

Aftenposten plans to do several systematic tests with the new platform this autumn, according to development editor Eirik Winsnes. “We have now built the technology that enables it. The next step is to explore which possibilities give the best result,” he said.

Winsnes pointed out that around one-third of Norwegians listen to podcasts today. “We believe that there is a great potential among those not yet listening, for instance amoung a bit older people. We hope they can discover podcasts as a format through meeting it in our products,” he said.

Development editor Eirik Winsnes sees an opportunity to tap into new audiences.
Development editor Eirik Winsnes sees an opportunity to tap into new audiences.

Winsnes recently headed a project that looked at how podcasts can be an important revenue stream for Schibsted. An important goal is to achieve a more direct relationship with podcast users, he said. “That will give us more data and knowledge about our users. We want the podcasts to be a more integrated part of the offering we give our subscribers.”

Active podcasts

Schibsted currently has around 40 active podcasts in Norway alone, said business developer Helene Svabø. She is responsible for the commercial development of the podcasts.

“The podcasts are an exciting addition to our news sites,” she said. “So far it has been easier to consume video than audio on our platforms. Now it will be as easy to consume audio, and we believe this will make it more accessible for many users. Our goal is to reach groups that so far have not listened to podcasts.”

Business developer Helene Svabø is exploring commercial opportunities for podcasts.
Business developer Helene Svabø is exploring commercial opportunities for podcasts.

According to Svabø, Schibsted sees many opportunities in exploring the podcast format commercially.

Right now, however, it is important to experiment. “We can charge users in many ways,” she said. “But now we will focus on testing the preferences of our users and figure out what works best.”

About John Einar Sandvand

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