3 media companies share successful new audio products

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


One of my deep dive areas is innovative content formats. The other day I told someone, “by innovative, I mean not text or photos.” He told me he thought there was plenty of innovation in text. He’s right, and it got me thinking. 

In this newsletter, I’ll take you through a few great examples I’ve found in news. And while I am researching the burgeoning area of audio in news, I have discovered some excellent examples of how it is being integrated into main news products. 

As always, drop me a note if you have comments or a story to share. Or if you’ll be at the INMA World Congress in New York next month, come and have a drink with me and some smart product folk. E-mail me for details at Jodie.hopperton@INMA.org.

Thanks, Jodie

Audio opportunities

Last year, Karl Oskar Teien presented the Audio Opportunity which has been on my mind ever since. Compounded by his more recent post, “Listeners’ sonic attention is worth fighting for,” I’ve started asking more people about their audio plans. It’s an area that more and more publishers are embracing and with good reason. 

More people are using audio, airpods are changing the game, and it’s a preferred medium for a younger audience. Oh and Karl pointed out that news makes up 7% of podcasts yet accounts for 30% of top episodes. We over-index on attention in this space. What’s not to love?

So I’m making it a focus this year and have started researching, which you’ll see the results of firstly at the upcoming Product Innovation Master Class (you can sign up for the single audio module for US$225 here) and, later on in the year, a full report on audio. 

This post has three examples of how audio is being built into Web and mobile products. Please also consider it a call to arms: If you are working on audio products and would be willing to talk to me about it, please get in touch!

Firstly, let’s stick with Karl and Aftenposten as he inspired this. Aftenposten has developed a synthetic voice to read articles. The results are stunning, and you can see how seamlessly it has been integrated into the page:

This is what is looks like on an article page:

Their mobile experience is even more seamless. Karl pointed out: “The app has the best listening experience as audio just works better when done natively. So in many ways it becomes an answer to our app strategy, too: Apps should do what apps can do much better than Web — and audio is definitely one of those things.”

The Economist has also embraced audio on mobile. In addition to article by article, they allow readers to build their own listening list. It shows which articles are narrated and how long they are — ideal for a commute:

Stuff in New Zealand has developed a new audio unit. I think Nadia Tolich may be the first ever chief audio officer in news (you can hear her talk about building the unit from scratch at the upcoming event; more here). She works closely with their head of product, Ben Haywood, with one product person straddling both teams for consistency.

One of the things they wanted to do is give their podcasts more prominence on the home page. With the help of Ben and Stuff.co.nz’s Deputy Editor Janine Fenwick, they came up with a new design. 

This is simply yet beautifully done in keeping with the aesthetics of the page: 

Stay tuned for more on audio over coming months. 

Keeping your ears on the pulse: podcasts California media tech folk listen to

Since we are talking podcasts, there are a few that come up in conversation in almost all my media and tech conversations in California:

Innovation in text

Towards the end of a conversation with a product leader (when I got to use my new favourite term, “scrollytelling”), he told me he thought there was some great innovation in text right now. I admit that I hadn’t even considered that, so I started doing some research. 

Here are some of the things I found:

Live blogs aren’t new, but there is a lot happening around them, presumably becasue of  reader thirst for up-to-date information. I particularly love The Guardian’s timeline approach:

Smart brevity is a phrase coined by Axios. They summarise news stories with clear pointers such as: “Why it matters” “The Details,” “The Big Picture,” “Driving the News,” and “Between the Lines” to help readers navigate their way through complex issues in a simplified way. They have even written a book about their approach: Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less.

Check out an example on a news news story here:

There is a lot that can be done within layouts. Take a look at this example using cards (or, as The New York Times call these, “bursts”) in the body of an article. I really like that they are using swipe in addition to scroll. And the alternative format to give background to a piece feels fresh:

Smart summarisation of articles is something we are likely to see more of due to the advances of generative AI:

Bionic reading is something I can come across and integrated into my iPhone, but I haven’t seen it on a site anywhere yet.

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Jodie Hopperton, based in Los Angeles and lead for the INMA Product Initiative. Jodie will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media product.

This newsletter is a public face of the Product Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Jodie at jodie.hopperton@inma.org with thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Sign up to our Slack channel.

About Jodie Hopperton

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