Podcasting for publishers is proving to be a creative way to establish relationships with new audiences. However, with this audio primarily sitting out in the public domain, it can be hard to position podcasts as a benefit exclusive to subscribers.

The Globe and Mail considered aspects of several long-form articles before choosing one as its first audio article.
The Globe and Mail considered aspects of several long-form articles before choosing one as its first audio article.

Enter audio articles.

Taking learnings from The Atlantic and The New Yorker’s efforts with audio articles, we decided to transform paywalled articles into premium quality audio.

We had to decide which article we should test first. The Globe produces amazing long reads, like Jana Pruden’s After the Fire and Kathryn Blaze Baum’s Brainstorm. We wanted a way for people to dive into this rich content while on the go. We wanted an audio time of at least 30 minutes to offer an experience readers could really sink their teeth into. The article also needed to be fairly evergreen so it would not lose relevance quickly.

We decided our first audio article would be a piece by foreign correspondent and award-winning journalist Mark Mackinnon on Russia’s occupation of Crimea. We embedded the audio in the original article and promoted it to subscribers via e-mail and on-site promotional units. To contextually align with our readers’ interests, we targeted subscribers who recently read articles from our World section.

We also wanted to understand the behavioural differences between our print and digital subscribers with this new offering. Moreover, we wanted to see if it would work as a tool for getting print subscribers to activate their access to globeandmail.com as part of their subscription.

We know subscribers who read our content on more than one platform are less likely to churn. Therefore, driving conversions with our print subscribers is an important retention tactic.

For our test, the e-mail drove readers to our Web site to listen and, if applicable, activate their digital accounts.

Initial results

Our initial key learnings proved that context was key. Here’s a summary of what we found:

  • Individuals who had read an article from our World section prior to receiving the e-mail had a more positive response to the test.
  • We proved the potential power of audio as a conversion tactic, as print subscribers did activate their digital accounts.
  • Within the test group, the audio experience improved logins by 50% and decreased churn by 76% with digital subscribers who had been identified as having a high propensity to churn.

As an engagement and conversion tool, we are seeing that paywalled audio is an intriguing new area for us to explore. Nevertheless, we are still in testing mode and looking to identify the best audio lengths and story themes.

We will continue to explore this and other platforms that bring value and create meaningful engagement touchpoints with our subscribers.