Zetland's shift to audio(-first)
Media associated with this campaign
Overview of this campaign
Zetland’s mission is to make it easier, more convenient and more appealing to follow world events through a less-is-more approach that focuses on carefully curated, quality journalism. However, in 2017, during our sophomore year as a daily digital newspaper, we saw that our members were struggling to find the time to read our long-form articles during a busy daily life. Churn data showed us that this was the primary reason for cancelling. The objective was to solve this problem while simultaneously establishing a stronger relationship with our members. Following a successful beta launch, we set out to create the ideal experience: 1) We custom-built an app that lets you switch seamlessly between text and audio versions of the same story. By 2019 the app was used by a great majority of our members . 2) We built an easy-to-use professional sound studio and hired a vocal coach to train the entire newsroom in narrating their own stories. We developed a sound design and style where the writers would do personal intros and outros and adapt the writing to function as an audio script – for instance by describing what a chart shows. In 2019, our digital newspaper was fully transformed into a “platform-neutral” publisher. We had also begun doing some of our stories (including our daily news podcast) as audio-first – including sound bites with sources and audio montage, and afterwards transforming them “the other way”, to work as text as well. The objective was to make Zetland more convenient to use on a habitual basis, especially for people with busy lives, and to build a stronger relationship with our members by letting them feel the passion and personality of our journalists, something the experience of listening to people’s voices achieves more effectively than any other publishing format.
Results for this campaign
Adapting our articles into audio and building a great user experience around it was a near-instant success. In less than six months, audio consumption had risen to more than 50 percent. It has grown steadily since, plateauing by 2019 at around 70 percent. During the same period, our daily news podcast has become by far our most popular product and our most important driver of habitual usage. Our shift to audio was the key contributor to a significant growth in overall usage, as well as an increased membership growth, particularly in 2019 where Zetland grew by 56 percent. Audio has also proved important in forging a more personal relationship with our members due to the informal nature of the format, which is amplified by the fact that our journalists, rather than a professional speaker, read out their own articles, creating a more raw and intimate atmosphere. In our most recent user survey, 56 percent of our members stated that “supporting Zetland’s ideas” was one of their primary motivations for being members – a level of engagement we in large part attribute to the audio experience. Another key ingredient to our success is the seamless audio integration in our news app, which was fully implemented by 2019 when we introduced traditional podcast features such as variable playback speed and sleep timer. Members are able to switch between text and sound with a single touch, with the app remembering and continuing where they left off. For added convenience, we have recently added a queue feature inspired by music streaming services such as Spotify, as well as an ‘auto-play’ feature, so that members don’t have to choose a new article while commuting, preparing food, driving et cetera. Our users’ adoption of a new way of consuming our core product is, to our knowledge, unmatched anywhere in news publishing in Europe.