World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Have you heard the news? Audio and Podcasts as a Potential New Outlet and Source of Audience Engagement

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Have you heard the news? Audio and Podcasts as a Potential New Outlet and Source of Audience Engagement

Wainwright (left) and Luis (middle) speaking with moderator Barbie Atienza of The Manila Bulletin (himself a host of a weekly radio show in the Philippines) at Publish Asia 2019. PHOTO/ WAN-IFRA

Ernest Luis, head of podcast productions for Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which publishes The Straits Times newspaper, spoke about his company’s new forays into the area, while Holly Wainwright, head of content at women-focused media group Mamamia of Australia, described the success the company has enjoyed at generating engaged audiences and advertiser dollars.

While popular in the US and Europe, podcasting is only beginning to develop an audience in Asia, where it’s not a particularly well-known medium. If you’re unfamiliar, think of it like radio on demand. Producers make audio programs, then distribute them for free over the internet. Listeners can use any of a variety of apps to playback episodes on their mobile device. The most popular apps are iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. If you’re wondering about the word podcast, it goes back to the old audio player the iPod, combined with broadcast.

Mamamia is an example of a web-based media property that decided to go big into podcasting and has the results to show for it. “It’s the new must have, in a way,” says Wainwright. Mamamia has produced more than 24 different podcasts shows (with multiple episodes of each), with 60 million episode downloads and 100 thousand listeners per day. While that might not sound like a lot to a traditional broadcaster, it’s huge in the podcasting world. And critically, says Wainwright, their venture into audio programming is making money. “Most importantly, it’s sustainable podcasts that are really contributing to our bottom line.”

That’s not easy to do in the crowded podcasting world, where it’s estimated that there are 700 thousand unique shows online, representing millions of episodes of content. Mamamia is a sophisticated player in this space. Many podcasts are unalterable once recorded, and that includes the advertising (if a podcaster is lucky to get any of that at all). But Mamamia has deployed the latest ad technologies to dynamically and automatically insert ads into its shows, including its enormous library of previous episodes, providing a legacy profit stream. It’s also able to similarly insert programming content, like news headlines, into shows to keep them fresh. 

But the biggest feature of podcasting as a medium for publishers, Wainwright says, is the way it links to audiences and binds them to your brand. “Audiences for podcasts are incredibly engaged,” she says. “If you’re doing it right, your listeners really care about what you do” and will reward you with listener loyalty and passion, which can then be monetized to advertisers at a premium.

Over at SPH, Luis says podcasting even offers the opportunity to reach new audiences. “It’s not just useful to the listener in your own country,” he says. “But to the listeners in other countries and even beyond that.” Luis mentioned that one their podcasts has its second biggest audience in the US. That’s even before Malaysia, which is just across the Johor Strait from Singapore.

Luis also offered some podcasting tips to help publishers bootstrap their operations. For example, spend a little bit of money to get decent equipment so that your podcast sounds good. It doesn’t require broadcast-standard gear, but don’t just use your mobile phone to capture a conversation, either. Find a niche for your podcast, so that it can serve a particular audience well. Luis also suggested publishers build on two traditional journalistic strengths: simplifying complex topics and bringing in expert guests to help explain and clarify issues.

For those publishers considering jumping into podcasting, Wainwright and Luis both emphasized two key considerations. First, tap into the expertise of your newsroom. While not everyone will be an instantly good podcaster, surely there’s someone in-house who can grow into the role. Also, make sure to respect your audience. Both highlighted how intimate of a medium audio is - with people speaking directly into your ears - so don’t waste people’s time with nonsense banter and always make sure to change and evolve along with your listeners.

“Your main goal is to connect with that person on the other side,” Luis says, “And if you keep that in mind, you’ll be ok.”


About the author: Bill Poorman is a freelance journalist, writer, podcast producer, and video producer, living in Singapore.



Kimberly Lim's picture

Kimberly Lim


2019-05-14 10:27

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