Credit: Photo by Jukka Aalho on Unsplash

Video and branded content are the two big revenue opportunities within podcasting, according to the New Statesman (NS).

The political news organisation picked up Best Commercial Strategy at this year’s Publisher Podcast Awards and was ranked in the top 10 most popular news podcasts in the UK in the latest Reuters Institute Digital News Report.

It has built a strong listenership across three core audio feeds: The New Statesman Podcast for politics and Westminster news, World Review for global affairs and Audio Long Reads for reported features and essays.

Chris Stone (above), executive producer at the New Statesman

Speaking on the Journalism.co.uk podcast, executive producer Chris Stone explained that he will now look to consolidate these feeds into one show to maximise audience and revenue opportunities.

"Adding more episodes into the New Statesman Podcast feed increases downloads and engagement, increases ad inventory and makes the feed more appealing to sponsors,” he says.

Its podcast strategy comprises two main sources of revenue: platform and self-generated.

Podcast host Acast yields about 30 per cent of the podcast revenue, a steady stream of programmatic ad revenue and sponsorships. This alone means the podcasts are breaking even.

The remaining 70 per cent comes from in-house adverts, sponsorships and branded content secured through its internal sales team. Most of that is branded content, as episodes funded by and co-created with brands. NS is seeking to double the number of these episodes per year from 12 to 24.

More promising is podcasting within a broader multimedia sales package, which gives commercial clients a range of exposure across the print magazine, news website, live events and podcast shows. 

This is attractive to clients who want to engage with key opinion formers within public affairs; 40 per cent of NS’ audience works in government and policy making, with the rest mostly working in large businesses, the media industry and academia.

Podcasts are a reliable way to reach them, as the average listen-through per episode is between 85-95 per cent and most are “sympathetic” towards advertising. There are also new ideas being tested in the types of opportunities for partners to engage with the audience directly.

NS has an in-house policy team called Spotlight, that covers nitty-gritty healthcare and cybersecurity issues. Clients can have a paid seat at the table and contribute to the conversation with, of course, editorial oversight. A good example is this episode on anti-microbial resistance funded by Pfizer.

It is also introducing 'top and tail' branded slots: a 30-second ad read at the start of the episode, with a five-minute bolt-on interview with the client at the very end.

"Our clients really value the opportunity to contribute to thought leadership content in the area of public affairs - we can help them reach the area they are very much interested in," Stone says.

Multimedia opportunities

The podcasts are free to listen to across the website and podcast providers. But, audiences can find an ad-free version by signing up for the NS app, where it sees a stark difference in engagement rates.

Users spend on average 24 minutes on the app, compared to just one minute on the website. People who bother to download an app are clearly more engaged, but also are more likely to convert into paying subscribers. 

The other big mover for podcasting is video, where NS repurposes audio content and records episodes in a video studio. This gets published to YouTube and other social media platforms.

This drives awareness of the podcast, helping to discover a broader audience that might not otherwise engage with the brand. It is also another source of platform revenue to add to the mix.

"If you’re not doing video as part of your podcasts, particularly for conversational podcasts - it’s different from narrative-driven documentaries, of course - then you’re leaving audiences outside who you could otherwise be welcoming in," Stone concludes.

Continue the conversation with us at Newsrewired on 15 November 2023 in London. We will discuss how to give your news podcasts the edge over the rest of the competition. Find the full agenda here and hurry - early-bird tickets available until 4 September 2023

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