Telegraph's new podcast editor mulls over audio challenges
Podcasts are a must-do, but it's a brave new world...
Speaking at the Association of Online Publishers forum in London last week, the former BBC Five Live broadcaster said that podcasting is such a new area that it is like working in the Wild West.
As a broadcaster, he brings a very different approach to podcasting. He contested a claim by one technology publisher that podcasts can be set up for less than £100 -"a decent microphone costs more than that" - and was fairly candid about the quality of the Telegraph's first podcasts.
The broadsheet claimed to be the first UK newspaper to produce a daily news podcast, a 30-minute product featuring journalists reading out their columns. Within days, MediaGuardian called the podcast 'inutterably boring' and Mr Ruddle admitted that was not far from the truth. The following week, Telegraph.co.uk was using actors to read columns but that still did not work, he said.
"Some columnists are actually very good at reading their columns, but news needs to be written completely differently for radio than for print," said Mr Ruddle.
"Podcasting is all about winging it at the moment, but that's fantastic because we can do anything we want to."
An audio option provides a better platform for some types of story. The London whale, for example, would have been useless as an audio story because the audience needs pictures. But when James Cracknell and Ben Fogle finished rowing across the Atlantic, the audio coverage allowed the site to tell the emotional story in a way that was not possible in print.
Podcasting also fulfils the user demand for more flexible content. The control and choice over material also means that putting content into chapters has been a priority for Telegraph.co.uk and the site launched the new browse-able news podcast yesterday.
"We have to make our news available to listeners, viewers and readers in a variety of formats so they can take what they want, how they want it," he said.
Publishers also want to monetise their podcast products, and Telegraph.co.uk will be looking for sponsorship for its podcast material, as well as offering podcast adverts as part of a broader cross-media package. But accurate measurement of podcast usage remains a problematic; once users download files they cannot be monitored by the site.
"From a commercial standpoint, this is not a standalone product, and actually the technical challenges are very simple," said Mr Ruddle.
"But without proper measurement, how are we ever going to get people to buy into this in a big way?"
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