How Archant’s podcasting network is building audiences — and revenue

Think podcasting is the emerging new platform for news? Think again. Archant podcast producer Matt Withers explains their decade long love affair with audio

The term ‘podcast’ was first used by Ben Hammersley in the Guardian in 2004, in an article headlined ‘Why online radio is booming’. History could have been so different — alternative terms for the emerging trend were Audioblogging or — ugh — GuerillaMedia.

Archant first came to the medium around a decade ago, using the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News’ considerable heft in covering Norwich City Football Club and the historic Pink ‘Un brand to branch out into the possibilities of the new technology. For some time it was seen, internally and externally, as a novelty. Now it’s absolutely core to what we do as a business and how our journalists tell our stories.

Over the past year we’ve brought all of our podcasts — 16 and growing rapidly — under the umbrella of our Archant Podcast Network, opening up the possibility of commercialising at scale as well as making clear that it’s as central to our newsrooms as our websites and videos. In addition, training in recording, editing and publishing has been rolled out so everybody in the company, from Warrington to Romford, know they’ll be given full support for whatever subject area they think lends itself to the format.

The New European Podcast, an irreverent offshoot of the award-winning anti-Brexit newspaper, has been downloaded well north of one million times, performed live twice and popularised the notion of lasagne and beans as a lunch option. Kings of Anglia, the contentiously-named Ipswich Town podcast, has built a huge audience for its fresh take on the League One side, sold out its first live show in half an hour and devoted an entire spin-off episode to crisps.

Extraneous foodstuff content is not necessary though. Weird Norfolk gets tens of thousands of listens for its take on the folkloric and paranormal, stages live events and will shortly release a book. The Big EDP Interview gives listeners the chance to hear long-form conversations with leading Norfolk figures we just couldn’t offer in any other format. And our first limited-run true crime series Unfinished, in which investigations editor Tom Bristow revisited the unsolved 1989 murder of a young mother, had more than 31,000 listens of its eight episodes. More is on the way.

And while it may be unbecoming of us to talk money, advertisers are waking up to the potential of regional podcasts and their large, local and loyal listenership (90% of our listeners stay to the end).
The London Parentcast, in which Vicky Purcell talks at length to the capital’s Instamums, secured an impressive sponsorship deal before ‘record’ had been hit on the first episode. And both The New European and Kings of Anglia have won host-read adverts as listeners gain trust in the hosts they get to know.

With firms such as Spotify throwing huge resources at the medium and the BBC putting its eggs in its Sounds app, podcasts are a significant and permanent part of the media landscape.
With Archant Podcasts, we’re showing that’s just as much the case in our regional newsrooms. And we remain thankful Ben Hammersley didn’t opt for GuerillaMedia.

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