MTV News is pinning part of its comeback plan on plenty of podcasts.
Today, MTV announced five new podcasts focused on film, politics, pop culture and, obviously, music that will roll out over the next week. The shows will be hosted by a mix of current MTV News journalists including Anna Marie Cox and several new hires.
For MTV, the move into podcasting shows how it’s targeting young people who are staring at their phones, rather than the television. Dan Fierman, MTV News’ editorial director, told Digiday that of its young target audience, 80 percent of all content they consume is on their phones and that the audience has been underserved with podcast options.
“MTV News is the engine that powers MTV digitally,” he said. “So, when you look at the idea of full-fact storytelling, we will hit you wherever you are on the phone, and podcasts are part of that.”
The podcasts will be available on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. There’s Skillset with Amy Nicholson, a film-focused podcast hosted by MTV News’ chief film critic Amy Nicholson. No Requests Live is a music and pop culture roundtable podcast sure to induce millennial nostalgia.
North Mollywood, hosted by former-Grantland writers Molly Lambert and Alex Pappademas, will analyze pop culture news from a Hollywood perspective. Speed Dial with Ira and Doreen, hosted by MTV News writers Ira Madison III and Doreen St. Félix, will be presented as a phone conversation between friends talking about race, sex and other topics. Lastly, MTV News’ politics team, consisting of Cox and Jamil Smith among others, are hosting a weekly politics show called The Stakes.
MTV has hired Rachel Zarrell, formerly of BuzzFeed, where she helped established its video unit, BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, as a news and video editor; and Perfect Pussy singer and writer Meredith Graves to host future projects. MTV also brought on four veteran podcast producers who have worked in production at various public radio stations.
“When you read Jamil and Molly online, you only get one version of them,” Alex Pappademas, MTV.com’s executive editor, told Digiday. “But with the podcasts, you get a different version of their voices, which is more informal and feels like you’re hanging out with them.”
Fierman said that the format is a cost-efficient way to expand MTV News with companies vying to target the network’s young audience. While the podcasts are ad-free for now, advertisements are expected to be added in future episodes. “There’s so much untapped listenership out there waiting for someone to reach those people,” he said.
MTV’s expansion into podcasting is part of the network’s reinvestment in its news department. Young people haven’t gravitated toward the brand as previous generations have, with its traffic online trailing compared to competitors like BuzzFeed. Since last fall, MTV News hired dozens of writers and editors to resurrect the vertical.
The moves strike some observers as possibly too little too late, though. “It’s clear what they’re doing, but it feels like it’s too late for that brand,” Paul Verna, media analyst at eMarketer, told Digiday earlier this year. “They’ve already lost that connection they had with their audience, and they’re not in today’s zeitgeist. They’re competing with so many other parties now.”
It has also launched a Snapchat Discover channel in the U.S., redesigned the MTV News app and launched a politically themed digital video series hosted by Smith. Videos like Smith’s series “The Racket” is typical of the type of video MTV is going for.
To that end, Fierman said that Zarrell’s hiring from BuzzFeed will help the network produce more quick news bites focusing on politics and issue-driven news. MTV is also relaunching MTV News updates this week that will be streamed on its social networks, with the plan to air as many five times a day in the future.
“Were making really good progress, but we’re nowhere near done,” Fierman said.