The Telegraph is using audio more often to pull in new readers and, in time, convert them to paying subscribers. The British newspaper launched two audio series in the last two weeks: a standard weekly podcast and an audio show designed for Google Home.
Audio has become a focus for the publisher over the last six months, partly thanks to devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, the latter of which launched in the U.K. in early April. To coincide with this, The Telegraph started producing “5 by 5” specifically for Google Home. The daily 10-minute news show features five journalists discussing the day’s top-five topics and airs at 5 p.m. each day.
“What we have learned is that good audio content needs to be audio content first. We wanted to do something that was better than reading out the written word,” said The Telegraph’s chief information officer, Chris Taylor, adding that this tactic was part of its first experimentation on Amazon Alexa. “We wanted to get the tone and the opinion of The Telegraph and boil it down.”
Taylor added that it’s too early to share numbers on how many people are listening to “5 by 5” each day, but it’s currently working out how to adapt a version of this to Amazon Alexa. It will have to be tailored, not least because the The Telegraph deliberately created “5 by 5” to be broadcast at 5 p.m., while Alexa’s Flash Briefing Skills are designed to be heard in the morning.
Since the Telegraph put 20 percent of its online content behind a paywall with the introduction of its Premium subscription service last year, the team has applied more of a laser focus to the areas it gets most cut through editorially, like sports, politics and mental health, according to Taylor. Those three areas have also been selected as the topics for its other three regular podcasts. “Previously, podcasts were more generalist,” he added.
This week, the publisher launched “Mad World,” a 10-episode weekly series about mental health, where Telegraph journalist Bryony Gordon interviews well-known guests, like Prince Harry and TV chef Gizzi Erskine. The first episode, featuring Prince Harry, went live on Monday on The Telegraph’s site and platforms like iTunes and Tune In.
At time of writing, episode one had generated 300,000 plays across platforms, no doubt thanks in part to Prince Harry’s appearance. This accompanying article about the episode has had 2 million pageviews, a number Taylor was pleased with, but he wouldn’t share how it compares to other articles.
Rugby podcast “Brian Moore’s Full Contact” first aired at the end of January and is on episode 11, Taylor was unwilling to share exactly how many downloads it has had, but said it is in the hundreds of thousands. “Chopper’s Brexit Podcast,” launched in March and hosted by political correspondent Christopher “Chopper” Hope, is also pushing six-figure download numbers.
The Telegraph is relaxed about where people find its podcasts. The priority for audio is to reach new audiences about specific topics, getting them acquainted with the publisher, before it can convert them into premium subscribers. The publisher is taking the same view as it does with sharing its content on third-party platforms like Google Play and Apple News. For now, it’s not directly monetizing audio through sponsorship or branded content. But unlike video, creating audio is far less resource-intensive. The Telegraph already has its own studio and an audio-and-video team of about 30 people, who help with tech support, meaning any new shows created aren’t a resource drain.
“We’re at a point of inflection. In-home devices will make a difference to bespoke audio content. We’re about to see a sea change where more people listen to audio off the iPhone,” added Taylor.