The New York Times is adding global issues, starting with Brexit, to hit podcast ‘The Daily’

The New York Times’ news podcast “The Daily” is delving deeper into European politics with a weeklong series to help grow its global audience.

Starting June 10, the daily news podcast will explore the rise in populist, nationalist politics against the backdrop of the effects of the U.K.’s blunder through Brexit negotiations. Usually, the show combines breaking news and analysis. Until now “The Daily” has covered Brexit roughly five times. The series is an effort to go deeper into the topic.

The series will follow producers Clare Toeniskoetter and Lynsea Garrison traveling with The Times’ Berlin bureau chief, Katrin Bennhold, across Germany, Italy, France and Poland.

“This [podcast] is driving that habit, ritual and routine with the audience,” said Theo Balcomb, executive producer of “The Daily.” “We have the scoops and the reach and the huge international newsroom; it’s that footprint that we have that no one else does.”

As “The Daily” seeks to develop a global audience, it can draw on its wealth of 200 reporters outside the U.S. According to the New York Times, 20% of the podcast’s 2 million daily listeners are outside the U.S., while the U.K. is its second-biggest international market after Canada. Over half of its U.K. audience is British, as opposed to U.S. expats living in the U.K., which is a common assumption made about U.S. publishers’ international audiences.

From now on, one podcast producer will focus solely on creating international stories over the next year.

“The Daily” sparked a global trend of news podcasts from many publishers like The Economist and The Guardian. In 2017, the show started with four people, in a room the size of a storage cupboard, and has grown to 15 who sit within the broader audio team of 30 people. The audio team now has three studios.

The publisher said the show is profitable. During The New York Times’ most recent earnings call, COO Meredith Kopit Levien said that digital advertising grew 19% in the first three months this year compared to the previous year and that one of the biggest drivers was revenue from podcasts, driven by “The Daily.”

Beyond ad revenue, podcasts can drive more international subscribers. The Times has set itself the goal of reaching 10 million total subscriptions by 2025; currently, it stands at 4.5 million subscriptions. Of digital-only subscriptions, 16% come from outside the U.S.

How audio can play a part in the subscription journey is on everyone’s mind. For its first nonfiction podcast series “Caliphate,” The Times gave subscribers early access. While the publisher claimed it saw an uplift in conversions, it wouldn’t share specific numbers.

The Times is also exploring the link between audio and subscribers through ads in “The Daily,” launched a month ago. The audio ads feature interviews with Balcomb and colleagues who made the show about their experiences, explains the context of The Times. According to Balcomb, younger fans of the show — half of U.K. listeners are under 30 years old — emailed and tweeted their desire to subscribe after listening to the ads, not realizing that simply buying a subscription was the best way to show support.

The publisher said it has seen a positive uplift from the ads but was unable to share more details until it has understood how factors like frequency had an impact. Anecdotally, The Times gets emails and tweets of thanks for the ads which serve as reminders to subscribe.

Unlike subscription publishers like The Economist, which sees successful conversions using podcasts to market its subscriptions, The Times advertises other standalone products, like Crosswords and Cooking, on other podcasts.

Each day, Balcomb and the team critique the previous show’s content and process to try and improve. Over the years, the show moved from being a more standard in-studio interview format to audio documentaries that follow a narrative. The goal is to weave in more scenic production to root the audio in settings outside of the studio, she said.

“We were pioneers, and we want to keep leading the way,” said Balcomb. “We want to make things that have never been heard before.”

Image: Damon Winter, The New York Times.

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