Dec 6, 2019

News podcasts go mainstream

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New data and investments into news podcasting suggests that the format is not just a fad, but a trend that's here to stay.

Why it matters: Newsrooms are finding that podcasts are helping them develop stronger audiences and, in some cases, make more money. At a time when the news economy is unstable, podcasts offer newsrooms a chance to drive new business.

Driving the news: The Pulitzer Prize Board said Thursday that they would include audio reporting as a new journalism prize category in its 2020 cycle.

  • "The renaissance of audio journalism in recent years has given rise to an extraordinary array of non-fiction storytelling," Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy said in a statement.

The state of play: The announcement comes on the heels of new research released by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Oxford University that finds news podcasts have exploded in popularity in the U.S.

  • According to the report, the number of new news podcasts around the world increased by one-third (32%) from January through October 2019, citing data from Chartable.
  • That means that more than 12,000 new news podcasts have been created this year.

The podcast streamers are also finding that news performs well on their platforms.

  • While news podcasts make up a small portion (6%) of the 770,000 existing podcasts on Apple's platform, they make up around one-fifth (21%) of the most popular episodes in Apple's U.S. charts, per the report. The trend extends to other countries across the world.
  • Spotify said Friday that it now has 500,000 podcast titles available through its app, and that news is one of the most consumed podcast genres of the year, per The Drum.
Data: PwC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: PwC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Yes, but: While podcasts offer some newsrooms the opportunity to make millions of dollars in ad revenue, they are still a small portion of overall revenue across the board.

  • While some newsrooms, like the New York Times, have had unprecedented success building podcasts, others have had less luck with their audio strategies.
  • And some radio broadcasters were frustrated that the Pulitzer announcement was associated with the podcast boom, as radio journalists have long-produced award-worthy stories, Nieman Lab notes.

The bottom line: Signs point to podcasting becoming a bigger part of the news industry in the foreseeable future, but don't expect all newsrooms to benefit equally.

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