With 80 per cent of news publishers telling Reuters Institute in a survey they planned to put more into audio, Swedish media conglomerate NTM was keen to profit from it.
“Audio has a lot of buzz,” chief digital reader revenue officer Jens Pettersson says in an INMA blog this week. “Companies like Spotify are investing huge amounts of money recruiting podcasters such as Joe Rogan – the ‘Lionel Messi of sound’ – with the audio transfer market apparently worth big bucks. And so is the advertising potential in the coming years.”
A new report by the Norwegian Media Businesses’ Association and the IRM Institute for Advertising and Media Statistics noted that advertising revenues from podcasts in Norway have increased by 60 per cent from 2020-2021. “Of course, this is growing from a low level compared to more traditional channels, but it is still significant,” he says.
“Every year, it constitutes a greater share of people’s total media consumption. In Sweden, the majority of users are between 18-25 years old, but the largest growth in listening happens for those 30-44 years old, and every fifth Swede states they have reduced their use of other channels in favour of podcasting.”
Pettersson says all of these factors make it urgent for local media companies like NTM to determine an editorial and commercial strategy for audio.
“Podcasts should become a natural part of our overall offering and be an important part of our reader revenue business in the future.
However, the road to that point is a bit winding. Despite some interesting experiments with paywalled pods – such as the Podme project by Schibsted in the Nordics – podcasts today are consumed almost exclusively on external platforms such as Spotify, Acast and Apple Podcasts.
NTM’s engagement manager for video and podcasts Oskar Karlsson says this shows the importance of building a relationship, and creating a habit with users on the platforms where they listen today, “even if we cannot charge for the content right now”.
“In the long run, the goal is to partially or completely move the pods behind our paywalls,” he says. “Until then, our editorial podcasts should be seen as a way to build relationships and create habits, and to market our traditional journalism.”
To deliver at least some profitability for now – and to support and help editors get the maximum effect NTM and its in-house marketing agency Fluid, developed a podcast package for any NTM newsroom interested in starting new podcasts.
Fluid’s chief executive Andreas Huit says the podcast industry is developing rapidly and in line with that, both listeners and advertisers place higher demands on both packaging and content. “Since we offer a premium product in both print and digital, it is important that the quality also matches when it comes to podcasts.
“A professional and uniform expression strengthens the credibility and image of our brands,” he says.
As a result, NTM developed a concept in which newsrooms are helped with all graphic and sound elements as well as coaching for recording technology, format, and content. The pod package also includes a marketing plan and production of campaign materials.
Despite several earlier podcasts, the first test using this new concept has been a hockey podcast “about shots, hand sweat and interesting players” – to quote news brand Norran’s latest experiment in sound.
“The coverage of the local elite hockey team, Skellefteå AIK, is truly engaging Norran subscribers, and the newsroom wanted to take coverage to the next level.
Norran reporter Adam Savonen – who is one of the presenters – says podcast is “a very good format for broader explanations and more in-depth reasoning”.
“It is an exciting medium with the potential to be more than a complement,” he said. “In the future, we see sound as one of our fundamental journalistic parts.”
The podcast, called Islossning, or ‘the ice melt’, is being distributed “everywhere podcasts are available” and on the website, where it is also available as a video.
“It is very fun that we have found a concept that offers both audio and video without too much extra work,” said Norran sports head Arvid Marklund. “We hope to find an even larger audience if we can offer different types of platforms. Video also enables more efficient use of outtakes, so that we can make separate news articles of the podcast or use it easier in social media.”
Commercial opportunities have also helped drive the video format. Episodes are recorded on site at the sponsor’s ‘Electrolux Home”, which is a kitchen shop, giving the customer exposure while maintaining the credible context.
Senior media advisor Fanny Lövbom says the choice of customer also ensured an attractive environment for the Norran product.
“For us as a media company, it feels important to take a position in the market as a player that invests and is at the forefront,” she said. “Taken together, these kinds of internal collaborations are super important to ensure we achieve profitability on our way to making audio a natural and integrated part of our reader revenue business.”