Commentary

Financial Times' Podcasting Highlights New Strategy For Publishers

The Financial Times this week touted its podcasting ambitions with the hiring of Cheryl Brumley to oversee its audio team. Brumley previously was co-executive producer of The Economist's daily podcast called "The Intelligence." She is a veteran of the BBC World Service.

Brumley's hiring is another sign of the opportunity that publishers see in streaming-media platforms as smartphones become ubiquitous, carmakers add infotainment dashboards to vehicles, and more households have smart speakers.

Publishers don't want to get left behind as other content providers, especially producers of talk radio, use their first-mover advantage to create podcasts.

The FT has produced podcasts for several years, but is now developing a more cohesive strategy for how they work within its broader business objectives. Its FT News Briefing has more than 1 million listeners since starting last year, the Press Gazettereported, indicating a significant audience for a publisher with 1 million paying readers.

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Norwegian energy company Equinor recently renewed its 12-month sponsorship of the show, and the FT is on track to make 1 million British pounds from its podcasts for the year.

While the podcasting industry is getting cluttered with thousands of new shows, many end up being short-lived. Aspiring producers realize how much time and effort it takes to maintain a podcast after a few months.

In contrast, publishers are well positioned to create ongoing shows they can cross-promote in their print and digital channels, while also harnessing the creative know-how of their editorial teams.

The FT is demonstrating how this business model might work in generating subscription revenue. The newspaper this month introduced a subscriber-only podcast called "The Rachman Review" hosted by Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist. FT subscribers can hear the podcast on Acast, a podcast monetization platform from Sweden, home country to streaming giant Spotify.

The beauty of podcasts is they can be consumed while doing other activities, like driving to work or going to the gym. That means podcasts can supplement a publisher's efforts to monetize viewer attention rather than cannibalizing their print and digital channels.

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