The winner of the Best Hobbies & Special Interest Podcast at 2021’s Publisher Podcast Awards was The Week in Art from The Art Newspaper. Judges noted how the presenters made an in-depth topic very accessible, the passion of the interviewees, and strong commercial performance of the podcast, as well as the contribution it makes to the broader Art Newspaper brand.
Peter spoke to Ben Luke, podcast host and review editor at The Art Newspaper. He talked about how the podcast and its format came about, why they chose a single sponsor per season revenue model, and what value The Week in Art brings to the publisher’s wider audience.
Here are some highlights, lightly edited for clarity:
How The Week in Art came about
The podcast began in September 2017. And it was really formed from a bunch of enthusiasts about podcasts at The Art Newspaper. Like so many podcasting stories, it’s podcast fans that that found them, people who love podcasts and want to do one. And that was very much the case with us.
There wasn’t a huge number of podcasts in the art world. We definitely felt that there was a gap for the kind of podcasts that we wanted to do, which was very much a news podcast. We’re called The Art Newspaper. We wanted to do a very newsy podcast, a magazine type programme, which reflected the way that The Art Newspaper reported. The Art Newspaper is effectively a journal of record for the art world, and we wanted to have that same thoroughness.
The first episode that we ever did was a kind of manifesto. On the one hand, we talked about looted art by the Nazis, and the other item was an interview with the great British artist Rachel Whiteread, and in a way that set the stall out to a certain extent. So there would always be a more feature-y item, and some real hard news about the art world as well. And we’ve sort of continued in that vein and refined and refined.
One of the great thrills about the podcast was that we were sitting talking about it at the meeting table in The Art Newspaper’s office, and I think we were on the air maybe two months later. For a media organisation to put together something that quickly speaks to how great podcasts are as a medium.
We were lucky, it’s brilliant that we got the funding, and it’s brilliant that the team assembled quite quickly. But one of the things I think that that podcasts have to be slightly fleet-footed, they can’t be juggernauts. And I think that that was absolutely the case with this. We came up with a concept. We did it very, very quickly. And then we haven’t looked back really.
Listener openness to sponsors
People are used to the format of a sponsor. Of course, there are different models everywhere. But I’m really conscious that because of the enthusiasm that I have for podcasts, and I know that they they take resources to put together, I think people are very happy for there to be sponsor messages and advertising messages in podcasts.
I’ve never encountered anybody that said, ‘It doesn’t feel right, that you’ve got that there,’ or anything like that. It seems to me that people welcome the fact that these these podcasts are being supported and that we can keep producing and keep producing.
The added value podcasts bring
One of the things that’s often underplayed about about audio is the number of words you can get in. If you think about it, a long article in the newspaper is 2,000 words. But if you do a transcript of a podcast, it’s many 1,000s of words.
I think one of the things about the podcast is that depth, and I think we always feel when we’re doing items on the podcast that we can really bring a different level of depth to a subject than you can ever do in the paper. The paper is extraordinarily in-depth, the detail that you get in the reporting in the newspaper is one of its amazing qualities, that level of expertise. And then you have really great investigative reporting. But one of the things that we can do on the podcast is pick up on aspects of that and really run with them.
This year’s Publisher Podcast Award winners will be revealed on April 27th at a live event in London, as well as streamed online. See our tickets page for more details. Entries for next year’s Publisher Podcast Awards will open in September. Think you’ve got what it takes to win an award? Sign up to our mailing list at www.publisherpodcastawards.com