It appears that even a global pandemic cannot stop the growth of podcasts. Despite the loss of commuting time, some podcasts are seeing audience numbers continue to climb as people take more time to discover new shows. That’s before we even mention the flood of new shows hitting Apple Podcasts as everyone with a microphone tries their hand at the medium.

Listeners are also turning to podcasts for vital information and updates on the coronavirus crisis, and some publishers have taken this opportunity to present trusted information in audio form, by spinning up new shows or pivoting existing podcasts to cover the crisis in more detail.

Here, we look at how the Evening Standard, The Telegraph, and Laudable from Reach plc and JPIMedia have reacted quickly to get their coronavirus coverage inside your ears.

Pivoting The Leader at The Evening Standard

UK newspaper the Evening Standard has been running The Leader as a daily comment and analysis podcast since September 2019, covering a range of subjects based on the leading news stories of the day. But as the coronavirus crisis grew, the team saw that the news was being completely dominated by one subject.

Chris Stone, the Evening Standard’s Executive Producer of Video and Audio, saw an opportunity. “It soon became clear that this pandemic was going to touch every area of our lives, and that there was a real need for regular, trustworthy daily updates to help people understand what was going on,” he told WNIP.

“London emerged pretty quickly as the UK epicentre, and Londoners are facing some very specific challenges in lockdown. The Evening Standard is in a unique position to be that trusted voice for Londoners, so it seemed natural to attempt to do that with our podcast as well.”

As a result, they decided to temporarily rebrand The Leader to ‘Coronavirus Daily’, and to tighten the London focus, although they are also exploring the virus’ impact around the world.

The host David Marsland and his team were already well set up to record out in the field due to the nature of The Leader, so switching to remote recording hasn’t been a huge challenge. “We tend to use Zoom because it’s easy to record the call to a computer,” Stone said, and explained that they often have a second device like a phone recording as well in case there are connectivity issues. “It’s not studio quality, but generally it’s pretty clear.”

Since refocusing the podcast to solely cover coronavirus-related stories, Stone has seen a definite lift in traffic, which is growing consistently week-on-week. “Our weekly listens now are almost double what they were at the start of March,” he told us in early April.

Rebranding the podcast to be explicitly coronavirus-focused has also helped with an uptick in growth. “It’s well timed because the platforms are also making their own efforts to reach audiences with trustworthy coronavirus updates,” Stone explained. “Apple Podcasts have included The Leader in their ‘Covid-19: Essential listening’ collection, and Acast have helped us promote their show across their network too.”

Perhaps the most surprising success has come from YouTube, where the podcast has seen massive traffic spikes. “Some episodes are getting hundreds of thousands of listens,” said Stone. “This is in large part helped by YouTube’s own efforts to surface trustworthy coronavirus reporting via their Covid-19 news shelf on the YouTube homepage.”

The latest on coronavirus from The Telegraph

The Evening Standard is not the only publisher to have quickly pivoted their podcast strategy. UK newsbrand The Telegraph saw an opening when their weekly rugby podcast Brian Moore’s Full Contact went on hold due to sporting cancellations.

“We had a bit of space open up in our roster, and traffic to the website was going through the roof on coronavirus content,” The Telegraph’s Podcast Editor and Coronavirus podcast host Theodora Louloudis told WNIP. “We could see that there was a huge appetite for succinct, trustworthy coronavirus content with a balance of news and analysis that delivered the key things that you needed to know.”

According to Louloudis, the conversations around setting up the podcast happened very quickly, resulting in daily podcast ‘Coronavirus: The Latest’. “It went from an idea to a show within just a few days, which is much, much faster than the podcasts we work on normally,” she said, comparing this to some Telegraph podcasts which can be in the pipeline for up to a year before launching.

But being one of the earliest coronavirus podcasts was important to the publisher. “It was a very quick turnaround, there were very quick conversations, and we just made a call and stuck with it.”

Read the rest of this article by Esther Kezia Thorpe on What’s New in Publishing…

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