Daily news podcasts may be an obvious choice for news publishers looking to get into podcasting, but the field is crowded and resource costs can be high. Instead, publishers are finding ways to tell stories differently using audio, both to reach new audiences and to build loyalty among existing readers.
UK national newsbrand The Telegraph has a growing portfolio of podcasts, of which three were recently shortlisted at the Publisher Podcast Awards; Moral Money for the Best Lifestyle Podcast, and both Chopper’s Brexit Podcast and Expenses competing in the Best News & Current Affairs Podcast category.
Podcast Editor Theodora Louloudis spoke to Media Voices about The Telegraph’s podcast strategy, their commissioning process, and how she uses audio to leverage talent in their newsroom.
A growing podcast portfolio
The Telegraph’s audio portfolio has a number of levels. The first is the regular shows which run on a weekly basis: Chopper’s Politics (formerly known as Chopper’s Brexit Podcast), Audio Football Club, and Brian Moore’s Full Contact, which is their weekly rugby news show.
As well as the weekly podcasts, the team also produce a daily news briefing twice a day; a two-minute ‘micro bulletin’ which is also available as a smart speaker skill and a daily ten-minute coronavirus news update, which saw one million listens in its first ten days.
Finally, The Telegraph also produces a number of more ambitious series “which take us more out of the studio, with more crafted narrative storytelling,” according to Louloudis. These are often run as a series of six episodes a couple of times a year.
These series have ranged from an investigation into MP’s Expenses, looking at the stories of those who helped bring the scandal to light, to the recently-launched Crossfire; a six-part podcast looking at the untold story of Britain’s role in the Trump-Russia scandal.
There are varying levels of work involved in such a range of podcasts. The weekly ones are largely studio-based, with the exception of Chopper’s Politics which is recorded in a pub in Westminster. But although the location is different, the idea is the same; “We’re sitting around a table, and we have journalists and pundits talking,” said Louloudis.
At the other end of the scale are the documentary-style podcasts, which can take years to produce. “They can take a long time to really craft a story, and they’re much more heavily sound designed,” explained Louloudis. “You’ll have a lot of archive news clips coming in there, and sometimes we’ll commission music to be written just for the show.”
“They’re much more work, but more satisfying in a way. You’ve really crafted a story, and you’ve really got something quite evergreen to show at the end of it, whereas our other shows, you’re really looking for immediate reaction and analysis.”
Bridging the gap in the newsroom
Louloudis’ role involves developing shows with journalists around the newsroom who are often very experienced on print, but not very experienced on audio. This is a vital bridge that allows the expertise of journalists with a more traditional background to be brought in and used in a new way. They often come to Louloudis with an idea – often at least one a day – and pitch it to see how and if it would work in audio.
“We go through the idea together and decide how feasible it is, how much it would cost, and whether we’d need to take on help from a production company or freelancers,” she explained. “If we decide to go ahead with the show, I’ll work with the commercial team to see if we might be able to find some sponsorship.”