Owning Your Audio: Does NYT Audio Have The Power To Transform The Podcasting Landscape?

Nov 12th

Last month [12 October], The New York Times announced it sought volunteers to beta test its newest experiment, New York Times Audio. The new app for audio journalism and storytelling will be the go-to for all the audio offerings under The Times’ including podcasts, read-aloud journalism from the likes of New York Magazine, Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed News, Audm-produced pieces and more.

In the words of The Times’, “We’re building something to help you understand the world, just by listening.” The publishing giants added: “With New York Times Audio, you’ll find context and clarity on current events, perspectives that will challenge your own stories that will entertain and illuminate. And it’ll all be curated by our editors.” 

What does this mean for the podcasting landscape? In short, if the Beta test is successful and the app captures its intended audience, other publishers may follow suit and remove the middlemen too. 

In an article for Adweek, Mark Stenberg explored how the potential success of the platform could change the game, explaining: “If The Times builds a standalone audio product that succeeds in attracting repeat listeners, it could mark a new era in the audio industry. The last decade has bred a reticence amongst media companies to rest their content strategy on algorithmically driven third-party platforms, but publishers have largely ceded control of their audio distribution to companies like Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Amazon. In testing the willingness of its audience to seek out its content on a standalone app, The Times is gauging the viability of an owned-and-operated product, which would reduce its reliance on intermediaries, as well as offer a host of data and advertising advantages.”

Will we see media companies such as Bloomberg Media, The Wall Street Journal, or Vox Media follow suit if this is a success? We think so!

Potential benefits 

With benefits to both the publisher and its audience, the New York Times App is an exciting development in the podcasting space. For publishers, such a development will allow increased control and more accurate data, ultimately benefiting listeners. 

From a listener’s perspective, as a result of improved data, they’ll experience improved recommendations, more personalised ads and a one-stop-shop for their favourite audio products.  

Potential drawbacks 

While there are plenty of benefits to media companies owning their audio, there are also drawbacks, particularly when it comes to podcasting. 

Firstly, we need to consider user behaviour. For example, are listeners really likely to download apps for each media company, or will they continue to favour streaming platforms that play home to a wealth of content from varied publishers? 

Secondly, podcast listeners often discover new podcasts on streaming platforms through recommendations and ratings. So, while publisher-owned apps allow for tailored suggestions, limiting those recommendations to purely their own content is a significant downfall. 

As we continue to consider the benefits and apparent drawbacks, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. So, we’ll be watching closely over the coming months! 

If you’re keen to beta test the new app, you can register your interest here