Finding success with podcasting

There are media outlets that do podcasting well and there are those that tend to miss the mark.

The BBC, The Guardian, The Financial Times, BuzzFeed and Quartz do a consistently good job when it comes to integrating podcasting into their media lineup.

Here is a post from journalism.co.uk about those media outlets that do it right and how they do it:

How 5 news outlets are finding success with podcasts

The Financial Times, BuzzFeed, Quartz, BBC and The Guardian give some insight into how they’re approaching podcasts

Podcast

Credit: Image by Francois Schnell on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

While Serial fans may be marking down days in the calendar until the return of the series’ second season later in the year, the buzz surrounding podcasts isn’t fading away.

News organisations have taken a cue from Serial and have started exploring this storytelling medium, but the key to making it work is thinking how it can improve your journalism and what kind of stories can shine through it.

Here are some recent examples from the Financial Times, Quartz, BBC, The Guardian and BuzzFeed.

FT’s The Steinmetz affair

The FT’s Investigations unit recently produced The Stenimetz affair, its first podcast, as a four-episode series about a mountain of iron ore located in West Africa.

The paper first broke the news of corruption allegations relating to a mining deal in Guinea back in 2012 and had been covering the story as it expanded since, so it was already a topic of interest for them.

“By the start of this year we had a mass of material – interviews, documents, legal transcripts – that amounted to a trove of the raw information that underpins an extraordinary, and also sometimes very complex, tale,” said Tom Burgis, investigations correspondent at the FT and the podcast’s narrator.

One listener described our show as ‘campfire stories about the internet’ and I think that’s a pretty cool way to think about what we’re trying to doRyan Broderick, BuzzFeed

The story already had a backbone of articles, an interactive timeline and an animated explainer, but according to Burgis, the podcast gave him a way to “tell the story in a different way”.

“Journalists today have a lot of new toys but there is something wonderfully intimate and engaging about radio – which is basically what this is.”

Burgis added that “told right, [podcasts] can be fantastically gripping” and the trick is to “include enough detail that gives a sense of the depth of the reporting and explains the attribution, without bewildering the reader or listener with too much”.

“We wanted someone coming fresh to the story to be able to absorb the backstory in a riveting way – and we also wanted to leave it open for updates whenever the next twists happen”, he said.

“As we experiment with this form of storytelling, I reckon we’ll find from time to time that podcasts work as the primary vehicle for some stories.

As ever, it’s about finding the form that best expresses the tale.”

BuzzFeed’s Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer is BuzzFeed’s weekly podcast, in which BuzzFeed staffers Ryan Broderick and Katie Notopoulos talk about stories they cover “day-to-day as reporters”.

“We’ve covered a lot of different stuff in our first 20-or-so episodes, everything from Russian troll farms, to Minions, to Japanese dating simulators, to the viral murder of a teenage girl in a small town”, Broderick said.

“When picking a story for a segment we’re usually looking for something relatively topical that we’re excited about.”

Although Internet Explorer has only been running since March, Broderick said the feedback gathered from the audience so far has been “really positive”.

The hosts have received comments from “people like us who are spending way too much time on the internet, but also listeners who wish they could keep up with all the weird stuff out there”.

“One listener described our show as ‘campfire stories about the internet’ and I think that’s a pretty cool way to think about what we’re trying to do,” Broderick pointed out.

Quartz’s Actuality

Quartz’s bi-monthly podcast, Actuality, is hosted by economics and politics writer Tim Fernholz and business site Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.

It launched in April and, so far, has discussed topics like entrepreneurship in Cuba or people’s sleep patterns.

Fernholz said they knew since the beginning that the podcast should be “more than just reporters talking, so that meant getting interviews with the people involved in the story”.

“We wanted it to be a bit of a deeper dive into a topic than people might normally get, so we knew we should focus each episode on one or two themes.”

They also wanted the podcast to have a casual tone, to “get at the flavour of the newsroom conversations happening around us and tried to make a podcast we would want to listen to”.

Fernholz stressed that although Actuality comes from two business-oriented outlets, it can tackle “almost any story”.

“Though we like to take a business or economics approach to understanding what we cover, we don’t let that limit us – there’s an economics of everything.

Often, the decision comes down whatever story from Quartz or Marketplace has us the most excited.”

As we experiment with this form of storytelling, I reckon we’ll find from time to time that podcasts work as the primary vehicle for some storiesTom Burgis, FT Investigations

He explained that Quartz has a clear idea of who the audience is and why they might be interested in their podcast, something they factor in when putting together an episode.

“We see our listeners as people who are curious about the way the world works, who want to understand the big social and economic changes we are living through, but who have little patience for pedantry or self-seriousness.”

“Our audience can listen along as we talk about everything Quartz covers in the global economy – from Chinese nationalism and transgenic mosquitoes to rogue CEOs and extreme sleep modification.”

The BBC’s Ouch: Disability talk

As the world’s largest media organisation, the BBC has a huge range of radio shows across its 17 major stations and 40 local stations.

Ouch: Disability Talk was one of the first podcasts, however, when it launched in 2006, and it has now become part of the broader BBC News department due to its success, winning ‘best media podcast’ atlast month’s Online Media Awards.

The talk show features informal, humorous interviews and discussion around disability topics, such as how the weather can affect a person with disabilities or the reason why people started getting semicolon tattoos.

A key detail about Ouch is that the production team have first hand experience of some of the issues, which presenter Damon Rose said gives them the chance to “approach disability in a less reverential and sometimes quite humorous way because we have confidence to do so”.

The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground

The Guardian found a way to highlight an important issue that could sometimes go unnoticed by people: a podcast giving behind the scenes access to its Keep it in the Ground campaign on climate change.

In a series of 13 episodes, which ran in March, former editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger and a team of Guardian journalists discussed the challenges they were facing when reporting on this topic, as well as the implications of climate change around the world.

The Guardian has other podcasts, such as Tech Weekly, but the format and tone of Keep it in the Ground were both an experiment: it included key facts about climate change, but also conversations from newsroom meetings and a final episode discussing the campaign’s outcome, achievements and future steps.

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