Fairfax brings podcasts to newsroom with investigative series inspired by Serial

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 23 September 2016
Phoebe's Fall will be Fairfax's first investigative podcast series

Fairfax Media is bringing podcasts into the newsroom with the launch of a six-part investigative series. The media company is currently in negotiations to sell the broadcast rights of the podcast, Phoebe’s fall, to ABC Radio National. 

The first episode of the podcast has already shot to the #1 on the iTunes chart overnight. It was inspired by the success of the Serial podcast and details the brutal death of 24-year-old Phoebe Handsjuk in Melbourne in December 2010

The story was initially covered by journalist Richard Baker. He wanted to revisit it but didn’t believe print could do the story justice.

The Age editor Michael Bachelard tells AdNews the series, launched yesterday, is a trial of the format for Fairfax but if it is successful the media company will invest more in podcasting.

“Serial accustomed people to really deep journalistic exploration of big topics through podcasting. We knew if we did this story as a news story of feature, which is traditionally what we’ve done, there was the chance we’d leave out too much out,” he says.

“We aren’t the only media organisation dabbling in the format because podcasts have the ability to convey depth and complexity in an engaging way. We don’t know if we will set up a full podcast team but this is us dipping our toe in the water.”

fairax phoebes fallFairfax's new podcast will explore the mysterious death of Phoebe Handsjuk

Podcasts are not a new medium with roots dating back to the 1980s. The Serial podcast, which investigated the murder of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Masud Syed, breathed new life into the medium and brought podcasts into the mainstream media.

With more traditional media companies investing in the medium, such as The Guardian and Vice, Bachelard believes podcasts are a “sweet spot” for the future of journalism and also the integration of advertising.

“Podcasts are a key medium for journalism moving forward. It’s a great way to tell stories and reach readers and the trend isn’t going anywhere. It’s also a good wat to deliver ads because there is so much intimacy with the platform.

"People will spend three minutes reading a news story but they will spend three hours listening to a podcast and then discuss it on social. The question is does it become a core part of our business or a peripheral part, and how does it sit in a newsroom – that’s what we are trailing with Phoebe’s Fall.”

Fairfax is currently “exploring options” for a sponsor of the podcast.

The podcast series will be rolled out across Fairfax’s network, including The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and on iTunes.

Bachelard says while there was initially a little reluctance across Fairfax to begin creating podcasts, he expects other newsrooms to adopt the format in the future.

Two further podcast series are planned for this year a series of interviews by crime writer John Silvester with cops and criminals and a panel style consumer affairs show.

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