How podcasting is changing Australian news

Guy Scott-Wilson

News in 2020 has been impossible to ignore. The year started with the devastating bushfires. Before long COVID-19 swept across the world, a pandemic we’re all still living through. Now we sit at the nexus of what could be a pivotal moment of social change, as protestors mobilise and seek an end to systemic racism across the world. Despite the devastating content of the news, those of us that work in content more broadly are encouraged to see audience figures of its consumption skyrocket.

At Acast we believe strongly in the role that journalism plays in our society, and are proud to provide a home to many of the best news podcasts which Australia – and the world – have to offer. We’re fortunate in a time when the media landscape is changing that podcasting is emerging as the new go-to platform for the best editorial content.

Here’s what you need to know about the growth of news podcasting in Australia:

1) News podcasting by the numbers
Podcasting is booming with shifting consumer behaviour during the COVID-19 lockdown creating more podcast listeners. Acast has seen five consecutive record months for podcast consumption in Australia between March and July. In July our local listens hit 28.9 million for the first time. News content has undoubtedly been at the forefront of the listening boom with audience data across the board showing that now, more than ever, Australians are choosing audio for their news consumption. We saw an extra 2.7 million listens on news podcasts between February and May as the COVID-19 pandemic first peaked. With such significant listening figures, it’s clear that millions of Australians are actively getting their news by listening to podcasts.

2) The on-demand news cycle
The way podcasts release episodes is also affecting Australia’s news consumption, as podcasts offer an on-demand format, available to listeners at any time. As an example, the impeccably produced 7am by Schwartz Media provides deep analysis of a particular news topic in the form of daily episodes. Naturally, that day’s episode makes up a large percentage of the podcast’s daily listener figures, yet the podcast still achieves consistently high listens across episodes in its back catalogue. People are engaging with the latest news cycle through daily episodes, but because of podcasting’s on-demand nature, they’re also able to access news when they want, on their terms, at any time. The on-demand nature of podcasting has also helped to tackle the challenge of consumer trust in the news agenda, as audiences can actively seek out voices which resonate with them. The Squiz, for example, has built a large and loyal community of listeners (the “Squizheads”) through their unique brand of opinion-free news reporting.

3) The new home of investigative journalism
In recent years, we’ve witnessed the financial investment in traditional journalism depreciate, and with it, the extent to which journalists are able to devote to in-depth investigations. But this hasn’t been the case in podcasting, as it’s quickly emerged as a new home of storytelling, with the high audience engagement in audio providing new editorial options. For example, investigative series The Teacher's Pet and The Lady Vanishes have captivated global audiences, with the episodic format of the podcasts allowing the creators to report in real-time on the podcasts. Also recognised by The Walkley Awards, The Teacher’s Pet and the ABC’s Unravel: Blood on the Tracks show podcasting journalism is highly respected. Podcast investigative journalism has even resulted in tangible change. The journalists involved in both The Teacher's Pet and The Lady Vanishes were able to unearth new facts and witness testimonies for the crimes discussed in each series, resulting in criminal cases being reopened and high-profile prosecutions.

It will be fascinating to see what is unearthed in podcast journalism over the coming years. It’s proven that it’s not only educational and entertaining to listeners, but the best journalism should change the world, and podcasting is proving to have the power to do just that.

Final thoughts
Podcasting has emerged as a popular and widely recognised source for gaining news in Australia. It continues to interest consumers and grow audiences, as well as build highly engaged communities of listeners. Attractive due to its adaptability, listeners are able to choose short-form and long-form journalism within the medium, and have access to listen to news when they choose, where they like. As the media landscape continues to change, podcasting offers journalists an exciting new outlet for investigative and innovative news reporting, through which we know some of the world’s biggest stories will be shared. Acast will continue to support journalists and publishers in delivering the news we know audiences are desperate to hear.

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