Overall advertising demand “is improving” New York Times Company CEO Meredith Kopit Levien told an investor conference this week, and that includes for podcasts. “Demand for audio is very strong,” she told the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference. “With a new administration coming into Washington, we tend to see an increase in advertising to influencers and we’re beginning to see that,” Kopit Levien said.
The New York Times is the home of The Daily, which Podtrac has said was the most listened to podcast among all those that it measures for 25 consecutive months, averaging more than four million downloads per day. “We’re just beginning to realize the value of audio,” said Kopit Levien, noting the daily news podcast has not only a high rate for advertisers but a higher ad load than many other shows. “The Daily is also an envelope to launch other podcasts,” she reminded investors.
The Times’ podcast business leapt forward this year when it struck a $25 million deal to buy Serial Productions and inked a multiyear partnership with This American Life. Kopit Levien, who rose to the CEO title in September, left the door open to investing more in the digital business calling it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for the company.
“In audio, we’re just in the foothills of a new era of what I think will be a very exciting era of audio storytelling, entertainment, narrative news and audio journalism,” she said. “I am really bullish on listening as a big use case for news. It is why we are investing so much into The Daily. And I’m also really bullish on audio journalism in general to be something that plays a really big role in the subscription funnel for the New York Times.”
Kopit Levien said the one-story approach of The Daily gets listeners intrigued in a story through a combination of the surround sound of that story as well as the background in how the journalist comes to get that story, as well as its context. “Often that makes you more interested in that story, journalist, or topic so there’s a natural effect of sending people to the Times [website] to get more information,” she said.
News podcasts have benefited from not only the coronavirus but also a demand for political news this year. With the election of Joe Biden as President, Kopit Levien told the investor conference that she is not worried the loss of the controversies of the Trump administration will mean fewer listeners. “The news cycle will change, it always does,” she said. “The story lines will change, and the characters of the stories will change, but it is hard to imagine the level of uncertainty in the world receding anytime soon. Many of the underlying stories that have driven the political news cycle, and the sense of extreme polarization in the country and the world, those underlying stories have not gone away and will continue to shape how we live.”