The New York Times’ dedicated audio app has been available to beta users since last December with a lineup of podcasts and a growing catalog of newspaper stories that come with an audio companion. The company says that it has been using the app for an experiment on how long episodes should be.
“Over the past six months, the audio team has been experimenting with short form audio episodes for the New York Times audio app. These pieces range from four to 15 minutes in length and are designed to inform and delight — bringing our listeners joy and relief in the midst of stressful times,” Times Audio Producer Wendy Door said in a memo to staff. The stories have included a kayak trip to the Everglades, a birding adventure in Iceland, a cooking-how to, and an appreciation for Bach’s cell suites, among others. The short-form test has been successful enough that the Times has just named a newly-expanded team to produce the stories.
The Times says it short-form team of producers including Tina Antolini, Elyssa Dudley and Tracy Mumford is getting a shake up. Dudley is returning to her role producing the Still Processing podcast and Mumford is moving to other projects for the app. So it is bringing on three new producers to work alongside Antolini.
The Times has hired former Gimlet producer John White. He previously worked on podcasts such as Crimetown andConviction: American Panic for the Spotify-owned studio. White earlier spent a decade at StoryCorp where he produced the iconic radio features that air on NPR’s “Morning Edition” each Friday.
Sam Brooke Curtis is also joining the Times. Her work has aired on KCRW’s “Lost Notes,” CBC’s “Love Me,” the Rumblestrip podcast, BBC’s “Short Cuts” and more. Her short doc “Where Do I Find You Now?” won a Third Coast International Audio Festival’s People’s Choice Award. Her personal feature “Ask Me” won a Gracie Award and a Los Angeles Press Club Award for best use of sound.
Alex Barron is also joining the Times short-form audio team. Most recently, he was a producer on The New Yorker Radio Hour, a co-production of WNYC and The New Yorker, on which he produced everything from interviews and news features to readings and comedy sketches. Prior to his time on the “Radio Hour,” Barron produced the politics, fiction and poetry podcasts for The New Yorker. He was also an executive producer of Broadway Revival, a limited-run series about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the theater community, for Audible, and has produced audio projects for Quartz and Parallel.
The Times has not released any figures for how its dedicated audio app is performing. First announced last October, it is currently only available for iPhone. The company says feedback from users who are welcomed past the digital velvet rope will help guide what direction it takes -- or whether there is enough of a business to make a standalone app worthwhile.
Among the app’s features is a carousel that makes it easier for users to access and binge all of the podcasts produced by the Times. There are also audio features such as one about Bach from the paper’s classical music editor. The app also reportedly features a section called “Magazine Stand” which features content leveraging the Times’ Audm platform that features audio versions of print stories. Axios says that is pulling in audio versions of stories not only from the Times but also New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Foreign Policy and Atavist.
The app also includes a “Today’ tab that features the top audio features for that day, with a focus on news. There is also a “Browse” tab that is geared for searching content based on topic, length, mood, or show. And a “Following” tab that lets users select which sources they want to keep tabs on and be alerted when new content is in their queue. It is said that the app does not include any advertising, but the ads contained within content remains intact.