How to be heard above the noise: a guide for journalists launching a podcast

This article is part of the book, "Innovative Journalism in Latin America," published by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, with the help of Open Society Foundations' Program on Independent Journalism.


By Pablo Fernández Delkader, Innovation & Product Development, PRISA Radio

What is a podcast?

The definition of a podcast is constantly under discussion. For this text, a podcast is:

  • Digital content, a production of sound and speech.
  • Presented as serialized content that promotes subscription and proposes aggregation
  • Consumed on-demand on connected devices
  • Encourages consumption that is personal, intimate and attentive

Why make a podcast?

  • New narratives. Podcasts offer a transmedia and multiplatform view of the present and open the door to the use of new narratives.
  • Simultaneity. Audio offers unique value: it can be consumed while performing other tasks.
  • Engagement. Audio connects the listeners to a different emotional level: it can make you feel something[1].
  • Brand awareness. Most listens are captured in the home, where the content has the listener’s complete attention, which encourages commitment, loyalty and remembrance of advertisers[2].
  • Multidistribution. RSS, a standard and open distribution format, allows for the media to be present on multiple platforms and audio applications.
  • Costs. Compared with the investment of video, podcasting brings quality products, with immediacy and without the need for large infrastructure.

How long should it last?

More than half of the listeners leave the podcast after half an hour[3]. Despite this, 40 percent of users always listen to the whole episode[4]. There are no rules: a podcast should last as long as the story requires. Some suggestions against excess:

  • Pre-production. Script the program, for the expected duration, even for a conversational format. Select the essential voice cuts for the story, Choose music and effects as elements of sound staging.
  • Recording. Respect the script or outline. Before you begin, communicate objectives of duration and structure, and meet them.
  • Postproduction. You’ll need more time to put it all together than you thought. Edit, cut and trim. Listen to the piece again, ask for feedback and re-edit.

What materials and knowledge do I need?

Can a podcast be made with the phone’s microphone and an app? Yes. But to get a quality product, you need at least a few decent microphones[5],  used correctly[6], and editing software on your computer[7]. And if the audio is not in a native format, it is recommended to produce it with a studio, producer, network or podcasting platform[8].

What content can I offer?

Any content that fits in a podcast. This is just a summary of what you could offer:

  • Longform[9]. The big serialized reports are the biggest recent successes of podcasting. If your native format is text, you can also bring your reports to audio simply by reading them[10].
  • Conversational. On any subject, with journalists informed on the subject and with the ability to deal with details with care and clarity.
  • Analysis and opinion. Open the newsroom and give voice, literally, to your journalists and experts.
  • News briefs[11]. Advances and summaries of information, related to third-party information, published or to be published.
  • Personalities[12]. Exclusive conversations with relevant characters. Or the personalities themselves make their podcast,[13] which your media outlet produces and distributes.
  • Thematic podcasts[14] to explain a concrete news story in-depth.
  • Q&A[15]. Content generated by listeners’ questions.
  • Events[16] that become a podcast, or podcasts that become events.
  • Niche content. Testing ground for new audience segments and commercial targets.
  • Historical archive[17]. Audio formats based on the selection and contextualization of the media’s historical archive.

How do I distribute my content?

The easiest thing to do is collaborate with networks and podcast platforms[18]. They are responsable for maintenance, scalability, integration of monetization and measurement tools. You can dedícate yourself to the content, and, if you have the capacity, to marketing.

  • Multidistribution. Open sources of syndication for your programs from the main platforms. Build a strong audience to whom you can market.
  • Podcast networks. Integreate your content into a podcast network to benefit from distribution agreements.
  • Exclusivity. It offers additional value to your media outlet’s current audience. Distribute your app excluseively or only to registered users.
  • Windowing strategy. Negotiate exclusive distribution agreements (by time or geographic windows) with audio distribution platforms.

What can I do to promote my podcast?

  • Talk to your audience. Insert your podcast in your outlet’s applications and websites, encourage journalists who already work with your brand to promote the podcast.
  • Cross promotion. If you are part of a network, you can benefit from cross promotion between shows[19] and from the network’s presence in aggregators.
  • Social networks. Facebook prioritizes video and plays it automatically and without sound. Publish promotions and podcast snippets with subtitled video to help you break that social isolation[20]. Learn to use Audiogram[21].
  • Search engines. Include transcripts on the podcast website to indexo n Google.
  • Attribution. In multi-tiered environments, content may be isolated from the brand to which it belongs.  In the covers and audiofiles, include a mention to the network or media that produced the content to avoid attribution problems.

How do I measure listens?

Even if the return you are looking for is not monetary, you must have accurate metrics. With recommendations from the IAB,[22] the distribution platform must offer:

  • Differentiation between downloads, online listens, and streaming.
  • Unique downloads figures (a unique person, a unique device, in a period of time, an IP and a determined user agent).
  • Download figures for each podcast and each episode.
  • Segmentable numbers by device, user agent, date and geographical area.

How do I monetize my podcast?

With metrics, you can support an economic return in several ways:

  • Advertising mentions. Integrated in the content and read by the presenter, with a high level of complicity between the listener and the brand.
  • Programmatic advertising. IT can help modest podcats to gain visibility, but programmatic advertising can also threaten high CPMs (Cost Per Mile) that premium podcasts can obtain.[23]
  • Crowdfunding. Asking the audience to donate by maintaining content they appreciate is, so far, more efficient than implementing a paywall.[24]
  • Subscription models. There are very few examples of a podcast being the core or part of the content offering of a subscription model.[25] They have been included, for example, in larger subscription packages (media outlets consolidated with paywalls add podcasts, or subscription music streaming services with audio content).
  • Events.  One or more podcasts on the internet produce live programs with the public.
  • Branded podcasts[26]. Content derived from advertising agreements.
  • Windowing strategy[27]. Offer the podcast exclusively to an audio platform in exchange for a fee, a portion of advertising revenue or volume of listeners and revenue per user if it is a subscription platform.

What legal aspects should I take into account?

To broadcast the podcast on your website and apps and on all kinds of platforms, you need licenses to use and distribute music and effects in all those enviroments. You can overcome this obstacle using material from radio production libraries. The permission of those who participate in the podcast is also important.

[3] ‘Podcast Time Spent Listening Revealed’. Bridge Ratings. 2016

[4] ‘Infinite Dial’ 2017’, Edison Research & Triton Digital.

[7] ‘Podcasting Basics, Part 2: Software’. Transom. 2015.

[8] Panoply has reached similar agreements in the past with The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal or PoliticoPRX  and The Center for Investigative Reporting produced the podcast RevealThe New York Times joined with NPR to produce the podcast adaptation of its section Modern LovePodium Podcast produced the podcast of magazine Libero.

[9] In 2015, NPR contributed to the popularization of the podcast thanks to its great project Serial, which has been broadcast for two seasons. S-Town, an heir to Serial, has started to break download records. Another recent success is Missing Richard Simmons, from Pineapple Street Media, the latest obsession in U.S. podcasts. There are also success stories in Spanish, like Radio Ambulante, which thanks to excellent production quality and Pan American visión has reached a distribution agreement with NPR. There is also ‘Le llamaban Padre’, from Podium podcast, which received an honorable mention in the latest Ortega y Gasset Journalism Awards.

[10] ‘The Guardian's Audio Long Reads’ is a good example of this format.

[11] ‘Up first’, defined by NPR as the podcast of “the news you need to start your day” or The Daily, the daily podcast from The New York Times that summarizes “all you need to know.”

[12] For examples, see ‘Between Worlds’ from Mike Walsh, 'How to be amazing', from Michael Ian Black, or WTF, from Marc Maron, the podcaster who scored an interview with Barack Obama from his garage.

[14] ‘Brexit means’, of The Guardian, about the rupture of the United Kingdom with the European Union,

[15] ‘Answer me this’ has used this format in more than 300 episodes.

[16] The most well-known is TED Radio Hour. Also the tender and hilarious ‘Grownups read things they wrote as kids’ or the casual and original Tell me Something I Don’t Know. In Spanish, Todopoderosos stands out. It is produced live in Espacio Fundación Telefónica.

[17] The New York Times partnered with WBUR to rescue stories from the Modern Love column and to convert them into a new product that touches the heart. Podium podcast recovers its audio library with Historias de medianoche (Midnight stories) and Grandes Entrevistas (Great Interviews).

[18] Networks like RadiotopiaPanoplyGimlet MediaDixoCuondaPodium podcast, or platforms likeTriton DigitalBlubrryLibsynSpreakerAcastAudioboom or iVoox can help you to distribute.

[19] ‘Inside NPR’s podcasting strategy’. Poynter. 2015.

[20] ‘El podcast sale de su aislamiento social’. Innovación audiovisual. 2016.

[22] ‘IAB Podcast Ad Metrics Guidelines’, PODCAST TECHNICAL WORKING GROUP. 2016.

[25] In the Latin American market, the case of Convoy is perhaps unique. It is a network of 12 podcasts accesible only by subscription and was launched in March 2016 by Mexican Olallo Rubio, a former radio host.

Other guides in the series include:

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.