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BBC launches Today spin-off podcast with 'conversational and punchy' tone to reach younger on-demand audience

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme is launching a spin-off podcast in a bid to reach a growing on-demand audience of younger listeners to offer them a “different take” on the news.

Beyond Today will air for the first time later today, with alternate presenters Tina Daheley (pictured) and Matthew Price alongside a team largely made up of female journalists under 30 from across the BBC.

The team also contains the same number of women from black and ethnic minority backgrounds as it does men at a time when newsrooms across the country are facing calls for greater diversity.

The daily podcast, which are set to last up to 20 minutes each, will focus on a single big news story.

It will have a more conversational and punchy tone than the BBC’s traditional news output, according to the BBC, and early guests are set to include top BBC journalists Evan Davis and Stacey Dooley.

The first episode will be available at around 5pm today following Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget announcements, asking: “Is there enough money now?”

Other topics the podcast plans to cover soon are: “Who killed Iraq’s Instagram star?” and “How will the US midterms test #Metoo?”

Daheley, who left her role reading the news on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show in August and has also presented BBC Breakfast, Crimewatch and BBC News bulletins, said: “We know there is a huge appetite for news and current affairs that is both conversational as well as punchy and cuts through the noise. That is who Beyond Today is for.”

Price, chief correspondent on the Today programme, added: “Taking what makes the Today Programme great and reimagining it in the form of a podcast allows us time and space to explore the right story for on-demand listeners in the right way with the people who know about it best.”

The Today programme (Monday to Saturday) has 6.98m listeners each week, down from 7.17m in the same quarter last year, according to the latest RAJAR audience figures.

The programme saw a record high of 7.82m in April to June 2017, which it put down to a period of significant news events including the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, a snap general election, and multiple terror attacks.

The Today programme has since returned to what it has described as “usual” audience levels, but the BBC siad it had seen an increase of about 15 per cent in online live streaming and on-demand listening in the past year.

Audiences, particularly those aged 16 to 34, are shifting away from live scheduled programming towards on-demand and online content, Ofcom said in its first annual report on the BBC last week.

The regulator said the BBC must therefore take “significant further steps” to engage young people.

“As the BBC recognises, it is not currently doing enough, quickly enough, to reach young people, who are critical to its future success,” Ofcom’s report said.

“It needs to take significant steps to address this issue, to ensure it delivers content that appeals in ways that suit and reflect young people’s viewing and listening habits.”

James Purnell, the BBC’s director of radio and education, is due to formally unveil Beyond Today tomorrow alongside a number of new podcasts available on BBC Sounds, the new website and app for the broadcaster’s radio, podcast and music offerings.

Purnell is expected to say: “Fake news spreads like a virus across social media and the trust audiences have in radio is a potent weapon against it. Audiences increasingly want to listen on-demand so we’re improving our offer to them.”

Beyond Today editor John Shields, previously assistant editor of the Today programme, said: “The best of BBC journalism runs through the veins of Beyond Today, but with added personality and bite.

“It’s a space for busy people who’ll have seen snippets of news on apps and feeds to take a bit of time to figure out what’s going on in the world.

“We’ve got a new production team committed to asking big questions about big stories in the news and beyond with brilliant BBC journalism as its starting point.

“We’re looking forward to developing the podcast over the months as we learn more about getting on-demand news right for podcast listeners.”

Picture: BBC/Anna Gordon

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