The first podcast to be produced under Reach and JPI Media’s Google-funded audio partnership, Laudable, has gone live ahead of schedule to cover next month’s general election.
The publishers were awarded €500,000 (£434,000) by Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund in March this year to develop new audio shows in regional newsrooms and find ways to make them financially sustainable.
Northern Poll is the first podcast to launch thanks to the tech money.
The first half-hour episode saw Manchester Evening News politics and investigations editor Jen Williams, Liverpool Echo political editor Liam Thorp and Yorkshire Post Westminster correspondent Geri Scott discuss how the election could shape, and be shaped by, the north.
It will be released weekly in the run-up to the election, with some shorter, ad-hoc episodes expected in response to breaking news or emerging issues, and feature a mixture of Reach and JPI Media journalists and guests.
Alison Gow (pictured), digital editor-in-chief of Reach regionals and Laudable’s publisher, said: “Coming out with some content ahead of schedule was always in the plan, just not quite as soon as this.
“But the election was the perfect opportunity to put the training and also the collaborative elements that are so much a part of Laudable, into practice.
“The commitment of Jen, Geri, Matt and Liam, among others, was absolutely fundamental in making this happen.”
Northern Poll continues the pre-election collaboration between northern news titles as Reach, JPI and Newsquest titles all splashed on a unified “manifesto for the north” yesterday.
JPI Media editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford said: “I am delighted to see the first production from our new partnership on audio journalism. We are developing new skills with our journalists and learning fast.
“Working in collaboration enables us to share good practice across our newsrooms.”
Other podcasts expected to launch soon as part of the project include one on the HS2 railway from Reach’s Birmingham newsroom and another on the menopause from the Liverpool Echo team.
It is part of a decision to target underserved groups, rather than only explore issues within a geographical region, as would be the standard approach for local and regional news titles, Gow explained.
JPI Media’s Edinburgh office and Reach’s Manchester and Birmingham newsrooms have been chosen as Laudable’s pilot newsrooms and a podcast producer has been hired for each.
But only the Birmingham’s producer was in post in time for the first episode of Northern Poll as it launched to cover the sudden call to hold a December election for the first time in a century.
It had to be recorded in Manchester’s as-yet unfinished studio by a videographer and sent to Birmingham to be edited late into the evening. The other two podcast producers start their new roles next week.
Gow told Press Gazette the plan is to “build, start creating, push out” with a gradual widening to more newsrooms next year as smaller teams without their own studio spaces start using facilities at bigger titles near them.
She said the main target of 2020 will be looking at how to commercialise the podcasts in a way that ties them together with commercial partners “who might want to access those audiences and don’t have a way of doing that currently”.
Laudable is already using programmatic advertising in its early shows, but Gow said the point of the project is to “enable content creation and audiences and how local news might use different platforms”.
“At the same time you want to be running a sustainable business, you need to be finding ways of growing new revenue,” she added.
“You’re not going to do that by playing adverts to the same set of people over and over. It’s about who you are serving.
“The main thing for me is getting the content right and having conversations more broadly in the business. It isn’t about creating in isolation and then saying ‘there you go, sell that’.”
The audio content will be hosted and distributed by the project’s third partner, an immersive podcast app called Entale.
It is currently available on Apple iOS and an Android app will be launched soon as part of the Google funding. The podcasts are also being embedded on the relevant websites to reach as many people as possible.
Picture: Alison Gow