Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
4 mins read

What goes into creating extraordinary podcasts: Insights from Vox Media

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Today, we hear from Erica Anderson, Executive Producer of Content and Partnerships at New York Magazine and Vox Media. She talks about what she took from her time working at Google and Twitter, what goes into developing outstanding podcasts, and what Vox Media is doing to prepare for changes in the audio industry.

In the news roundup the team discuss how easily segments of the British press were gulled into reporting a fake story, whether Tim Davie’s new social guidelines at the BBC are helpful, and discover who the main winners in adspend are for 2020. We demand more Pick’n’Mix.

See the full transcript here, or highlights below:

On platforms making editorial decisions

When I was at Twitter from 2010, to 2015, the most important department in my mind was always trust and safety, because they are the most principled group of individuals who are using really ethical frameworks to decide what stays and what goes on the platform. And they are the ones who are in the crosshairs of these decisions right now.

This is the right group to be asking these questions and making these decisions. But their frameworks have to get more sophisticated, and probably embrace new values, like values that are a bit broader, a bit [less] specific than what they’ve been doing.

Leaving big tech for publishing

When you’re inside of a tech company with a subject matter expertise like I was, which was journalism and news, it had been a long time since I had actually been in a newsroom. I was working with journalists and newsrooms around the world, I was inside of newsrooms visiting. But it had been a long time since I’d actually been back on the editorial side understanding intimately the challenges that they’re facing.

And so, leaving Google was actually really a hard decision. It really is an incredible place to work. But I felt like the work I was doing, I don’t know, I felt like I wasn’t needed for it in the same way that I felt in the beginning. So I ended up at Vox Media, I took this role on, a creative strategy role working with their top talent.

What lessons she’s applying to working on the publishing side

I try to help the publishing companies be more courageous, more innovative, think outside the box. Tech platforms, Google and Twitter specifically, were exceptional at moving fast, at coming up with new frameworks for solving problems.

One of the things that I think about at Vox is, how do you handle individual journalists who are becoming quite popular? I know you just had Casey Newton on the show who decided to go do his own thing. And I’ve know a few YouTubers in my life who have been quite successful financially and in terms of building a community on their own.

So I think it’s really important for news organisations to be really smart and proactive about how to create a good ecosystem for this talent.

Creating podcasts around individual talent

There is a danger and I think it’s important to have quarterly, if not more frequent check-ins about the relationship and how the show is going and what the organisation is putting into it. It’s also though a massive upside.

When I think of some of the most popular podcasts in the world today, I think of people-driven content, individual personality-driven shows. But I would say, with great intent, The New York Times came up with The Daily and Michael Barbaro is very well known as the host, but I think you could imagine The Daily with another host. I think they’ve created a situation where you can switch in someone else.

There’s a difference in creating a show that is a platform for an idea, and for a theme, and that can have revolving set of hosts, and then there are shows that just get so big based on a personality.

Developing new shows at Vox Media

Vox is in a position where it’s making editorial-first decisions. So there’s also branded content that’s being created, but I know in the ideation that’s happening right now, on the New York side, it’s really about the story and what’s the right story to tell?

With creating any editorial product today, though, you have to think about what’s the potential of growth? Or what’s the potential size? Or what genre does this content sit in?

What Vox Media is doing to prepare for a shake-up in podcasting:

Just create incredible content that is differentiated and stands out. I think when you have audience and you have high net promoter scores – NPS – people really will come to you no matter what. That’s that’s the proof.

I would say the strategy is really just embolden the brands and give the brands with the best ideas the resources to create extraordinary podcasts. I know, the folks are coming up with some really smart ideas, New York magazine is. Placing bets on those ideas and helping them to grow and incubate, I think is the only way to do it.