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Audio engagement: 5 minutes with… Chris Couchman

Whether it is via podcasts or text-to-speech, listening is becoming an increasingly popular way to consume publisher content. We grab five minutes with Chris Couchman, head of content at Readly, to explore the audio opportunity.

By Chris Couchman

Audio engagement: 5 minutes with… Chris Couchman

Q: What podcast trends are you seeing?

A: Both the number of podcasts available on the market and the revenue that can be earned from them are growing exponentially. You will have seen that publishers reported a 500% increase in revenue from audio products during the first quarter of this year. It feels like podcasting has come of age. It’s not seen as a peripheral medium anymore; it’s a mainstay for a lot of media brands today. The publisher mindset now seems to be that podcasts are a natural extension of the print product and so more and more are launching into the space.

In terms of the audience, there is a growing appetite for podcasts with a video element, and for live episodes and events. With publisher events returning after the pandemic, there is a huge opportunity for publishers with podcasts to add a live episode component to their events, or to add a podcast event to their calendars.

Q: Why should publishers consider launching a podcast?

A: The first – and most obvious point to make – is that attaching a podcast to a magazine brand enables the audiences to engage with it on a new platform and to develop new consumption habits with said brand.

Secondly, podcasts are a more intimate way of engaging with magazine brands. In some cases, the listener feels like they’ve got the editor or a journalist talking directly to them. It’s as if the fourth wall has come down. Meanwhile, the editor or journalist has the luxury of telling stories from new angles, in greater detail, or with embellishments and production features that aren’t possible in written format.

Finally, successful podcasts can be incredibly lucrative both in terms of revenue and reach. Podcasts have the potential to attract a new, audio-centric audience to a magazine brand. With high listener numbers comes the potential to earn significant revenue through an advertising model or through paywalls and subscriptions.

Q: How can publishers improve their podcasting performance?

A: In terms of the podcast itself, it’s all about getting the basics right. The barrier to entry for producing a podcast is actually pretty low. All you need is a good quality mic, a solid idea and you’re pretty much there. That being said, with so much competition in the market, quality is key. It pays to put resources into the production – that includes the recording, but also the cover graphics, show description and episode names – in order to stand out.

Frequency is another important point. Ideally you want to be putting out an episode on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Anything more than that and your audience will drop off. Consistency in marketing is crucial. Advertising in each issue is an effective way to draw in an existing audience. It also pays to market each episode across social media channels.

Finally, collaborating with another podcast producer or brand is a proven method to boost listening figures. There’s an opportunity for publishers to collaborate with an existing, well-established podcast on a joint episode. Alternatively, they could produce a cross-branded podcast from two magazines in the same category in order to cross-pollinate audiences.

Q: Should publishers be offering audio versions of their content? Why?

A: Generally speaking, when it comes to text-to-speech and narrated content, it’s minimum effort for mid to high reward. For text-to-speech, there are countless platforms that will do the hard work for you; for the most part, it’s a case of plug in and play. Quality narration takes more consideration, but again, the story is there, it just requires a small amount of equipment and tech work.

Text-to-speech gets a lot of criticism for its sound quality, to which I’d say, no one is pretending that an AI voice generator offers the same sound quality as a human voice. Even so, you’d be surprised at the sound quality some platforms can deliver now. The real benefit of adding an audio version to content though, is to enable the consumer to engage with the story in whatever way is most convenient to them.

Q: How can publishers’ audio offering be made more effective?

A: As with podcasts, it’s all about first-class basics. If using an AI text-to-speech generator, it pays to go for the highest quality possible. Don’t just dump the audio file at the top of the piece without any thought; make it appealing for the listener and promote the audio content across relevant channels. Finally, pay attention to the engagement data; some content works much better than others so it’s worth putting some effort into an editorial strategy for audio content.

Q: What are the trends regarding listening vs. reading?

A: Audiences have never been more time-poor or content-rich than they are now. Podcasts and audio products are thriving in the attention economy because generally speaking, they’re quick to consume, they enable multi-tasking, and they’re instantly available via your smartphone. The number of podcast listeners in the UK is predicted to hit 28 million by 2026. The number of people listening to an article vs. reading the same article is nowhere near as high. That being said, platforms like Curio and Noa are bucking that trend.

However, it’s not a case of either / or. It’s important that publishers produce quality written and audio content in order to maximise audience engagement, increase revenue and take magazine brands to the next level.

Q: What's in the pipeline from Readly?

A: We’re excited to have launched audio on our platform. We are now live with a number of magazine podcasts in the UK and Sweden, which sit alongside the publication on the platform. Our aim is to deliver a new distribution method for publishers’ podcasts and a new way for our subscribers to engage with their favourite magazine brands. We’re still in test-phase but so far we’ve had promising feedback and we’re looking forward to exploring both podcasts and audio further.

About us

Readly is the European category leader for digital magazines. The all-you-can-read digital subscription service provides unlimited access to 7,500 magazines and newspapers including the catalogue of ePresse. Readly has subscribers in more than 50 countries and content available in 17 different languages from 1200 publishers worldwide. For more information, please visit

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