Meredith Kopit Levien, the new chief executive of the New York Times, expects podcasting will play a bigger part of the newspaper company’s future, and she has no plans to change efforts to move deeper into the medium as it moves beyond text.
“Audio is an area we are particularly excited about,” she told investors Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs media conference. Given what the Times views as the possibilities for podcasting, it has already been willing to invest millions of dollars to not only organically grow shows like the morning news series The Daily, but also its $25 million acquisition of Serial Productions.
The Daily has about four million downloads each day, about twice what it had a year ago, which Kopit Levien noted is “much bigger” than the printed newspaper’s reach was at the peak of print. “Most of the people who are listening to The Daily everyday look quite different than traditional newspaper readers,” she said. “In many cases they’re new people to having a daily habit with The Times. They tend to be younger than traditional Times readers in print or even in digital, they’re much more likely to be female, the vast majority of the audience is under 40, and a lot is under 30, and they come every day and they listen in many cases the whole way through.”
During the second quarter, digital revenue at the New York Times exceeded print revenue for the first time in the company’s history. It did not release podcast-specific revenue, but it said second-quarter digital advertising revenue decreased 32% while print advertising revenue was down 55%. Third-quarter revenue is expected to be down, with digital ad dollars estimated to be off by 20% compared with a year ago, largely due to the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the current revenue declines, Kopit Levien told investors she thinks there is a “very big business possibility” for the podcast division. Not only will it help grow subscriptions, but it generates cash on its own as a standalone unit. “It’s a fast-growing ad business that I’m optimistic about,” she said.
Kopit Levien said The Daily has just as importantly become a distribution vehicle for other programs the Times has built, using its feed to launch other new podcasts — most recently the education podcast Nice White Parents, which according to Podtrac was the tenth-biggest podcast during August.
“That envelope proves to be a very useful mechanism to turn other things into hits and introduce new audio talent to the world,” Kopit Levien said. She said The Daily could also in the future serve as a “centerpiece” for a broader array of audio content that it could promote to its audience, which led not only to the Serial acquisition but also a distribution agreement with This American Life. “You can read all of that as us building a complex of audio offerings that fills a different need than our news app does,” she said.