NEW YORK, Dec 10 — For two years now, Spotify has been aiming to position itself as the leader in audio through its strategy of diversification. However, the Swedish giant may have a new competitor to worry about with the arrival of New York Times Audio, a new audio application developed by the American newspaper. We take a closer look.

The New York Times announced the launch of this initiative in October. Now, since December 7, iPhone owners, and only iPhone owners, can download the beta version of the app. The daily’s ambition is clear: to occupy a central place in what it describes as “audio journalism.”

To achieve this, the Times has designed its app as a showcase for its various audio productions. Users can listen to signature programmes like the multiple award-winning The American Life, which the newspaper acquired the licence to when it bought podcast studio Serial Productions in 2020. They also have the option of discovering audio versions of news articles written by, among others, the Times, New York Magazine and Rolling Stone in the “Magazine Stand” tab. An option made possible by the 2020 acquisition of the start-up Audm, which specialises in turning longform journalism into audio content.

Establishing legitimacy in the audio realm

According to Axios, New York Times Audio also showcases the US newspaper’s extensive archives and “reporters’ notebooks” on topics such as music, food and culture. “[T]his app gives us the ability for us to develop a direct relationship with consumers and be a daily part of their lives,” Stephanie Preiss, vice-president of TV and audio at the Times, explained to Axios.

While this particular app is new, The New York Times has been beefing up its audio offerings for many years. The proof is in The Daily, which the group launched in 2017. This news podcast boasts millions of listeners per day and is ranked as the third best podcast on Apple, according to Chartable. And that’s not all: the Times says its various audio content reaches 20 million people each month.

However, the group feels that this programming is not highlighted enough on its site. “Some of the most important and clarifying and ambitious journalism that The New York Times produces these days happens in audio, but audio is not a part of our digital experience almost at all,” explained Sam Dolnick, assistant managing editor at the Times, to Nieman Lab. “You could spend hours a day on our home page and read seemingly everything that our newsroom produces and not come across much of our audio. That has increasingly felt odd to us.”

Capitalise on the demand for audio

This shift in thinking comes at a time when podcasts, and audio in general, are more popular than ever. For example, 127 million Americans listen to spoken audio content every day, according to the latest annual survey from Edison Research. This phenomenon extends beyond the US, and there is similar interest in audio in territories such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

This growing interest is pushing digital giants like Spotify, Apple and Amazon to expand their audio strategy. After numerous acquisitions in the podcast and audiobook world, Spotify is now creating new initiatives to capitalise on consumers’ interest in audio. In April, the company headed by Daniel Ek announced that it would provide podcast creators with tools to monetise their podcasts through advertising or paid subscriptions.

The New York Times is not there yet with its own audio application. Its beta version is free to download for iPhone owners, and the podcasts it hosts, such as The American Life, remain available on listening platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts and others. — ETX Studio