Australian Community Media says it is tapping a gap in the market for regional and rural stories with its Voice of Real Australia podcast.
In an INMA post, host Tom Melville and producer Laura Corrigan tell how the new product has created podcast listening habits among regional consumers, and a new and highly engaged audience for advertisers.
When the traditionally print-focused former Fairfax Media regional unit looked at adding audio to its repertoire, Corrigan and Melville said a starting point was to look at what made ACM unique and how they could tap into the strengths of the brand.
The company - which claims to be Australia's largest independent media organisation - publishes more than 160 newspapers across rural and regional areas, made up mostly of hyperlocal and specialty rural brands.
"Nowhere amid the plethora of podcasts were stories from regional Australia being told for regional Australians," they say. "Almost nine million Australians - or 36 per cent of the population - lives outside the big cities, and those numbers are growing."
It is also an underserved market, with only ten per cent of national advertising budgets spent regionally.
"Voice of Real Australia is a documentary-style podcast that tells character-driven stories from across Australia, focussing on the experiences of regional communities. It amplifies voices in the country, bringing people, places, and perspectives from beyond the big cities to listeners."
ACM used its websites and newspapers to access to this audience, and its network of journalists to access its stories. "Voice of Real Australia allowed us to fill the gap and serve that rural audience," say Corrigan and Melville.
"Where else would you learn about Australia's forgotten fossils, what's killing our iconic snow gum trees, why Tasmanian devils have been released on the mainland, the struggle of farmers under archaic lease laws, how an alternative community is faring after a fatal fire wreaked havoc, why the town of Dubbo is crying out for a drug court, or how indigenous athletes are under-represented in our national sport?"
A long-form narrative podcast style gives the space to allow people to tell their own stories in their own words, and in addition to their work, nine other ACM journalists have so far collaborated on the podcasts. "Seven months and 14 episodes in, ACM has established itself as a podcast creator with more than 23,000 listens, and building."
Primarily an editorial product, the podcast acts as ACM's flagship audio offering, but it has also converted subscriptions to ACM newspapers through geo-targeted dynamically inserted ads.
Audio subscribers have proven to be twice as engaged with digital content as regular subscribers. A significant advertiser has also recently come on board with the sponsorship booked in for later this year.
Analytics show an "over-representation" of regional listeners, and that its audience skews older than the average podcast.
"ACM understands its audience like no other Australian publisher and our point of difference is providing local news and stories to local audiences," they say. "Voice of Real Australia expands on that: We get to introduce those local audiences to each other."