The online magazine Slate will bolster its roster of popular podcasts with a daily current events commentary show hosted by National Public Radio sports correspondent Mike Pesca, a spokesperson for the site told Business Insider.
The as-yet-unnamed podcast will provide listeners with opinions and context covering several of the day’s biggest news stories beginning this April. Pesca’s show will air Monday through Friday in the late afternoon, with the intention of providing listeners an audio companion during the evening commute.
“At Slate, we have long recognised Mike Pesca’s potential as one of the most interesting, exciting on-air personalities working today,” said Andy Bowers, the executive producer of Slate Podcasts. “We’re beyond thrilled that Mike will relocate his fearless interviewing style, quick wit and broad journalistic appetite to Slate’s podcasting network.”
For Slate, the move is indicative of the company’s focus on its podcasts, which publisher Matt Turck said offer a useful means of monetizing its mobile audience. Already, the site publishes about one podcast each day during the week, ranging from sports (“Hang Up and Listen”) to politics (“Political Gabfest”) and generating about 2 million downloads per month.
Turck said that since listeners are so engaged with the podcasts they subscribe to, advertisers are willing to pay more money to reach them. In fact, the mid-roll podcast ads, in which a host reads aloud a sponsored message before or during the show, are likely Slate’s most expensive advertising impressions. Turck said prices for them equal or better those other publishers are able to fetch for video ads.
“I feel like the listeners feel like they’re part of that conversation, so they pay attention to the messaging and engage with it,” Turck said.
Already, podcasts account for between 5% and 10% of Slate’s advertising revenue, Turck said, with that number expected to increase as the site rolls out new podcasts in the coming months, including a new political show he said will be supported by a specific advertising partner.
Pesca’s show will run about 20 minutes in length each day, with the host likely interviewing several guests about two or three of the day’s big news stories. Since 2009, Pesca has been a co-host of Slate’s weekly sports podcast, “Hang Up and Listen,” which is currently ranked by iTunes as the 80th most popular audio podcast.
While his old employers at NPR discouraged reporters from expressing their opinions — so as not to give the appearance of bias — Pesca said he won’t shy away from putting his own personal spin on the day’s news at Slate.
“I think that on NPR, the word opinionated is seen as a pejorative because opinionated on radio usually means forceful, unfair, or incurious,” Pesca said. “I want to have an opinion or a take, but I want to be more curious than opinionated.”
Up to this point, the most internet’s popular podcasts have traditionally been those put out by traditional radio giants like NPR or less newsy offerings from hobbyists and comedians. But Bowers said that as the technology for delivering podcasts improves and car manufacturers make it easier for people to access them while on the road, more publishers will see the value of the medium and new genres will emerge.
Bowers noted that since podcasts are on-demand, publishers don’t have to worry about listeners jumping in mid-stream the way radio stations do. And since users opt in to hear a specific program on a clearly defined topic, podcasts offer advertisers and opportunity to easily target a very specific niche audience.
“I see a real boom coming,” Bowers said. “We’re already in the midst of it, but I see more genres jumping into podcasting. It is essentially becoming on-demand audio.”
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