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March 12, 2018, 2:01 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: investors.nytco.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Ricardo Bilton   |   March 12, 2018

Caliphate, a new podcast from The New York Times, marks a few firsts for the newspaper. For one, the mini-series, announced at SXSW this weekend, is the Times’ first foray into narrative documentary storytelling, following in the footsteps of shows like Serial and S-Town. Times foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, who focuses on terrorism, will go deep on the rise of the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul, focusing on the persistent pull of ISIS and the effort to fight it. (You can hear a preview of the show here.)

Alongside the new story form, the Times will also use Caliphate to experiment with giving subscribers early access to new episodes through both its website and the Times app, which added podcast playback in an update last December. At the time, The Times said that the new feature would make it easier for readers to listen to podcasts while reading other Times articles, but it’s now clear that the true potential for in-app podcast support is that the feature opens up new ways to offer these kind of audio-focused subscriber perks. (Apple, alas, offers no such functionality in its apps.)

The idea, while new for the Times, isn’t new for podcasting. Last year audio streaming service TuneIn launched its First Play program, which gave users access to shows from WNYC Studios, HowStuffWorks, and Gimlet up to a week early. (Taking advantage of the early access, however, required the use of the TuneIn app, which likely limited the number of people who opted in.) Gimlet has also used the prospect of early access to new shows to entice people to sign up for its membership program.

The Times has yet to iron out all the details of Caliphate, such has how much earlier subscribers will get access to new episodes of the show. A Times spokesperson said that the company will have more to share as the show approaches its launch this spring.

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