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Last Night at School Committee distills hours-long public meetings into half-hour podcast episodes
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May 17, 2023, 2:58 p.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   May 17, 2023

After a year-and-a-half-long beta, The New York Times launched a standalone app on Wednesday that it hopes will serve as its “audio front page.”

The app — for now, iOS only — is “currently an exclusive benefit for New York Times news subscribers.” Here’s some of what it includes:

  • The Headlines, a new morning show hosted by Times reporter Annie Correal that promises to catch readers up on top stories in 10 minutes or less.
  • Shorts, a series of (yup) short recommendations for books, streaming video, recipes, travel spots, and more.
  • Access to This American Life episodes a day early. (Recall that the Times acquired Serial Productions and entered into “an ongoing creative and strategic alliance” with This American Life in 2020.)
  • The Magazine Stand, a selection of professionally narrated longform journalism from a short list of other publishers. (The New York Times will “sunset” the Audm app, where this work was previously found; it had acquired Audm in 2020.)

Other audio offerings — including the Times’ flagship podcast The Daily and shows like Serial, The Ezra Klein Show, The Run-Up, and Hard Fork — remain free. They can be streamed from the new app, as well as everywhere else you already listen to podcasts.

Paula Szuchman, director of audio for The New York Times, described the new show, The Headlines, as “a sibling” to The Daily. While The Daily typically dives deep into one story for 20-ish minutes, The Headlines covers three news stories in roughly half the time.

“It’s designed to help catch a listener up on the biggest news of the day, reflecting the breadth and depth of Times reporting and signaling the areas of coverage our newsroom is digging into,” Szuchman said. “We heard from listeners that they want more — that The Daily scratches an itch but they also want to be informed of other stories they should know about.”

Like some of its most obvious competitors — including NPR’s Up First, which also promises the day’s top stories in under 10 minutes — The Headlines will publish early every weekday morning to be available for commuters.

During its inaugural week, the Times will include The Headlines in The Daily’s feed so those millions of listeners “can see what we’re up to, and how the two shows deliver a complete sense of the day’s biggest stories,” Szuchman said.

The big question: How many people — even if they are loyal subscribers — will really want to download a separate app to listen to audio content only from The New York Times?

New York Times Audio might best be understood as a retention tool. The Times says their success with subscriber-only newsletters showed that subscribers who engage with exclusive content are more active — and more likely to stay paying subscribers — than those who do not. Adding subscriber-only content in the audio realm, they figure, allows the Times to be relevant even when subscribers aren’t sitting down to read. As the Times’ Stephanie Preiss put it to Vanity Fair: “How do we get every second of your day?”

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