Instant’s HistoryExtra podcast celebrates 15 years with a milestone 150 million listens | What’s New in Publishing


“It simply felt like podcasting was made for historical past,” HistoryExtra’s Dr David Musgrove instructed us. Because the podcast celebrates its fifteenth birthday, it has additionally simply damaged one other vital milestone: 150 million listens.

Simply over a yr in the past, Instant Media’s HistoryExtra podcast reached 100 million listens. Now, the award-winning present, produced by the BBC Historical past Journal and editorial group, appears unstoppable, attracting over 4 million listens a month.

The HistoryExtra podcast can be celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this month. To mark the event, the group is releasing a sequence of 15 episodes referred to as 15 Minutes of Fame. Main historians – together with Suzannah Lipscomb, Tom Holland and Janina Ramirez – have nominated anyone from historical past who’s much less well-known than they should be, to elucidate what they did and why they need to be extra well-known.  

Forward of the anniversary, we spoke to Dr David Musgrove, content material director of the web site and podcast. He defined why the podcast’s lengthy historical past has set it up for achievement, the way it helps develop the print journal, and what different publishers can study without having to publish each day.

Early to audio

When the podcast first launched in 2007, it was month-to-month. It took some time to essentially begin driving any vital visitors numbers, which means Musgrove stored having to justify the funding to senior management. “There have been funds conferences the place I used to be having to justify and clarify why we’re investing on this form of factor when there’s no clear return!” stated Musgrove. Now, the podcast is on track to ship seven figures in income this yr.

“From the off, we dedicated to a quite simple format, a quite simple proposition,” Musgrove defined. “BBC Historical past Journal had entry to main historians. There wasn’t actually a medium again then by way of which they might say what they needed to in an prolonged format.”

“We simply thought, ‘We speak to those guys regularly. Let’s document it, let’s allow them to speak at size with out interrupting them, let’s ask them cheap questions.’ It simply felt like podcasting was made for historical past in a approach, as a result of there’s so many good tales to inform.”

Though the essential proposition has stayed the identical, over the course of the previous 15 years, the HistoryExtra podcast has ramped up in frequency, evolving to the purpose it publishes six days per week. This has helped rack up the listener numbers, however Musgrove has additionally seen a more moderen inflection.

“Definitely in the previous couple of years, we’ve got seen a giant spike in viewers listens,” he stated. “I feel that’s reflective of a extra common curiosity in podcasts. Heaps extra individuals have entry and know what a podcast is, in comparison with 2007.”

Given the latest explosion within the recognition of podcasts – with 45% of podcast followers solely having began listening within the final yr – it’s not inconceivable that HistoryExtra might attain 200 million listens a little bit prior to they anticipate.

Six days per week

An virtually each day podcast publishing schedule shouldn’t be for the faint-hearted. HistoryExtra has a podcast editor and an editorial assistant whose sole duty is to be engaged on content material. Instant Media additionally has an in-house manufacturing group who remodel the uncooked audio round every day throughout their complete podcast portfolio. The editorial group for the print journal are additionally concerned within the interviews. Musgrove estimated that round 10 workers are concerned in interviewing, though the pandemic has meant that they now are likely to do lots of the interviews remotely quite than having to journey.

“Proper now, we’re doing just about all our podcasts utilizing digital know-how, however there are issues we’d like to consider with that,” he defined. “How do you construct a rapport? More often than not we try to do a pre-discussion earlier than the interview to verify they’re relaxed.”

“It’s not only a case of, do the interview and stroll away. We’re spending a good bit of time ensuring that it’s really an honest high quality interview.”

Musgrove stated that there’s a groundswell of people that take heed to the podcast daily. The episodes are between 20 minutes and an hour in size, with Sunday editions being longer. In lockdown, the HistoryExtra group added an extra podcast, making it seven episodes per week. However viewers suggestions from devoted listeners urged that there was simply an excessive amount of to take heed to.

As an alternative, they targeted on making the Sunday version longer – typically an hour plus – and involving listeners. The ‘The whole lot you need to know’ franchise focuses on a giant matter such because the Black Loss of life or Mediaeval childhood. An skilled historian is interviewed, with questions crowdsourced from social media and search developments.

“These have proved to be perennially in style,” Musgrove famous. Much like how evergreen options work on writer websites, deeper dive episodes based mostly on what individuals need to discover out can have a really lengthy shelf life. “These are those that are within the prime 10 listens within the final couple of years,” he added. 

Premium podcast subscriptions and sequence

Over the previous yr, the HistoryExtra group have been trying exterior the essential interview format into narrative-style, multi-part sequence. “They’re tremendous in style, individuals actually take pleasure in these kinds of podcasts,” Musgrove stated. The primary one was an eight-part sequence trying on the Princes within the Tower, with more moderen sequence trying on the Salem witch trials and the tip of Roman Britain.

“They require much more work than it does to do a single interview,” Musgrove elaborated. “It’s an entire bunch of interviews with an entire bunch of specialists, after which requires abilities to edit, clip out the interview sections, and really make a long-form narrative sequence. We’re doing extra of that, and that’s actually displaying our funding within the audio proposition.”

Deep-dive sequence like these have opened the door to different monetisation alternatives apart from promoting. Since Apple launched Apple Podcast Subscriptions – a paid podcast device – in summer time final yr, HistoryExtra has been one of many Instant Media podcasts making an attempt it out. For £1.99 a month subscribers on Apple can entry HistoryExtra Plus: Specials, which supplies early-release entry to the particular sequence, channels devoted to sure subjects like Medieval historical past or Roman historical past, and ad-free entry to all HistoryExtra podcasts. Musgrove declined to provide specifics however did say he was “pleasantly stunned” on the curiosity in it.

Nonetheless this isn’t the one approach the podcast is getting used to generate income. Advert-free and premium episodes have lately began to be bundled as a part of HistoryExtra’s new digital paywall. A month-to-month digital subscription is £5.99 a month, with the annual at present on supply for £34.99.

A rising tide for print too

Wanting on the podcast’s success, it’s simple to overlook that the model is primarily a print journal. The journal and any particular points are recurrently talked about throughout episodes. So what impact has such huge listener numbers had on the print subscription?

“[BBC History Magazine] has had ten years of continued circulation progress,” stated Musgrove, who can be very concerned with the print aspect. “We had a little bit little bit of a dip with Covid – however then who hasn’t? I might contend that a part of that was the actual fact we had this podcast, which was doing numbers and discovering an viewers.”

“The podcast has additionally helped us to department out to digital iterations as nicely. We had been a primary mover into among the digital editions as a historical past journal. We constructed up a fairly substantial digital version enterprise. And I might say that was as a result of we’d developed a digital viewers; individuals who had been conscious of what we’re and what we’re about, and who had been digitally savvy.”

With the podcast now a number one product at HistoryExtra, at what level does BBC Historical past Journal grow to be an audio-first writer? “It’s really a phrase we’ve got bandied round a bit as a result of it’s such an vital a part of what we’re doing now,” Musgrove hinted. “The audio manufacturing of issues is so embedded in what we’re doing with the print and internet growth.”

“I feel what’s actually fascinating for the podcast is to try to discover methods to profit from the content material you’re getting. We spend a number of time creating options and tales out out of the podcast interviews we’ve received. That generates a number of content material that we are able to reuse and reposition.”

Classes for different publishers

HistoryExtra has the good thing about having received into podcasts very early. 150 million downloads isn’t a sensible milestone for a lot of different publishers for some years but. However Musgrove did have some recommendation for publishers with their very own podcasts, or these taking a look at beginning them.

“Each writer wants a multi-strand commissioning technique as of late,” he stated, noting that he nonetheless sees a powerful future for print magazines. “Having a podcast that ties in together with your print, editorial and internet technique as nicely, you may get actually good synergy.”

He advises publishers to look by way of which bits of the editorial combine would simply translate to audio. “You’ve received to do one thing that’s easy, that’s deliverable, which you could decide to and ship regularly. There’s no level in doing one thing that’s a flash within the pan.”

That doesn’t imply restricted sequence or seasons are off the playing cards although. “Give the viewers one thing they will recognise as an editorial product in the identical approach {that a} journal is a recognisable editorial product,” Musgrove emphasised. “Construct off your strengths, discover one thing that’s coherent and apparent, and associated to what you’re about.”


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