Three Things Special: The NYT Audio App beta
A quick look at the New York Times audio app that's just been released in beta to select users
Earlier today, Alex Rainert, the head of Audio Product & Design with The New York Times, shared on Twitter news that the Times’ new audio app was released to its first cohort of external beta testers.
As we shared back in October in this newsletter, the app is designed to bring a new listening experience with the full range of audio journalism and storytelling and narrated articles, podcasts, and audio content from a slate of premier publishers.
In Rainert’s Tweet thread, he shared a low-tech map detailing the discovery process to understand the audio landscape that helped align a vision for this specific product. He writes that “we felt only The Times could deliver at the intersection of content & product - a timely audio app that helps you understand the world and fits into your increasingly busy life.”
Rainert explains, “How is NYT Audio different? Great question! Most audio apps are containers for what users put into them, shaped by RSS, with a layer of algorithms on top. We believe in the combo of great audio, editorial judgment & a thoughtfully designed product that will help you get listening ASAP.”
Sara Fischer, the excellent media reporter at Axios, had a look inside the app and wrote this story earlier today. She says the app has three sections to make discovering new podcasts and other audio content easy.
The “Today” tab acts as a home screen. It provides users with a visual mini-player that showcases a top audio item to listen to that day, in addition to other types of content that may be interesting or important. The top of the “Today” section has hard news, while the bottom has more soft news and features.
The “Browse” tab allows users to search for audio content based on topic, length, mood, show, or more. For example, users can search for “This American Life,” the new app will surface 25 years of episodes from the show.
The “Following” tab allows users to customize a stream of audio products for a personalized queue. In addition, the app can be connected to smart speakers so that users can listen to their favorite queued features wherever they are.
As we discussed back in October with the original announcement about the beta, The Times’ focus, for now, is to build a direct relationship with its audience, as opposed to relying on third-party distributors like Apple and Spotify.
“This app gives us the ability for us to develop a direct relationship with consumers and be a daily part of their lives," said Stephanie Preiss, vice president of audio and TV at The Times.
The app could ultimately be part of a subscription bundle for The Times, but for now, it’s not behind a paywall. However, by owning the distribution platform, The Times will utilize user data to serve individual users better and continuously improve the product.
If you haven’t signed up to join the beta, you can link here and learn more about the product.
For an analysis on how this product is a direct “shot across the bow” at NPR and public radio, I suggest reading this post from Fred Jacobs from October on the Jacobs Media blog.