The New York Times is leveling up its audio game. Today, the publication launched New York Times Audio, an iOS app for subscribers that serves as a one-stop shop for all of its audio journalism — including its current slate of podcasts like The Daily and The Ezra Klein Show. If you’re partial to a certain podcast platform like Spotify or Stitcher, no need to worry — the Times’ biggest podcasts will still be available for free on other players.
Instead, the app appears to be an attempt by the Times to build a dedicated audience around all of its audio offerings — not just podcasts. It’ll serve as a home for even more audio journalism, including exclusives that the outlet is creating solely for the app.
This will include a 10-minute daily news recap show called The Headlines that publishes every morning and Shorts, which literally appear to be very short audio stories — under 10 minutes — on culture, lifestyle, cooking, and more. On top of that, there will be a “Reporter Reads” section featuring Times journalists reading their own stories and offering extra commentary.
The audio exclusives are meant to sweeten the pot for current Times subscribers, helping the publication retain its 9.7 million subscriber base. The Times says it’s seen this formula work with newsletters, and it hopes to replicate it with audio, too.
“What we’ve seen with our subscriber-only newsletters specifically is that subscribers who engage with them engage and retain better than those who don’t. This aligns with our belief that offering differentiated value with a Times subscription is good for our users, and good for our business,” Jordan Cohen, executive director of communications for The New York Times, wrote in an email to The Verge.
There’s another financial upside for the Grey Lady if the app takes off: it means it’ll have a valuable source of first-party listening data on its subscribers. And there could be further ad monetization options down the line. “[The paper] has the option of exploring partnerships with brands to sponsor app-specific shows and programs, as more consumers become accustomed to ad-light, as opposed to ad-free, subscription options,” Paul Kelly, chief revenue officer of the audio ad-tech platform AMA, told The Verge.
At first glance, the app itself has a sleek interface and is simple to use. There’s an option to increase playback speed and download episodes. But as far as podcast players go, the app is still pretty basic. Adding custom accessibility features like written transcripts or the ability to share nonexclusive episodes (the latter which seems to be on the way) could further grow the app’s audience.
The app opens on a “Today” tab, where listeners can find a playlist that updates every day with new episodes of Shorts and The Headlines. Listeners can also follow their favorite shows or create a custom playlist. Overall, the app does a solid job of organizing a vast amount of Times audio stories in one place — it never feels overwhelming or too busy.
According to Cohen, there are no current plans to offer a cheaper, audio-only subscription for New York Times Audio — the app is only available for those who subscribe to the Times’ All-Access and news subscribers. But it seems like the Times toyed with that idea ahead of its launch: the App Store listing mentions a $5 per month in-app subscription for audio content.
The Times has no plans to pull shows like The Daily from other players like Apple or Spotify. “We intend to remain a large publisher in that space,” wrote Cohen.
The Times has been on an audio buying spree over the past few years — acquiring Serial Productions (the podcast studio behind Serial) and sports news outlet The Athletic (which has over 50 sports podcasts). It also formed an alliance with the syndicated radio program This American Life and bought Audm, the subscription audio nonfiction app. The app will effectively host all of this content — as well as the archives of shows like Serial and This American Life.