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How podcasts provide a space for trusted reporting in an era of fake news

By Kate Lockie | Commercial partnerships director



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August 19, 2022 | 5 min read

As part of The Drum’s Deep Dive into Audio, Kate Lockie, commercial partnerships director, EMEA & APAC at Acast, looks at how trusted news sources are giving rise to more news podcasts and engaged listeners.

A man with headphones listening to a news podcast

Believe it or not, there is good news happening around the world — but even a cursory glance at the headlines in today’s world can be scary.

Of course, we need to know the realities to make a change, support those in less privileged positions, and open our minds to what’s really happening around the world — so it’s right that such headlines grab our attention.

But how many times have you heard something — from a friend, someone online, a media outlet — and taken it at face value and assumed it to be true, before regurgitating the information without fact checking?

Those of us in the media and creative industries are probably a little more clued up than most, but for the average consumer it’s just not practical to research the origins of every story they read, let alone cross-referencing against other sources.

Unfortunately, misinformation is everywhere — and it’s not always obvious. That’s why quality journalism is one of the most important facets of today's media.

Consumer behavior is changing — and publishers are reacting

Breaking news is now available in a matter of swipes and, for years, publishers have been diversifying their revenue streams by introducing subscription models to cover longer-form reads. However, in times of crisis, those titles with subscriptions at their heart are still recognizing the need for free, informed content — as seen with the FT making all reporting on the war in Ukraine free.

According to YouGov, one in five listeners now chooses podcasts as their main news source. Fueled by the pandemic, politics and the devastation in Ukraine, we’ve seen exponential growth in news content — hitting record listening figures from audiences drawn to trusted journalism. In the US, news is the second most popular podcast genre, showing just how much interest is drawn from such podcasts.

Acast is also seeing an influx of young, affluent listeners coming to podcasts, as the rise of fake news consumes our social feeds. We’re in an era of “cord nevers” — young people who’ve never tuned into traditional media formats like 6pm news bulletins, but instead use their phones as their primary news source.

It’s often feared in broadcast media that, if a segment is too long or too controversial, the audience might switch off — but that’s not the case for podcasts. Discussions unfold more slowly — in a more considered way — because there’s more room to do so, and everything is pre-recorded, so hosts are less on edge about saying the wrong thing.

Podcasts offer an alternative to the fast-paced media landscape people are used to, and listeners are therefore more receptive to it. The format usually allows a free and open conversation between a host and their guest, where listeners can form their own opinions — rather than skim reading a piece or coming to a conclusion based on a headline or tweet.

And publishers are using the thoughtful and considered nature of podcasting to transform how people consume news. The intimacy of podcasts as a medium (90% of people listen alone) allows publishers to take time to inform and educate us — even about topics that make us feel uncomfortable and evoke emotion — in a format that isn’t jarring.

Content isn’t flashing across your screen. It’s with you on your morning run, while you’re cleaning the house, or during a quiet moment alone.

Why quality journalism matters to marketers

News podcast listeners are engaged, intelligent and curious about the world around them — they’re often decision-makers in their area of business, with a thirst for knowledge. According to GWI, news and politics listeners are also 64% more likely to buy products online weekly, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between online purchase decisions and podcast listening.

I’m lucky enough to work closely with some of the most credible, reliable and trustworthy news sources in the world. I see the work that goes into daily news podcasts from trusted sources like the Guardian, The Economist, the Financial Times and the BBC, and the quality of the content they produce is world-renowned.

Acast’s slate of quality journalism is only continuing to grow, and the company recently added The New York Times to its stable, giving UK clients access to The Daily.

We know just how important it is to support fair, trusted, quality journalism — and we do so by helping publishers diversify their revenue through podcast ads and sponsorship. This revenue keeps important conversations alive, and advertisers should recognize the role they can play in supporting an industry fighting for our right to quality information.

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Acast was founded in 2014 and is the world’s largest independent podcast company.

A pioneer in the open podcast ecosystem, Acast’s powerful podcast monetization marketplace delivers for creators and advertisers alike. Advertisers can efficiently target an engaged audience of listeners through dynamic ad insertion, while podcasters are given access to a range of monetization opportunities — including paid subscriptions through Acast+ — and the necessary tools to expand their listener base.

If you listen to a podcast hosted with Acast and hear an ad, it’s Acast delivering that audio behind the scenes — and sharing revenue with the podcaster.

The company has a global footprint across 12 countries and, during 2020, had approximately three billion listens on Acast-connected podcasts. Today, Acast hosts 40,000 shows. Acast’s headquarters are located in Stockholm, Sweden and the Company has nine local subsidiaries in the UK, US, Australia, Norway, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico and Canada.

In recent years, Acast has undergone an expansion with continued strong growth, with net sales increasing from SEK 180 million in 2018 to SEK 1.026 billion in 2021 — representing 73% growth versus 2020.

As a result of Acast’s recent growth initiatives, the number of annual listens grew from approximately 1 billion (2018) to 3.75 billion (2021). In the fourth quarter of 2021, Acast had 1.09 billion listens.

Acast was co-founded by Johan Billgren, its Chief Innovation Officer, and is listed on the Nasdaq First North Premier Growth Market.

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