The executive producer of the News Agents has said the podcast’s listening figures have surpassed “our wildest expectations” nine months after launch.
Dino Sofos, the founder and chief executive of podcast production firm Persephonica, believes the show, which is owned by Global, has “built a new habit” and is “setting the agenda”. The daily podcast, launched in August 2022, regularly ranks near the top of the UK charts. As of last week, Global said it had 30m downloads, up from 24m in March.
Sofos was speaking on a panel at the Podcast Show in London on Thursday alongside News Agents co-hosts, Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall. All four were formerly journalists at the BBC.
At the event, the team announced that they would be launching a new weekly US-focused podcast on 20 June. The show will go head-to-head with the BBC’s Americast, which was formerly hosted by Maitlis and Sopel.
‘We’ll call it as we see it’
Reflecting on their achievements, Sopel revealed that he had recently received an email “from an ex-BBC news boss, very senior, who said: ‘You are redefining public service broadcasting.’ And I thought what a fantastic thing to say.”
On the approach of the News Agents, he added: “We will go further, we will call things out, and people just want something a bit different.
“And maybe we have found that sweet spot, that gap in the market, in the analysis that we do where at times we’ll be tough on Labour, at times it’ll be tough on the government, at times it’ll be tough on Donald Trump – well, it’s pretty always tough on Donald Trump – but we’ll go there, and we’ll call it as we see it.”
Goodall also used the term “public service broadcasting” to describe the News Agents’ work. “I think the difference is that we don’t spend all our time – or I don’t find myself spending just as much of my time – thinking about, stressing about every single syllable and word and so on, in a way that is a bit unreasonable.”
Maitlis revealed the thought process that goes into episode-planning. She said that when deciding whether a topic is worthy of an episode, the team asks: “is it interesting?” and “would you click on it?” She suggested that this might not have been the case at the BBC.
The team highlighted recent interviews with Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock, who texted to request an appearance, as examples of how they are “setting the agenda”. The chancellor said that a News Agents episode on childcare had helped shape part of his recent budget.
Sofos said: “When we sit down you always have in your head what sort of listening figures you think you’d be happy with, and this is beyond our wildest expectations. Nine months we’ve been doing this, and it feels like it’s already cemented in people’s routines.”
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