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June 6, 2024

Why Telegraph’s Tominey and Ahmed think there is room for another daily podcast

Existing UK news podcasts lean to the left, says Daily T host Camilla Tominey.

By Bron Maher

Camilla Tominey and Kamal Ahmed, the hosts of The Telegraph‘s new daily news podcast The Daily T, say they plan to stand out in a crowded market through right-of-centre politics and proximity to their newsroom.

The podcast, which launched last month, is currently the third highest-ranked daily news podcast in the UK on Apple Podcasts (ahead of The Guardian but behind the BBC) and fourth highest on Spotify in the UK (behind The Guardian, ahead of the FT).

Last week Tominey and Ahmed bagged the first in-depth campaign trail interview with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, using the opportunity to ask him both about his new proposed national service policy and his affinity for Star Wars.

[Listen to this interview: Podcast 72 — Camilla Tominey and Kamal Ahmed on cracking a busy news podcast market]

Asked by Press Gazette whether the Prime Minister’s team needed any cajoling to do the encounter as a podcast rather than a traditional write-up, Tominey said “the reason they were persuaded by it at this time… [was] we were able to sell this as a quite intimate medium and an opportunity for Rishi Sunak to show the real PM behind the kind of policy-obsessed nerd”.

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Podcasts, Tominey said, were more about “being discursive, not combative… he gave a very human and personal interview”.

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Ahmed said the interview had begun a long day: Sunak arrived in the Telegraph offices at 7:30 in the morning and “we were both still online with the comments at 9pm”.

He added: “The public consumes information in audio, in written word, in video… when we have Rishi Sunak, it’s not just an audio product, it’s an all-Telegraph product.”

The strategy behind The Daily T: Retention, attraction, monetisation

Ahmed, who is also Telegraph director of audio, describes the Daily T as both an “offer to increase value to The Telegraph subscriber” and “a taster offer to others”.

In August Telegraph Media Group passed one million subscribers, helped by its March 2023 acquisition of Chelsea Magazine Company. Despite the financial troubles of its proprietors The Telegraph itself is profitable and has reported a profit before tax to Companies House every year since 2009.

Ahmed continued: “The second point is — can we get people who are maybe close to The Telegraph, or who come to The Telegraph episodically, quite rarely, to come and try more of us?”

But he added that “as we've seen from many other podcast businesses, it's actually, as well, its own commercial centre — advertising, sponsorship, special offers, you can have subscribers to your podcast. But you've got to build these over time.

“The worst thing you can do when you're thinking strategically about any part of media development is try and chuck everything at the wall on day one.”

Some of The Telegraph’s other audio products are further ahead on that track: last week The Telegraph threw an in-person event at Cadogan Hall in London to mark the 200th edition of its weekly Planet Normal podcast, fronted by columnists Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan, which attracted 800 attendees.

Ahmed floated the prospect of bonus episodes and similar in-person events for The Daily T in the future, but said they were “not anywhere near” making decisions on paid-for audio products at present. For now, The Daily T would instead “look at how can we give subscribers to The Telegraph advantages in audio spaces”, for example advance access to bonus episodes or events.

How The Daily T wants to differentiate itself: ‘I think some podcasts are set up pretending that they disagree, and they don't actually’

The Daily T is the latest entrant into an increasingly busy daily news podcast market. The Telegraph’s new offering joins Global’s The News Agents, BBC’s Newscast, Today in Focus from The Guardian, the FT News Briefing, The Times’ The Story and The New York Times’ The Daily, as well as a host of weekly current affairs podcasts, including Goalhanger’s top-rated The Rest is Politics.

Ahmed told Press Gazette: “It is important that, in the podcast space, you are offering something different. There is no point in Camilla and I trying to be like all other media brands in this space.”

Asked how specifically The Daily T hoped to do that, he said: “We are very deliberately from a Telegraph point of view — it's for that centre-right audience that love what The Telegraph already does in journalism — but also we know that our Telegraph audiences like to hear well-argued other points of view.

“We're a broad church. And me coming in with my background, that is a little different, politically, from Camilla's background, is really an important part of what the offer is.” 

Ahmed said Tominey interviewed Sunak from the perspective of “disappointed Conservatives” who felt he “wasn’t conservative enough”, whereas he had come at the encounter “from the point of view of those who have maybe voted Conservative, but are now moving into the Labour camp”.

Tominey said: "If you look at The News Agents, Political Currency and others, it's all quite, I'd say, left of centre There aren't that many voices like mine in the podcast space at all. And yet there are plenty of voices like mine out in the public.

"Some of the competitors are former politicians with a clear ideological bent. Or they might be former party activists or workers, and therefore they're coming at it from a completely different perspective to us.

“We're journalists. We have opinions, we know that others are available. I don't think we're there speaking on behalf of a party view in any way. That differentiates us from the competition. We disagree.

“I think some podcasts are set up pretending that they disagree, and they don't actually, they actually agree, to a lesser or greater extent, with each other.

“As I said, we're not here to really preach, we're here to inform and entertain.”

At time of writing The News Agents is the top-ranked daily news podcast on Apple Podcasts in the UK. It shares some DNA with The Daily T: until April The News Agent was produced by independent audio company Persephonica, who now consult for The Daily T.

Youtube and Tiktok important platforms for Daily T

The Daily T is recorded from a studio looking out over The Telegraph’s open-plan newsroom. Among the studio's furnishings are a bright yellow teapot, a producer deck on the other side of a sound-proof partition and several expensive-looking cameras capturing footage from different angles.

Ahmed said Youtube is “vital” to the podcast.

“The Telegraph's Youtube channel has nearly 5.5 million subscribers,” he said. “That's a big part of the Telegraph offer internationally to audiences."

He added that “Youtube Shorts and clips are an incredibly important part of what we want this podcast to be”.

Ahmed, who before taking up his current job at The Telegraph was editor of social-first, youth-focused newsroom The News Movement, said it was “rare for my son to notice anything his dad does in his whole career, but he did share with me [a clip of] Rishi Sunak on Star Wars”.

Tominey said research carried out by The Telegraph ahead of The Daily T’s launch had found “the demand among over-35s to listen to podcasts is growing” and was thus a significant part of their focus.

But the pair also hoped to make headway among younger audiences, expressing concern about the quality of information available on largely journalism-free social media platforms like Tiktok.

“We want younger people listening and engaging with the content via The Telegraph because they can trust the news and rely on the expertise there,” Tominey said.

Explaining the title choice, Tominey said: “Tea is the theme because, if you drop a pod at 5pm, it might be the kind of time that you might have a cuppa.

“And it was inspired by my 15-year-old daughter, because — I think this has now gone out of fashion — but she used to say to me, ‘Mum, what's the tea?’, which apparently means ‘what's the goss?’”

'I think we in the media have got quite an upward trajectory at the moment'

The Telegraph already has some audio successes under its belt.

The publisher says that its daily podcast Ukraine: The Latest brings in 100,000 listeners each day, more than three-quarters of them international, and its investigative podcasts Call Bethel and Bed of Lies have both been garlanded with awards. The Telegraph recently invited staff to take part in a 'hackathon' to come up with future audio products. (The prize for the best podcasts were medals "handed out by the editor himself", Tominey said.)

Ahmed said: “The Daily T is the big move for 2024. But into the back end of this year, into 2025, you will see more and more connected with our audio offer.”

He said he was optimistic for the news industry "because of that fake news mix and also these new exciting ways of getting to audiences... we in the media, in journalism, have actually got quite an upward trajectory at the moment".

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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