The Globe experiments with ambient audio

Rather than take a dive into an expensive podcast strategy, Tourism Newfoundland scratched its audio itch in a smaller-scale way.
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Icebergs in Newfoundland and their surroundings are the kind of things you have to see to believe.

But what if you could hear them?

When Newfoundland Tourism wanted to create an immersive experience with¬†The Globe and Mail,¬†the media company’s custom content studio decided to go the route of audio. After all, says Stephanie Chan, digital editor at the Globe Content Studio, there’s been a total “explosion” in brand interest in audio.

“For the last three to four years, it’s been on our radar, and we’ve been asking ourselves, how do we take this into the content studio space? In the last two years, brands started feeling much more comfortable looking at audio and podcasting strategies.”

Podcast growth might be a bit of an understatement – the medium is extremely popular with listeners, and increasingly popular with listeners. According to Edison Research, 36% of Canadians are daily podcast listeners. But what’s a brand to do when they want to get in on the growing wave of digital audio without necessarily committing to a podcast?

“Brands sometimes can’t commit to a large-scale project. To build a podcast, you need a huge team, you need a lot of stories to tell. And there’s different familiarity and comfort level with brands and audiences. So we had to find a way to do something smaller-scale.”

While producing a branded podcast is likely cheaper than, say, producing a branded TV show it’s still a big investment, though there’s also big potential. Indeed, audio in general is on the upswing; smart speakers and audio streaming services are trending upward. Today, 19% of Canadians own a smart speaker, up from 4% two years ago. Additionally, as of late 2018, 38% of Canadians subscribe to a music streaming service, up from only 10% in 2012. According to Grand Review Research and Statistia, the headphone market has doubled in value since 2014, and is predicted to be worth US$2.8 billion by 2022. To put it plainly, people are listening, and they’re listening to a variety of things.

That’s why the Globe decided to create an audio storytelling companion to its custom content piece about Newfoundland’s icebergs. The audio includes ambient surroundings of the water and wind, as well as audio from the tour with Bob “Skipper Bob” Bartlett, an iceberg tour operator.

This is Newfoundland Tourism’s second campaign with the Globe Content Studio. “We were trying to explore a new way to tell their story that isn’t just through text and photo,” says Chan. “You can see the pictures and read about them, but there’s a real sense of excitement in the sensory aspect. It’s a much more immersive nature.”

Besides the audio, the piece incorporates motion graphics and other aspects of interactivity, with occasional banner ads to take readers to Tourism Newfoundland’s Iceberg Finder within the piece. Outside of the piece, the content will be promoted through organic and boosted social, as well as digital advertising, until the end of summer.