Narcity Media adds audio content to the mix

In its efforts towards rethinking local news, the millennial-focused publisher launches its first podcast.

Narcity Media continues to test new ways to connect its audience to their city by making its first foray into podcasting.

The first episode of Now on Narcity launches Apr. 23, with new episodes dropping weekly, featuring discussions around news and trends across Canada.

The online publisher is a little late to the podcast game, admits Chuck Lapointe, CEO of Narcity Media, but says the goal is to create content that works. “At a high level, we’re constantly rethinking how we can redefine local news, and what that looks like.”

The format features three news reporters and a member of the company’s marketing team who sift through content trending across Narcity Media’s editions from across Canada and discuss them at length. Lapointe describes it as a “digital dive bar” positioned as a casual forum where listeners would feel comfortable discussing the news that matters most to them.

Layering in an audio channel is more of a test than anything else, Lapointe says, noting that it wasn’t in response to any particular user polling or trends. They are focusing on organic pick up out of the gate, aiming for at least 20,000 downloads per week before they start partnering with podcast publishers or supporting the channel with media.

Lapointe doesn’t see a lot of competition in Canada as far as news and lifestyle content targeting millennials across audio, apart from players like the CBC or more traditional publishers, he says.

Once the format has proven successful with the Narcity audience, Lapointe says they will start looking at partners – like Spotify, which allows creators to sell ads directly through the podcast – and “how we can monetize through branded content, or sponsor them… this is all relatively new to us, so the first objective is to see whether our users actually want it.”

The media company has invested heavily in its reporting to date, with 82 staff members spanning primarily across Narcity’s Toronto and Montreal offices (albeit remotely right now). It has built up an ecommerce component in late 2020, facilitating the ability for readers to buy products directly from merchants within its sites, and it inked a significant branded content deal last summer in a year-long campaign effort to reach millennial parents.

On top of that, Narcity has also been doubling down on video content, Lapointe says, generating five to 10 video stories per day. Those initiatives, like the new podcast project, weren’t about a need to address audio or video channels specifically, rather, Lapointe says it’s more about a need to “analyze and test out different theories and businesses around local news. So we’re trying to have our hands in as many different pots as possible.”

Narcity Media initiated a push into the U.S. last year, but was forced to pull back with COVID-19 considerations in mind, so Lapointe’s focus is currently 100% on Canada and the 11 million users – mainly made up of millennials, with some Gen Z, and primarily women (60%) 18 to 45 years old – across and the MTL Blog site.