Digital Content Next spoke with David Merrell, Manager of Product Development about the different ways The Post is approaching audio content–from podcasts to voice interfaces like Alexa. From the Q&A:

Why The Post moved into the podcast space

We saw that smartphones are ubiquitous and—because podcasts are now available in everyone’s pocket whenever they want—we saw the opportunity. We then reviewed the studies, did research with our own readers and made the decision to go this route. We saw a fit with our efforts to expand our audio offerings in general across voice platforms such as Alexa and Google Home.

Since taking the plunge, we’ve launched several podcasts…With our lineup, we recently cracked the ranks of the top 10 publishers in the U.S. for podcast listens, which given the size of our team and where we were just a year ago is pretty incredible.

How The Post has been expanding its audio offerings

In the case of audio and podcasts, we made up our mind early that it was a boat we wanted to make, not miss. We launched Presidential, and after we were convinced of the success we hired people for audio roles. That’s what’s fueled the explosion is bringing in people with audio experience to help with the recording, to help with the scripting, to give feedback to the folks, internally, who are recording the podcasts. Since then, we’ve hired a product manager, who is almost wholly-focused on audio, and especially on Alexa, and then another hire in the newsroom focused on conversational audio. Now we are at the point where we are figuring out how do we record for new platforms like Alexa and Google Home, and what can we do to create a really sticky voice UI experience?

Attracting audiences on voice interface platforms

We’ve found it starts with marketing. We have to direct people to install our skill, and that means promotions to get our skill in front of people. So, we either need to reach them in exactly the right moment to tell them to enable “Washington Post” on their device, or we need to market to them on other channels away from the device. In which case, the marketing has to also educate them to remember to say, “Alexa, open the ‘Washington Post’” when they are back in front of their Echo. It’s a hurdle for every company with a skill. To encourage habits and get people to remember, we have also introduced a news quiz feature that’s updated fairly frequently to get people to come back in so they can play. They can only access the news quiz  by saying, ‘Alexa, open the ‘Washington Post.’