The Economist to implement paywall for podcast portfolio

Majority of audio content will be subscriber-only from 17 October

The Economist will be putting the majority of its podcast portfolio behind a paywall from mid-October, the media brand has announced, coinciding with the launch of a new podcast subscription package.

The podcast subscription offering, dubbed Economist Podcasts+, was announced on Thursday this week, and will be available from 17 October, when the paywall will go into effect. Economist Podcasts+ subscribers will also gain access to three free articles every month, and access to newsletters in addition to the podcasts. 

Early subscribers can currently get a 50% discount on the service, amounting to £24.50 for a yearlong subscription, and won’t be charged until the service officially launches. Subscribers with full digital access to The Economist will also be able to listen to the paywalled shows.

The Podcasts+ plan currently includes access to The Economist’s entire back catalogue of podcasts, including hits like Money Talks as well as additional shows. This includes a new limited series on the future of management titled Boss Class, hosted by Andrew Palmer, the magazine’s Britain editor and author of leadership and management column Bartleby, and the Saturday edition of The Economist’s world news podcast The Intelligence, hosted by journalists Ore Ogunbiyi and Jason Palmer.

“With our podcast audience doubling in the past three years to five million monthly unique listeners, audio has become our fastest-growing platform and has proven to be an important way to bring our journalism to new and diverse audiences,” said The Economist president Bob Cohn. “We think the new shows and features that are part of Economist Podcasts+ are a great addition to our strong portfolio.”

Cohn added that launching a podcast subscription tier is in line with The Economist’s wider approach to digital and print, which prioritises producing premium journalism for subscribers worldwide at a fair price. “We think podcasting ought to follow that model, and we believe this initiative will enable further investment in our audio offerings,” he said. 

Subscribers will continue to be able to access podcasts from The Economist across multiple platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, The Economist app, and The Economist website. The publisher’s service is operated by Acast+ Access, a tool which allows companies with an existing paid subscription offering to integrate bonus content into third-party platforms. 

While most of the shows will no longer be freely available, PodPod has learned that some of the shows “will remain in front of the paywall”, according to Economist editor Chris Impey.

"The issue we’re been thinking about a lot at The Economist is about asking people to pay for our podcasts, rather than rely on advertising,” Impey told PodPod. “Up until now they’ve all been free, while our written journalism is only available to subscribers.” 

“We’re proud of what we do and believe it’s worth paying for. We think the rest of the industry will follow suit, especially the big media organisations which have been through a similar evolution in print."

Subscribers of The Economist’s lower ‘Espresso’ subscription tier, which offers daily global analysis from the editors of The Economist, will be able to listen to The Intelligence podcast on weekdays, but will have to upgrade to a full digital subscription in order to access the rest of its podcast portfolio. 

“The Economist has always been known for its global reporting and in-depth analysis,” said The Economist US editor and executive director of podcasts John Prideaux. “On our podcasts, our journalists help listeners make sense of the big news shaping the world, from Xi Jinping’s global ambitions and the future of Russia to American politics and the impact of artificial intelligence.”

“Podcasting allows us to take a lot of the qualities that make The Economist special and bring them to a wider audience. We’re looking forward to making some ambitious new series for Economist Podcasts+.”