With the launch of The Washington Post’s new podcast in Spanish, the Spanish language in American news outlets is, again, a front-page matter. At first, Spanish seems to be the perfect fit for Anglo-Saxon news organizations in the US—after all, it is the second most spoken language in the country and the fourth in the world. The market is there; outlets have to exploit it. But, as other papers have found out recently, utilizing it is not an easy task. They need to monetize the content. The nonprofit podcast Radio Ambulante has been able to do it, but the New York Times en Español was not. Now, the Post is entering the dilemma with a new proposition. It’s a podcast, not a newspaper as the NYT, and it’s current news, not long Latin American stories as Radio Ambulante. Maybe the Post’s initiative could actually turn the Spanish-language current news podcast industry around.
El Washington Post, as the podcast is called, was launched on December 3rd with two new episodes per week. The hosts include three well-renowned journalists—the Spaniard Dori Toribio, who works for Mediaset, and the Colombians Juan Carlos Iragorri, correspondent for Semana magazine, and Jorge Espinosa, who works for Caracol Radio. In 20 minutes, they explain three news pieces by interviewing experts on the ground. For example, in the December 10th episode, the hosts talk about Peronism in Argentina, Donald Trump’s relationship with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and the Post’s investigation into the Afghanistan Papers. The podcast is short and sweet, and it gives the listener an informed idea of what’s going on in the world (it’s not a US-centric show).
The show is the second Post product in Spanish, as this year, the newspaper also launched a section called Post Opinión with original and translated op-eds. This turn to Spanish is entirely logical for papers that are looking to grow. Only in the US, there are 59 million Latinos—18% of the total population—with 37 million of them speaking Spanish. But of course, the podcast’s intended audience is also overseas, both in Spain and Latin America.
The format makes sense, as well. Podcast consumption keeps growing, especially among young listeners. According to the Reuters Digital News Report 2019, 59% of listeners between 15 and 24 years old had listened to a podcast in the last month, as well as 57% of those between 25 and 34. Podcasts are not only fashionable, but they also have lower entry costs than print or TV journalism, and they are easy to consume anywhere, as long as the user has a smartphone.
Radio Ambulante also took advantage of this ‘favorable’ situation: Spanish language and podcasts are on the rise (read The Spanish-language podcast Radio Ambulante shows us a path to success.) But while Radio Ambulante relies on donations and its agreement with NPR for financing, the Post’s podcast has the backing of the paper. They seem similar, but they target different interests—Radio Ambulante reaches listeners interested in narrative Latin American stories that are not on the news; the Post just wants to offer a brief analysis of the news. However, when we say ‘the backing,’ we can’t help but wonder for how long. Just a couple of months ago, the New York Times decided to shut down its Mexico City newsroom, which was dedicated to the Spanish-language version of the paper (read The short life of The New York Times en Español.) The Spanish version was not profitable enough—its business model was based on ads instead of subscriptions.
Still, the Post’s podcast is in a better position than the NYT en Español. First of all, it’s a podcast, which means it is cheap. The Post already produces other English-language podcasts—the technology and the human capital is there,—so they only need to replicate the process. Second, listeners can generally access podcasts for free. Just think of The Daily, from the NYT, or The Journal, from The Wall Street Journal. Their business model relies on ads, not subscriptions, making it easier to increase its circulation. At the moment, the Post’s podcast has no ads, but that could change in a second. Third, the paper can use this product as a way to compete with its main rival—the Times—in the Spanish-speaking market and get ahead of the game. It’s also a way to present the Post’s brand among an international audience and advertise the Post’s investigations and news pieces (the hosts do talk about the Post’s exclusives.) And finally, those Spanish-language established papers lack quality current news podcasts, but they do not lack written news pieces. The Post could fill that gap. Whereas the NYT en Español required a full newsroom and had a harder time competing with already incumbent papers, the Post’s podcast is entering a relatively young market, filled with innovations and new entrants.
If the Post invests enough effort and money in advertising the podcast, it could become a hit among Spanish-speakers, very much like The Daily in the US. The product has an accessible format in a respected outlet in a language with millions of speakers. The Post needs this success, as it tails the Times on many occasions, and the Spanish-speaking news podcast market needs the backing of a renowned paper like the Post. Watch out—El Washington Post may become the go-to international news radio show for Spanish speakers. You can listen to it on Spotify, the Post’s website or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Listen to the hosts’ presentation of El Washington Post.