Bloomberg Media Group’s chief product officer sees big opportunities in audio

Julia Beizer joined Bloomberg Media Group as its first chief product officer in January — and since then, she said, “Audio has been a big part of my world.”

Specifically, Beizer’s team has been releasing products for different smart speakers, including Apple’s HomePod, Amazon’s Echo Show and, most recently, Google Home, with the launch of the First Word news briefing for both Google Home and the Google Assistant app. Bloomberg has also turned its video news network TicToc (initially created for Twitter) into an audio podcast. And by leveraging Amazon Polly for text-to-audio conversion, the company now offers audio versions of every article on the Bloomberg website and app.

Beizer joined Bloomberg from The Huffington Post (which, like TechCrunch, is owned by Verizon’s digital subsidiary Oath). She pointed out that these new initiatives represent a range of different approaches to audio news, from the “beautiful, bespoke, handcrafted audio projects” that you can create via podcasts, to an automated solution like text-to-speech that allows Bloomberg to offer audio in a more scalable way.

“What that really represents is utility,” said Beizer, “We want to fit into our consumers’ lives in different ways.”

She added that since text-to-speech launched at the beginning of May, her team has found that “the people who use it, use it a lot,” listening to two to three articles per session on average.

And beyond the success of individual products, Beizer suggested that these audio initiatives represent a new “culture of experimentation.”

“Newsrooms historically thought a lot about what we have to offer to the world,” Beizer said. “That’s a mindset that’s really built for the world when people had morning newspaper habits or watched the 6pm newscast every night. For us to be relevant in consumers’ lives, we have to adapt to how they are consuming media.”

That means trying out new things, and it also means shutting them down if they’re not working.

“I often say: Launching things is my favorite thing to do, and killing things is my second favorite thing to do,” she said. So it’s possible that some of these audio products won’t exist in a year, though she also argued, “Audio writ large — specific initiatives aside — is something I believe is a trend that isn’t go away.”

Not that Beizer is spending all her time on audio. She acknowledged that the “pivot to video” has become a punchline in digital media, but she said that as she looks ahead, she still wants to find new ways to repackage and promote Bloomberg’s TV content for an online audience. She also said that the site’s new paywall represents “a huge opportunity.”

“We’re completely rethinking how we deliver our content — we want it to be essential to users’ lives,” she said. “That ties directly into subscription. I’ve worked in subscription before, and it gives you real clarity about your user and your audience.”