Analysis of “The Lady Vanishes”

In today’s digital age of media, which sees online advertising and journalism becoming the new avenues by which the world accesses its information, traditional forms of journalism have and continue to experience crisis, with circulation numbers plummeting at an inconceivable rate. In just the first six months of 2018, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Australian Financial Review all fell by at least 10%.

In the wake of this dislocation, the media industry and its associated companies are continuously endeavouring to find new platforms by which they can produce their content – one being podcasts. Long-form storytelling podcasts have experienced an inconceivable rise in popularity over recent years, with new listeners aged 18 to 54 increasing by 52% in 2018 when compared to 2017. 

7NEWS has aligned itself well with this new reality, producing a multitude of podcasts recently, one being the investigative podcast series known as “The Lady Vanishes”

In the year of 1997, 51-year old Marion Barter resigned from her teaching position, sold her house, said goodbye to her 2 adult children and boarded an international flight destined for the holiday location of London via Tokyo. She was never seen again. “The Lady Vanishes” details this story with the purpose of uncovering the truth about what really happened to Marion. Journalists Bryan Seymour and Alison Sandy act as presenters, unveiling the events leading up to Marion’s disappearance and chasing new leads that arise as a result. The first episode was released April of 2019 and is still being updated to this day. 

The content itself is primarily presented via audio format which includes; narration by the presenters, interview excerpts and archival recordings. However, music and sound effects are also implemented as supportive devices – acting to dramatise the story and gain traction amongst listeners. A combination of sombre, uneasy and tense background tracks creates a sense of trepidation throughout the entirety of the series, enticing listeners to continue on with the podcast.

“The Lady Vanishes” utilises an innovative multimedia approach to journalism, incorporating the substantial use of other media platforms to further enhance audience and public engagement. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the 7NEWS website/television programme are used holistically to; promote the story, spread awareness of the issue, gain new information and create a sense of inclusivity for the listeners. The presenters of the podcast encourage the use of these platforms by listeners through routine reminders at the end of each episode. 

Both Bryan Seymour and Alison Sandy remain at the forefront of the story, habitually updating their social media accounts in relation to the podcast.

When new evidence/ leads are uncovered, 7NEWS broadcasts it via their television programmes and YouTube account. 

“The Lady Vanishes” can be considered to have taken much influence from a similar podcast released prior to it in 2018, known as “The Teacher’s Pet”– an investigative series revolving around the disappearance of homemaker and mother Lynette Dawson. The Teacher’s Pet similarly utilised (social) media to enhance its audience impact and gain traction amongst listeners. 

Nevertheless, “The Lady Vanishes” remains to be an incredibly unique journalistic experience, with its continuity and success relying greatly upon audience involvement and engagement. It is a worthwhile investment of time and should be considered somewhat monumental in Australian multimedia journalism. 

Until next time, 

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