Podcasting Still Has Power: Ewan Spence interview
Ewan Spence is, as they say, a well-kent face on the Scottish digital engagement scene. Not only is he one of Forbes most popular online writers, he's also a prolific podcaster with shows on music, computer games, Eurovision and the Edinburgh Festivals with strong download figures that put him ahead of the likes of The Guardian in the charts. He also came up with the hilarious site Is Robert Scobie in the Room?
Ewan Spence and Terry Eurovision
Here, he shares some thoughts on why podcasting still has relevance and passes on some tips.
As Apple celebrates one billion podcast subscriptions via iTunes, is 'the day of the podcast' over? No. More people watch and listen to podcasts every day, creating strong bonds and having fun with brands, blogs, and their best friends online.
I should know. Back in 2005 my daily coverage of the Edinburgh Fringe picked up a BAFTA nomination, and since then I've never looked back. Podcasting has become an important part of my toolkit, but in the last eight years I've also realised that podcasting is like a Swiss Army Knife with many blades, all suited to different tasks.
Take that Fringe podcast - it's retained an almost traditional flavour. It's the primary product on the website, and everything in its digital home is geared to getting people to discover, listen, and subscribe to the daily show. To many people that's what a podcast is - a standalone show on a specific topic. But a podcast can be far more than that.
Take YouTube. You can upload videos, and people who have subscribed to your channel will get an email alert to say there's a new show. So that's media, an alert, and engagement. Sounds a lot like podcasting to me - especially as most people will embed the YouTube video on their blog or website in addition to YouTube.
Now add in a dash of the Eurovision Song Contest.
If there's one thing that the British public miss about Eurovision it's Terry Wogan. So what's a podcaster to do but deliver what the public want... and if the Irish broadcasting legend is busy, then it's a simple matter of bringing in a puppet substitute.
And with that moment of inspiration, a new video podcast series was born on YouTube. 'Terry Eurovision' is the interviewer who doesn't want to be there, interviewing the signers who do want to be there, with (as BBC3 would say) hilarious consequences.
Terry's humours take on the Song Contest sits alongside a more serious offering on ESC Insight. This audio podcast changes format throughout the year to reflect the changing audience - from the hardcore fans following the Song Contest in the summer months, to regional interest when each country has their 'Song for Europe', to a podcast suitable for all the public in the week leading up to the Contest.
Understanding your audience and what it needs at each moment is a vital skill for any publication, and podcasting is no different to other formats. Audience knowledge allows the product to be tailored to their needs, and creating a strong and ongoing relationship with both the podcast and the website.
And when the time came to approach a broadcaster who was looking for a radio package of documentaries, music, and chat around the Contest, my Eurovision podcast acted as a living CV... which explains why a Scotsman helps host Eurovision for national Australian broadcaster SBS.
Look around many websites and you'll find podcasting used to enhance the editorial offerings, to go into more depth and discussion on a topic, or offer a suitable avenue for interview and debate. It creates a stronger link with readers, and it's fun to do.
As with any reporting, there is a cost beyond the hardware involved. Staff need trained, the expected standards of quality and formatting need to be reached, and the time to prepare for a show (and edit it afterwards) is roughly the same as the on air time - so a 30 minute show is going to need 90 minutes of the team's time - but the results are worth the effort and investment in terms of engagement, mind share, and building a healthy relationship with your followers.