Friday, November 27, 2009

Eight Steps to Making a Killer Soccer Podcast

Seeing as I've somehow managed to transform myself into a football online media guru over the course of one or two speculative and highly subjective posts on the future of football blogging, I suddenly feel more than qualified to speak to that sorest of sore points, the DIY Footie Podcast.

Notice I've rigged my post title to generate as much spurious traffic as possible; no doubt, as the number of online football bloggers reaches the five hundred million mark, this will certainly be the single most popular post in AMSL's history.

So here are my arbitrarily made-up eight rules for Football Podcasting Glory, such as it is, completely and utterly according to me, a listener of many football podcasts.

1. Keep It Short. It's called the law of diminishing returns, I think. Or is it market saturation? I only took one business course in high school, and then an economics course which consisted of me calling my teacher a fascist because he didn't approve of social spending during economic boom periods. But I digress.

Keep your podcast short, because there are now literally hundreds of thousands of DIY podcasts and for me to listen to them all would basically require me to drop everything, including watching football, to hear them all. The ear buds on my iPod would rot, and I'd lose my hearing, which means I would lose my job as a countertenor, which means I would stop AMSL due to lack of funds. You don't want this, trust me. Try to get your podcast down to twenty minutes, maybe even ten.

2. Stick to Your Niche. If people go to your website to get the inside scoop on MLS backroom politics, and your podcast attempts to do a global footie round-up from the Eredivisie through to the Copa Sudamericana, that means a lot of them are going to use that scrolly option on their iPod. I'm going to tell your right now that scrolly option is really annoying to use. Your podcast supplements your blog; pick one or two juicy controversial topics related to your area of interest, and start there. Think of your podcast as a thrilling addendum to your already kick-ass blog. And don't be afraid of scaring away a global audience if you go specific; as a good blogger, you will find an interesting way to tie it into the greater whole of the Global Football story.

3. Don't Try to be Football Weekly. Yes, we'd all like to be as pun-sexy Euro cool as AC Jimbo, as hipster cynically narcissistic as Barry Glendenning, and as inappropriately gambly as Seani, but we can only be ourselves really. Try to remember what you do at parties that gets people to look you in the eyes when you talk, and do that. If your blog is a sort of repetition of FW's, or the Game's, or whatever major newspaper podcast's format, and change it up somehow. Stand out from the pack.

4. Spend the Money on a Producer. Maybe you don't even have to spend the money; there are tens of thousands of out of work studio producers who have just spilled out of whatever predatory, barely-accredited sound engineering college they've just finished over-paying by way of student loans, waiting for a gig to get their chops in, or however the lingo goes. These people know how to edit (presumably), and will make you sound like Jonathan Goldstein when in fact you are probably more like that guy on Youtube who cries about celebrities. Good editing will separate you from the pack immediately, and is a hell of lot more listenable than fifteen minutes to every hour of "hmmm," "ahhh," "*cough*" etcetera.

If you can't afford a producer, than think like one. Break your pod up into segments if need be, and try to keep the thing moving along nicely. Remember, shorter is gooder.

5. Be Funny, but don't "Be Funny." This one relates a bit to number 3. We're all kind of funny; even the guy who writes the Political Economy of Football throws in an unexpected knee-slapper here and there. But if you find yourself having a post-recording drink discussing your comic timing, writing down gags on a notepad when you're at the grocery store, and watching old Kids in the Hall sketches with friends discussing the influence of the Goon Show on latter half twentieth century absurdist sketch-comedy, you might be trying too hard.

Also, try to avoid comedic "segments" that segue into hard analysis by way of that most nauseating of phrases, "but in all seriousness."

6. If You Do Interviews, Do them Really Effing Well. There are some podcasts, and they should know who they are, that make news because they get the right person at the right time, and ask the right questions, which spins the news wheel that much faster, and get the interviewers noticed/respected. I would take a ten minute informative interview with a new MLS owner that asks relevant, information-yielding questions, than an hour of softballs tossed at some retired English League One player, any day of the week. Don't think you have to keep your subjects happy no matter what, just be a good journalist and they will respect/fear/sue you. Ideally not the last one though, which means you might touch up on libel/slander laws in your home country.

7. Don't Be Self-Referential. Listeners to your podcast probably don't care about you, they care about the subject you're covering and your opinions thereon. If you start harbouring a "shtick" (I'm the "this guy" sort of guy!), then you are trying to become what CBC Radio obnoxiously refers to as an "On Air Personality." Get the fuck out of the way of the story, content is your god, making relevant points about the football is your point. Relates to number 5.

8. Take Risks, Be Different. Well, enough of the negatives, now the positive: don't be afraid to be totally and completely wacko different from everyone else. Cover some small, lower league controversy that neatly ties in to some "problem of the week" that everyone else is always harping on about. Maybe don't cover the "big stories" of the day at all, maybe we've all heard/read/talked about the "big stories," and hearing them discussed yet again is enough to make us cry. If people expect your podcast to offer a lively discussion on an as-of-yet uncovered story that week, in a way that might make a local issue more accessible to a global audience, if maybe you have a interesting segment no other podcast has, perhaps that gives me a reason to listen to you and not the next guy.

Disclaimer: I don't produce or star in podcasts, so I really don't have a pot to piss in with this topic, but I am an avid podcast listener and a I know what I like. But I am one (1) man. Maybe you've crunched your audience and they prefer the "all sound same" approach. If so, by all means, steady on.


Mark Bick said...

Hey Charley this the last gasp effort of someone who desperately craves more attention by getting on've sunk pints with Ben, twitter up, flatter/respond to their often predictable posts and finally the craven request on the MLS live blog...short of offering funds or fellatio, I think you've come to the end of the line.

Stop being a thumb-sucker, give up your blog - perhaps occasionally post on a friend's site -and devote your time to resolving an issue,indulge, follow a story that's off the grid by giving up the giddy world of blogging and graduating to the demands of soccer've got the skills to fill the that void in Canada.

Richard Whittall said...

Actually, this was a post I wanted to do about two weeks ago in response to a Tweet by Terry Duffelin, and had its genesis this past summer when I was around when they started up their podcast. I am a soccer podcast addict, which includes the Inter City Firm, to be sure, so obvs some of the stuff they do well/not so well are included here, among others.

But otherwise, boy, do you have my number! What is Charley Tuna?

Mark Bick said...

The moniker was actually Charlie Tuna, and if your parents watched tv in the 60/70’s (I believe) this was a madman’s claim to fame, a starkist animated ad that ran heavily, featuring a two part shtick…. It would descend so many leagues below the sea to Charlie’s dwelling, where he would be caught spouting verse, painting, arranging flowers, numerous riffs, a set –up for the punch -line that I believe was…” sorry Charlie, we don’t want a tuna with good taste, we want a tuna that tastes good.” Poor sod, born a generation too early… they’ve probably now changed their policy to snagging any tuna available.

The second part of the shtick was that he really wasn’t a well- educated, insightful tuna (do you realize how awkward it was to have typed that) but simply putting on airs in his desperate bid to get canned (as a kid, I could never understand his drive for extinction.)

You are also a bit of a poser – that while you often intelligently blog on a topic, perhaps proffer 2, 3 entries on the subject – you seem content to frame the subject than really devoting the time to go off the grid, caught in the blogging dilemma that if you don’t frequently post, folks will be less – inclined to visit your site

.I’m not sure why your referred to ICF as the Inter City Firm….I don’t believe any of It’s Called Football! folks are associated with West Ham…but you do seem to have a strong desire to snag a seat at the GTA’s apparently footy Algonquin round table….6000 I-tunes subscribers and growing!

There was a bit of piss – taking in suggesting this article was written to strictly persuade ICF to get you on the show – but it followed so quickly on your MLS Cup – yes a bit tongue in cheek- posting , knowing Mr. Rollins would be there, “ so you can Duane why they won’t put me on ICF…Bastards.”

Ben Rycroft has stated a few times that they should get guests for their daily podcast….but haven’t acted on it. They could easily put you on, but they haven’t…. perhaps they enjoy your verging on desperate pleading…see how far you will take it.

I hope you achieve your goals.

Duane Rollins said...

My posts aren't predictable. Hell, I wrote about the Irish League last week for Christ's sake.


Richard would be a fine guest on ICF. I honestly don't know what the topic would be that he would fit though as he's so eclectic and he doesn't claim to be a MLS expert (and we're very much trying to stay focused on MLS).

I am running a survey right now looking for feedback from 24th Minute readers and ICF listeners (even occasional or rare readers/listeners). So, forgive this bit of spam:

As to the list, some of the feedback I've already got on the survey speaks to some of the points. In particular, we are really trying to get tighter (we were 30 minutes on the dot today). We don't want to sell ourselves short by ignoring EPL and other leagues, but we also see the numbers and know that most people that listen to us listen to s for MLS and, in particular, TFC news.

Duane Rollins said...


We haven't acted on it because we don't have the technical ability to act on it yet.


Richard Whittall said...

Yeah, Mark Bick, while I'm flattered, if not a little disturbed, by how actively you've been monitoring my online activities (having a friendly beer with Ben Knight is now me being some sort of sycophantic poseur?), especially considering I don't who in god's name you are, I will accept your criticisms.

But I will say this: I am a professional countertenor. I don't get fuck all in terms of money from this blog. I write whatever the hell I want, and if you like it, great. If you don't, that's great too, although I'd take Fake Sigi's flames any day over being called a poseur for writing a for-free soccer blog. Any pretentions to being a full-time real-deal journalist arose from my interest getting a little piqued from a response to an email I wrote to the Guardian, although it would be nice to dedicate more time to this in future (you might be interested to know I'm moving on a project in January that will involve quite a lot of getting off the grid).

As for the ICF jibber jabs from me, come on brother, it's my self-deprecating shtick, which as an insanely close reader of everything I do, you should know by now.

Anyway, if I'm Charely Tuna, than you're either Statler or Waldorf.

squizz said...

Is this the way I'm finding out that I'm being replaced on It's Called Football Daily?

Cold, guys. Cold.

Just Football said...

Ooh Richard what's the new project? Do tell...

When I saw this post I knew instantly it was a response to Terry's tweet from that conversation (..twonversation..?) the other day.

Podcasts are cool and all but I can only listen to 2/3 a week as they invariably all talk about the same things.

The good thing with making your own podcast though is that if you get it right you can propel yourself even above the MSM pods and become a pretty good authority, because perfect the likes of FW and the Times pods ain't.

Elliott said...

I feel #7 and #8 are at odd - what if I can't be unique without being self-referential?


Mark Bick said...

As a firm believer that if you dish it out, you have to take it,I don't have an issue with the chill in your response. I could respond at length to your rebuttal, basically sticking to my observations(I called you a poser, not poseur) that I stretched for effect, but then I would feel compelled to expand the scope on the topic of you shutting down your blog to graft in the world of free-lance scribbling... and I sense that would only bore you, your readers and too a degree, myself.

I was sincere in wishing you good luck in future endeavours, promise - wait a sec while I trot out a threadbare phrase - never to darken your doorstep again, and stay away from your twitter account! Take care, Mark

Terry said...

I've pretty much broken all but one of those rules and am about break the final one tonight.