newspaper podcasting


Editor’s week

We may not have the experience of the BBC, but we have the talent

Emily Bell
Saturday June 3, 2006
The Guardian

There was an interesting piece in the BBC’s in-house magazine, Ariel, this week, by Andrew Brown (blogger, broadcaster and contributor to Guardian Unlimited) about podcasting.In a nutshell, Andrew expressed the opinion that newspaper podcasts were in general inferior to those put together by professional broadcasters: “Practically anyone who can rattle two keys after each other is being dragged in front of a microphone and made to talk to readers.” His point is not necessarily wrong: that podcasts – bits of audio that are put into downloadable sound files – are more popular as extensions of existing audio brands, such as the BBC, than they are as extensions for other media. But it is not the whole picture by any means.

We had a robust discussion about his views on our own daily newsdesk podcast last week – which was produced by a former senior BBC producer and correspondent, Tim Maby, who is working with us on some of our shows. We have a foam-lined cupboard at the end of the corridor (“the pod”) where we now produce nine weekly podcasts and we are about to go into production with a daily World Cup podcast, anchored by our own columnist and broadcaster James Richardson (have a listen and try some of our other output at guardian.co.uk/podcasts).The intention is that every day of the tournament we will have a show uploaded and ready to listen to from the wee small hours – if you like robust humour coupled with high-end international football analysis then this will be required listening. In fact it already is. Checking Andrew Brown’s thesis against the podcast charts on iTunes is an interesting exercise. In the sports category, for instance, you have Baddiel and Skinner at the top – who are reviving the decommissioned television fantasy football format for audio. Next you have Nike’s videocast, then you have the Guardian’s World Cup preview podcast, next the Beautiful Game’s independent football podcast and then finally Five Live’s podcast. So – four of the top five sports podcasts in the week before the World Cup are not in fact from traditional broadcasting outlets although some of them do feature professional broadcasters.

The truth is that established brands, media or otherwise, do have an advantage when it comes to persuading people to try their output – and the bigger your brand reach the more likely it is you will succeed in drawing an audience. The relentless podcasting and advertising by the BBC is in fact doing a service to the whole market by attracting a larger audience to the new medium.

In general the BBC dominates the podcast charts with its recut radio shows. But there is so much more scope to make the portable medium substantially different from existing radio – and at a far lower cost – that it would be foolish for other media brands to ignore it.

If non-broadcast media take the attitude that they have no business tentatively pushing their tanks on to radio’s lawn then they will miss an opportunity to connect with an audience that might not be using their publications – either online or offline – but could very well be interested in their content.

At the moment the collective terror of the music industry is putting the brakes on any podcasts that feature music with rights restrictions – which pretty much covers anything other than unsigned bands or commissioned live performances – which has allowed the speech format and particularly current affairs and comedy to flourish.

My guess is that as it becomes increasingly cheap and easy to upload both audio and video on to sites there will be increasing numbers of people podcasting and a growing audience – and if now is not the right time to experiment with these new formats, you might find that you have missed the boat completely.

· Emily Bell is editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited

emily.bell@guardian.co.uk

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23 January 2006

By Torin Douglas
BBC media correspondent


Radio presenter Chris Moyles

Radio 1’s Chris Moyles is the BBC’s most popular podcast

Suddenly, it seems, podcasting has broken through to a new level.

The BBC’s first published podcast chart reveals that the Radio Four Today programme’s main interview was downloaded more than 400,000 times last month, second only, among BBC programmes, to Radio One’s Chris Moyles Show.

But the real change is in the way other media groups are now using podcasts to challenge broadcasters such as the BBC.

Last week, The Guardian newspaper announced that the Ricky Gervais Show had been downloaded over two million times, having already topped the Apple iTunes download charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Now other media owners are racing to get into the audio business.

After the Gervais podcast on Guardian Unlimited, the Conservative leader David Cameron popped up in the new Daily Telegraph podcast. Two days later, it was Tony Blair, podcast by The Sun, which said it was as significant a breakthrough as the first radio broadcast by a prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald in 1924.

Then last Friday, Jon Snow appeared in Channel 4’s first podcast, a documentary about cannabis and the young.

Print radio

The first sign of the potential for other media to get podcasting emerged two months ago.

We have a role in helping our audience find the best of what’s out there and we also have an opportunity to identify the rising talent emerging through podcasts

Simon Nelson, BBC Radio and Music

“What actually happened is that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant approached us to say they wanted to explore the idea of doing a show through our website” said Emily Bell, editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited.

“I think they wanted to work in a format where they were in complete control of what they put out, but also to put it out to a wider audience.”

The Daily Telegraph has gone further, appointing its own podcast editor, Guy Ruddle. He arrived from the BBC earlier this month and says you can now listen to the Telegraph’s business news and sports reports, as an alternative to Today’s.

“We are the only newspaper that is doing anything vaguely resembling a daily news bulletin, with news and comment and analysis,” he said.

“That to me is the future – the ability to give people an audio version of the newspaper and, eventually, for them to be able to scroll through items and pick out bits they want to listen to or not.”

The Telegraph also features its own columnists, some reading out their own words, which can sound a bit stilted at the moment, something Guy Ruddle, as a professional broadcaster, will no doubt sort out.

But on Friday, it had something more exciting, the first broadcast interview with one of its columnists, the Olympic and trans-Atlantic rower James Cracknell. It caught the moment as he reached land with broadcaster Ben Fogle, who had nearly drowned when their boat capsized.

Radio role

Is the move into podcasts by rival media a threat to radio broadcasters? Simon Nelson, head of new media for BBC Radio and Music, believes not.

A new video iPod

Digital music players such as the iPod are used to listen to podcasts

He says the huge demand for podcasts, including BBC programmes such as From Our Own Correspondent and In Our Time, shows the enduring relevance of radio in the digital world, wherever it comes from.

“I think we see our role as trying to stimulate that, trying to help people find the ways to do it simply,” he said.

“We have a role in helping our audience find the best of what’s out there and we also have an opportunity to identify the rising talent emerging through podcasts.”

The Ricky Gervais Show has demonstrated the potential, and the threat, for broadcasters. Gervais and Merchant were previously on the commercial radio station XFM and have also broadcast for Radio 2.

Since they started the online show for The Guardian, has proved a runaway hit for the newspaper.

“The scale of it has certainly surprised us,” said Ms Bell, “and opens up lots of possibilities for non-traditional broadcasters to get into an area that perhaps they wouldn’t have thought about.”

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July 04, 2006

tony_blair_podcast_2.jpgUK Prime Minister Tony Blair has recorded a podcast for his local paper, The Northern Echo. Blair recorded a special message for the paper serving his constituency of Sedgefield to mark the launch of the paper’s new podcasting site.

Audio and video downloads are available at the paper’s site.

While the paper is explicitly announcing a new podcast, no podcast feed is clearly marked at the site at this time, and the site also returns no search results for “podcast.”

“In 100 years time another Prime Minister may be using even better technology to get across what newspapers do which is inform people about events and launch some fantastic campaigns that make a real difference to people’s lives,” said Blair.

The Echo is planning to offer a wide range of podcasts via the new site. Editor Peter Barron has recorded a podcast of his paper’s popular Dad at Large column and Mike Amos, who has just been awarded an MBE, will also contribute.

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