The first time I sat behind a mic and spoke words for other people to hear, I was 16. I’d wangled a show on Radio Dublin, broadcasting from a big old house in Kilmainham.
A ‘career’ in pirate radio, even after legalisation and licences and all those pesky things, landed me the job of a lifetime on Tipp FM. It was everything I’d ever dreamt of: 6 hours of radio a day, playing terrible music – interrupted once a day for Death Notices #RIP – for wages that would make a hobo laugh his head off (as he shuffled off with his shopping cart full of odds and ends).
It killed it for me.
All I’d ever wanted to do was work on the radio, but after that I’d had enough. And this isn’t a criticism of Tipp FM per se, more the way that regulation and legality affected the industry. It was play-listed and programmed to within an inch of its life, all the fun was sucked out of it. Say this now, play this then nah.
In 2002, when I was living in Spain, I started a website called Arseblog a blog about Arsenal Football Club, for those of you whose minds went elsewhere. It grew steadily, and in 2008 I sold Arseblog to an American company who wanted to create the ‘Facebook of football’. I had a consultancy role as well as continuing to develop the blog. Sadly, they neglected to consult me on anything, every decision they made was wrong – I would have consulted them not to do any of things they did – and the site went under in 2010.
Before selling, I insisted on a clause in the contract that ensured everything reverted to me in such circumstances it took a while to get it back, but I did. Now it’s more than a blog, it’s a portal into every aspect of Arsenal, with blogs, news, stats, podcasts, video, books, live events and much more, seven days a week.
Meanwhile, in 2006 I had recorded my first podcast. It wasn’t very good, but what was good was talking into a microphone (I had been doing that anyway as a voice-over guy), but this was different. There was complete freedom. There was nobody telling me what to say or how to say it. There were no gaps for ad-breaks, the news, the Angelus, the weather, or anything else. I could say and do whatever wanted, so I said and did whatever I wanted. And people liked it.
Nine years later, people still like it, and the audience continues to grow. When the football season starts we’ll do 450,000 downloads a month – the aim is to get it to a half a million by the end of 2015, and further again beyond that. That’s access to a lot of eardrums.
It’s why in January of 2015 we set up Castaway Media. It is, as far as I’m aware, Ireland’s first dedicated podcast network. We have four shows on the go at the moment, as well as ‘producing’ the Arsecast, with more to come in the coming months. We’ll be adding sports, movies and fashion, and we’ve recently acquired one of the UK’s leading video game podcasts, which will debut on the network next month.
We have a studio on South William Street that, after some experimentation, sounds great. We use Shure SM7b microphones, we’ve got some foam on the walls, a coffee machine and mint Viscounts. Our city centre location means it’s easy for interviewees to come and generously give us some of their time. So far, we’ve attracted fantastic guests like Jon Ronson, Lenny Abrahamson, Mark Little, Mundy and others, with lots still to come.
The potential of podcasting is enormous. We’re not the first to recognise that, but there’s being aware of something, and there’s creating something. With podcasting there are no restrictions in terms of what you do or how you do it. You can find a niche within a niche within a niche.
It’s like grown-up pirate radio.
There’s no commercial department chastising you for you scaring away advertisers mostly because there aren’t many of those yet in the podcast realm by the way this post is brought to you in association with stamps.com and SquareSpace. Or, you know, it could be brought to you in association with [your name here], because that’s how it’s going to go, and we’ll be there doing it.
So come say hello – you’ll find me at firstname.lastname@example.org – or better still, give us a listen.
*At least we think it’s Ireland’s first dedicated podcasting network.