Dublin will host its first pod­cast fes­ti­val next month — sig­nalling that this once niche, DIY in­dus­try has tran­si­tioned into the main­stream here. KATIE BYRNE talks to some of the grow­ing num­ber of Ir­ish pod­cast­ers about how to make it in an al­ready satura

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

Pod­cast­ing, in case you haven’t no­ticed, is the new black. De­pend­ing on who you lis­ten to, it’s also the new blog­ging, the new talk ra­dio and, as one writer, mus­ing on the medium’s tran­quil­lis­ing qual­ity, re­cently put it: the “new Xanax”.

Me­dia pun­dits have fore­cast the pod­cast­ing boom since the in­cep­tion of the dig­i­tal medium, yet it’s only in the last few years that episodic au­dio has be­come the new nor­mal.

The suc­cess of Se­rial was the tip­ping point. In 2014, the true-crime pod­cast broke the iTunes record to be­come the fastest pod­cast to be down­loaded more than five mil­lion times (their fol­low-up, S Town ,seta new record when it was down­loaded more than 10 mil­lion times in the first four days).

It’s the type of au­di­ence en­gage­ment that was pre­vi­ously re­served for TV dra­mas, so it’s no sur­prise that Se­rial is cur­rently be­ing adapted for tele­vi­sion.

In­ter­view-driven pod­casts have also upped the ante con­sid­er­ably. In 2015, Marc Maron in­ter­viewed Barack Obama for his WTF pod­cast. It was a defin­ing mo­ment for a DIY in­dus­try, not least be­cause there was a sniper on the roof across the street and a tent full of Se­cret Ser­vice agents in his drive­way as he chat­ted to the then-US pres­i­dent in his garage.

Pod­cast­ing, once a niche, hob­by­ist in­dus­try has tran­si­tioned into a main­stream move­ment with a ded­i­cated, en­gaged au­di­ence — and Ire­land is no longer play­ing catch-up.

Last month, Alan Ben­nett, the founder of Ir­ish on­line mag­a­zine and pod­cast plat­form Head­Stuff, an­nounced the first ever Dublin Pod­cast Fes­ti­val.

The event, which takes place across var­i­ous venues in Septem­ber, will host heavy-hit­ters like Brian Reed of S Town, Scroobius Pip and the trio be­hind My Dad Wrote a Porno, while home­grown tal­ent will in­clude Jar­lath Re­gan of the award-win­ning An Ir­ish­man Abroad, Suzanne Kane and PJ Gal­lagher of Dub­land, and Ali­son Spit­tle.

Like any other fes­ti­val, the event has its head­lin­ers, but there won’t be rider re­quests or diva-like de­mands. The pod­cast­ing com­mu­nity, says Ben­nett, is “gen­er­ous and com­mu­nal” and every­one he has ap­proached has been ac­com­mo­dat­ing, ir­re­spec­tive of their po­si­tion on the iTunes chart.

Dave and Cathy Cork­ery, the mar­ried Cork cou­ple be­hind the award-win­ning Cine­mile pod­cast, agree that pod­cast­ing is more wel­com­ing than other in­dus­tries.

Cine­mile, which records Dave and Cathy’s chat­ter as they walk home from their weekly visit to their lo­cal cinema in Lon­don, won Best New Pod­cast at the 2017 Bri­tish Pod­cast Awards, and the cou­ple got to meet many of their favourite pod­cast­ers dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

“We met Edith Bow­man and Scroobius Pip, and they were so gen­er­ous and sup­port­ive,” says Cathy. “It’s very dif­fer­ent to TV where peo­ple are very com­pet­i­tive and pro­tec­tive of their jobs.”

Dave and Cathy were pod­cast­ing for a year be­fore they started to build up an au­di­ence. They both work in me­dia so they knew from the out­set that pod­cast­ers have to be pa­tient, con­sis­tent and pre­pared to per­se­vere with­out a pay cheque.

Yet not all new­com­ers re­alise just how long it takes to gain mo­men­tum. Fin Dwyer, the his­to­rian be­hind the pop­u­lar Ir­ish His­tory Pod­cast, says many green­horns think there’s a “magic but­ton” for pro­duc­ing a vi­ral pod­cast, but they soon learn oth­er­wise.

“Some­one like Tommy Tier­nan can do it,” he says, “but [an un­known] would want to be re­ally lucky to be get­ting an au­di­ence size of more than a thou­sand in a year.”

Dwyer started pro­duc­ing the pod­cast — “when very few peo­ple knew what a pod­cast was” — in 2009. To­day, he brings out an episode ev­ery two weeks and he can now ex­pect 10,000 down­loads af­ter 10 days, and 20,000 down­loads af­ter 45 days.

For con­text, a pod­cast episode needs to be down­loaded 10,000 times in 45 days be­fore an ad­ver­tiser will even con­sider com­ing on board.

“My pod­cast is in the top 5pc,” he

An un­known would want to be re­ally lucky to be get­ting an au­di­ence size of more than a thou­sand in a year

says, “but that doesn’t mean it’s amaz­ing. It means that most pod­casts get 120 down­loads in 45 days — that’s the av­er­age.”

Fin can now make a liv­ing out of the pod­cast, but he still com­pares it to be­ing in a band. “Most bands prob­a­bly never get a gig. If they do get a gig, very few play in front of 100 peo­ple. And how many bands get to play a sta­dium gig?

“If you ap­proach it with the idea of mak­ing money, you won’t make any,” he adds. “So you should ap­proach it as a re­ally en­joy­able thing to do, or a great way to gain con­fi­dence.”

Oth­ers sim­ply ap­proach it as a pas­time. Cine­mile now has ad­ver -tis­ers on board, which “more than cov­ers” their ex­penses. How­ever, Cathy has worked out that they would need to re­view four films a day to make it fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble. They won’t be leav­ing their day jobs which, Dave adds, is per­fectly fine. “It was only meant to be a hobby.” The rev­enue model for pod­casts con­sists of ad­ver­tis­ing on a CPM ba­sis (‘cost per mille’, or the rate per 1,000 lis­tens); lis­tener do­na­tions, loy­alty schemes and pay­walls (some Sec­ond Cap­tains lis­ten­ers opt to pay €5 a month through the Pa­treon plat­form) and cross-sell­ing. Heavy­weights like Joe Ro­gan and Freako­nomics can earn tens of thou­sands per episode but, for most pod­cast­ers, it’s a labour of love.

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