It’s the first time I’ve ever been invited to the TV Festival, so it’s ironic that I was there to talk about podcasting, but it does show that the medium is beginning to be taken seriously by the TV folk. Which is good because podcasts will soon supersede and destroy them. The feckless idiots. Maybe they should have given me my own TV show in 2008 then none of this would have happened. I will have my revenge.
But seriously (aside, I was being serious), this panel and meeting the heads of BBC podcasting and Acast and sitting alongside James from My Dad Wrote A Porno, which is just going from strength to strength and looks like it’s about to get a TV show in America, I realised just how far podcasting has come. And it’s clear that everyone else is realising that too (I was ten years ahead of the curve, but already feel ten years behind - which is the story of my life).
In some ways I feel reticent about broadcasters and production companies and advertisers coming into podcasting, because the autonomy and freedom from commissioners and censors etc was what appealed to me. But I also always saw the scope that self-production has allowed. And it’s probably true that, as much as I would like it to, to get the really big ideas off the ground would require a significant injection of funds that (as successful as attempts have been), I am unlikely to raise via subscriptions and kickstarters. I am incredibly grateful and amazed by the continued support of the fans of my podcasts and we raise significant sums of money every year to make stuff like RHLSTP and AIOTM and this year filming Oh Frig I’m 50! In my dreams, I would like to think that a quarter of listeners might give me a pound a month for my output and I’d have a budget of something like a million pounds a year to make ever more ambitious stuff. It doesn’t seem beyond belief, but I don’t think my life will be long enough to build things that far. And my opposition to sponsorship has softened - Adam Buxton seems to do it really well. I’ve found my absolutely unofficial backing of Bulb (they haven’t asked for me to promote them and I am under no contractual obligation to them - so if they turned out to be shit I could immediately say so) and last series dabble with Beer 52 (which is going to become more official with the next series) seem a good fit. In that they are both good companies, both prepared to pass on a significant benefit to the listeners as well as myself, in free renewable energy or beer (which I fully support).
But I like the fact that I got into podcasting without even considering it having a financial benefit, because I wanted to just get my stuff out there and I have been rewarded with a loyal audience who appreciate all this work. And that has had the unexpected pay off of both leading to other work, but making my stand up tours viable with audiences growing as a direct result. I think there is a lot to be said for new podcasters biding their time, working up something original, that they own, building their audience and then being in the position of power if and when it comes to taking things further (if indeed being on TV is going to be further than being on the internet).
The truth is that “My Dad Wrote a Porno” could not have started on TV or Radio and even if it had someone would have stepped in and changed the cast or the home made feel of it. That might happen now with any future developments too, but the guys who put it together held on to it, did it their way and are now in a position of incredible power (and, if that bothers you, able to benefit financially from it).
I have tended to always work in my own little bubble, which has its advantages and disadvantages, but I was very interested to hear what the BBC and Acast are doing (it’s quite different, but I think will probably have a symbiotic relationship as the the more seriously podcasts are taken, the better for everyone). The market is going to get much more crowded and podcasters will have to become more inventive - but I have always felt that people were being slow to realise that you could do more than two people chatting round their kitchen table (though that didn’t do Porno or Collings and Herrin any harm). But there’s still room for one person chatting round their snooker table too.
My heart says things have to stay independent, but my brain says that for my ambitions to be achieved in terms of pushing back what the medium can do, then I might need help. My body says, “Bad luck mate, you left it too late. There aren’t enough years left for you.” My body is right about me. But maybe not for you.
It did feel, weirdly, that secretly, in this half full room at a TV festival, a little revolution was formulating that was going to have unexpected consequences for the people out drinking in the bar. But we’ll see.
But as much as the panel made me think about the best ways to move forwards (and I don’t know what I want to do just yet), it also gave me a chance to take stock and realise the incredible thing that I have achieved over the last decade, on my own terms, when others certainly thought I was, if not mad, then wasting my time.
Foolishly I’d forgotten I was allowed to see other stuff at the TV Festival today, so I’d missed out on Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan as I relaxed in my hotel suite. But I enjoyed this weird little holiday, where I didn’t have to pay for anything. My bank account even got me into the lounge at the airport, so I drank free beer and ate free pasta, before being whisked back to Luton Airport and then home. I felt like a king. But also felt a bit sick afterwards. And I only had one pint.
A lot of food for thought today though. Very glad I went.
Coincidentally when I got home, we launched the kickstarter for the 36 video episodes of RHLSTP we’re doing in 2018. Thanks to Dripsters and Badgers, plus this Beer 52 sponsorship and the podcasts I did for a insurance company, we’ve raised over half the money we need already, so the target is a (still pretty massive) £30,000 (it costs us between two and three thousand pounds to film and edit each podcast and pay the cameraman and producers - I take my fee from the door money).
We’ve come up with some Cool Kid rewards that I think you will like (and I hope you will feel are worth the money you’re paying, even if you weren’t also getting the podcasts). And of course, if we raise more than £30,000 we can put the cash towards next year’s projects.
As always, don’t feel obliged to join in, especially if you are already a badger or a dripster. It’d be nice to think that each year a thousand or so people who haven’t donated before decided it was their turn. I know there’s a good chunk of you who go in for everything though and I massively appreciate it and in no way take it for granted.
But if you prefer to help us by getting practically free stuff (and that’s just as appreciated believe me) then do support our sponsors Beer52. You can get 8 craft beers for just package and postage by signing up here
- (assuming you didn’t do it last time). And this time the postage is only £2.95. You can stay subscribed and get 8 craft beers a month (different ones each time) for £24 or unsubscribe straight away and drink your 8 almost free beers and laugh. I get the monthly packs though and would recommend them.