James Richardson is a football broadcaster and journalist known for hosting the iconic Football Italia in the 90’s as well as the Champions League Goals Show more recently. To read an interview where he talks in length about these and football in general click here. When his face isn’t on your screen his voice is in your ears as the host of several podcasts, from The Totally Football Show to Truth and Movies.
Richardson began his journey into podcasting as the host of The Guardian’s The World Cup Show, covering all the highs and lows of the 2006 World Cup. Following its huge success the show evolved into The Guardian Football Weekly, a twice-weekly show featuring Richardson as host and a selection of journalists discussing the week’s football news.
It was during his 11 years there that he cemented his reputation as a broadcaster who can seamlessly integrate puns and humour into his work. This ability was a major factor in building the large following the show amassed, allowing the team to play several sellout venues across the UK. In 2017 he decided to call time on his time at The Guardian to start his own production company, Muddy Knees Media, with long time producer Ben Green and former guest Iain Macintosh. Their first podcast? Football, obviously, entitled The Totally Football Show.
“It was a little bit of a leap in the dark although we weren’t reinventing ourselves particularly. I guess we felt that people would still be listening but we have been really happy with the response and the number of listeners we get. The world cup made a big difference, we threw a lot at it and our listenership seems to have grown. I’m really happy with how things are going. Not just with listenership but also after a year of doing this we have met and been able to bring in lots of different kinds of people and some fresh ideas.”
There were few surprised when Richardson announced in December 2017 a Italian football podcast, Golazzo. “The thing about Golazzo is, because of Italian football in the 90’s on Channel 4, there is a sentiment for that period and Serie A in general. I’m aware of the wealth of stories there are to tell about Italian football.”
Would he expand his empire to cover the top 5 European leagues? Perhaps not. “I’m not sure you would have the same kind of built in audience for say a La Liga show or a Bundesliga show. We get about 60,000 an episode for Golazzo which is a very healthy listenership. As much as podcasts have grown I think we are still very much at the tip of the iceberg in terms of their potential and the way that people can use them as a forum and a way of covering different sports and leagues.”
“In the same way that we have shifted across from watching linear tv to basically sitting on things like Netflix, Apple tv, and streaming boxsets, I think increasingly people won’t be tied down to radio schedules but instead just pick up audio on demand. It is much easier if you are commuting or making a car journey rather than listening to whatever happens to be playing on the radio, so you can follow things that you are interested in. Or even things that you have no interest in at the start but in half an hour or an hour will give you an understanding of a subject you’ve never previously known about.”
“The potential of podcasts is huge. They’re so cheap to make and they tend to be free to download. The percentage of the population that is even aware of them or let alone used them is still relatively small. It isa huge area of growth that we are going to see.”
There is the crux of the problem. Podcasts have the potential to change the way people listen to audio shows, but how to advertise them in a way that would attract new listeners? “For our podcast we don’t particularly advertise it, it’s more of a word of mouth thing.”
“I think for podcasts in general it’s something that more and more people are becoming aware of like ‘what is that icon on my home screen saying podcasts?’. I guess it’s a generational thing as well as more young people are into them. Generally though people are becoming more and more aware of the potential that they have. The new ways of enjoying content.”
“In the same way that years ago nobody knew what an Apple tv was or downloadable tv content was and now it’s become completely normal. Even my mother will watch boxsets. It takes time. There was such a traditional way of consuming television and radio content that it takes time for people to switch across.”
“In terms of how we advertise that’s a tricky one. I don’t know how you do it. We don’t particularly have an advertising budget we rely as I say very much on word of mouth. At a guess I would think that you’ll start to see a lot more podcasts advertising on other podcasts. This happens already I know we have had adverts for another show on our podcast. I think there will be a lot more cross-pollination that way.”
“The thing about podcasts at the moment is that they are two different kinds: the ones attracted to the fact that podcasts are a very democratic kind of thing and they don’t need to be tied in with a production company or have a big budget, you can put something out with very little expense; then you do have increasingly companies such as Apple or Spotify who are getting involved and they will start, if they aren’t already, doing major pushes to get people aware of what they are doing.”
“Stuff like that, while advertising one podcast in particular, will be advertising the whole idea of podcasting in general. For example Serial’s huge success woke a huge section of the population up to what podcasts are, what their potential is, and the sort of stories you can tell. Maybe people thought it was just a sports thing or like a blog, but the fact that you can get drama which is almost unputdownable really pushed the whole field forward.”
“I think that people like Apple as they get involved in this will want to expand the market as fast as possible which will hopefully bring many people with them.”