James Cridland | How the Radio and Podcasting Industries Are Evolving

John Corcoran 14:20

So it’s a little bit before its time,

James Cridland 14:24

not the most and you know, and mobile phone companies at the time, you know, the the likes of at&t or sprint. were busy saying to mobile phone companies, you may not put Wi Fi into your for the obvious reasons, because they wanted to make people were by word by the data plan. Yeah. So from that point of view, yeah, it was definitely before its time, I think, you know, initially we were very excited when we got more than five listeners. But It certainly paved the way I think for where we are now. Radio on, on your mobile phone is a thing that quite a lot of people do.

John Corcoran 15:09

Yeah, absolutely. And what was it like working for Virgin?

James Cridland 15:14

And it was interesting, it was working for the virgin brands, but not working for the virgin company. So the way that most Virgin companies work is that Richard Branson comes along, sells his name to to someone else. And that and that additional company, then works with that brand. So a little bit different for Virgin Radio in that Richard had bought the you know, headset, set up the radio station, initially, he’d got the radio station on the air and, and then sold it weirdly to their breakfast DJ. And, and then, and then a large Scottish company had had had bought it. So I was, so I was working for a quite dour, boring Scottish company, but also, but also going and seeing the virgin brand police. And, you know, and they were very keen in making sure that all of the brand that you know, that that virgin was famous for, you know, came came across on the air on the websites and everything else. So it was a great, it was a great experience. But you know, I think it taught me an awful lot about branding an awful lot about understanding, you know, what, you know, what individual brands stood for and the benefit of having a strong brand.

John Corcoran 16:36

Yeah. Now, you move on from there, and you go to the BBC, and you develop a AI player for radio for the BBC. So we’re a couple of years. Further. Yeah. Was that more advanced? Or was that still ahead of his time?

James Cridland 16:53

Oh, that was beginning to be I think the BBC was, you know, the BBC is massive. So it has over 50% market share in the UK. So it’s a really large organisation. And, you know, does it does incredible things, 15 different radio stations in the UK, which I know, doesn’t sound like an awful lot. But the UK isn’t very big. So. But one of the things I think that the BBC was doing is it wasn’t first virgin was definitely first with everything. The BBC wasn’t first. And they eventually basically said, No, we’re not first with things, but we do things properly. Which I thought was an interesting and interesting way in. But, you know, so the BBC was essentially moving some of the very old technology that it had used for, for streaming radio online, things like real player and Windows Media Player. And moving to a much more, you know, integrated set of tools and much more modern set of tools. So I was involved in that in that kind of thing. And, you know, particularly moving the sound of the stations from being, you know, crappy 32k, real audio streams into great sounding, you know, 128k or more, you know, you know, mp3 or AC streams. So that was a great, you know, step forward. But it was a very strange time, because I’d worked for virgin radio, at people working there, I’d moved to the BBC, where there were 25,000 people, and it was a very different, you know, different different experience with all of the politics and the stuff that I was, you know, obviously, completely unprepared for.

John Corcoran 18:40

At what point did you start to pay close attention to podcasts as they came along? And and how did they capture your attention?

James Cridland 18:52

So, podcasts was back in my Virgin Radio days, where I realized that there might be a way to use podcasting as another way to reach audiences. And, and particularly, you know, there’s an awful lot still, there’s an awful lot of reheated radio shows, which are stuck out as podcasts. And I thought, having been a radio presenter, in my past, I knew that there’s this this thing called a Snoop tape, which is essentially an automatic recording only when you open the microphones. So I thought maybe I can use that to produce a cut down version of the Breakfast Show, to turn into a podcast, so it didn’t have any music in there. It didn’t have any travel news, or you know, all of that kind of stuff, and was just the good bits from the breakfast show all of the talk breaks. So I thought, you know, can I do that? And it turned out that yes, you could, and it was relatively easy to end up doing that. So we actually launched that in January of 2005. So to put that into context, Steve Jobs only puts podcasts into into the, into the iPod in June of that year. Wow. So we were prior to the iPod, we were there talking to people about, you know, download juice powder and download all these weird and wonderful pod catchers that you had to have it at the time. But the podcast that we were producing, which was relatively automatic, did incredibly well. I mean, we were doing 15,000 downloads per episode relatively quickly. Maybe because, you know, it was a well known brand. And it was one of the first to be there. But yeah, so that was really interesting. And I think from then on, I was always keen in both understanding what was going on in the podcasting world, but also seeing the benefits and the opportunities of podcasting, both from a large brands point of view, but also, you know, from a much more independent point of view as well. Yeah,

John Corcoran 20:55

let’s talk about that. Because there’s been so many changes in recent years, there’s been a lot of acquisitions, a lot of big money coming into the space. Talk about some of the big changes that have happened in recent years and kind of how that’s affecting the state the landscape of podcasting.

James Cridland 21:16

Yeah, I mean, gosh, I mean, there’s been so much money poured into podcasting, certainly over the last three or four years. And I think part of that is existing media companies wanting to defend their place in the ecosystem. So you’ve seen iheartmedia, or audyssey, as entercom is now called jumping into podcasting with a real passion and buying podcast producers, making sure that the app, so they’re making sure that the that the underlining ad tech stuff is also there as well. So there’s been an awful lot of money in that. And then, of course, you’ve had other audio companies like Spotify and Deezer. And those sorts of people and Pandora jumping in and going, Okay, well, we should be involved in this as well. And, you know, and again, spending a lot of time and a lot of money investing in this area, too. So I think we’ve seen an awful lot of that. So it’s the typical consolidation, that you see when a when an industry is becoming more, you know, more part of the normal mass media. So we’ve seen a fair a fair amount of that going on. And I think that’s been bolstered by just, you know, the numbers coming out around consumption, the numbers coming out around money, and revenue into the, into the, into the business, you know, so there’s an awful lot of that going on, as well. But it’s, it’s a really exciting time. And I think, you know, as you look into podcasting, what podcasts he was, like, you know, three years ago, it was a very different world than where we are now.

John Corcoran 22:57

At the same time, there’s a lot more competition, there’s a lot of big companies moving into the space. Oh, yeah. You know, even some larger shows are getting seeing a lot of competitions, how do you see that shaking out going forward is going to be harder for the indie podcasters is going to become more mainstream, where it’s kind of like traditional media, where you have the large media companies producing most of the shows that you see out there.

James Cridland 23:24

I mean, I think the exciting thing about podcasting is, you know, certainly at the moment, anyone can launch a podcast, and anyone can be on the same on the same platform as any of those bigger shows, you can’t say that about TV, you can’t say that about radio, even newspapers, magazines, you know, it takes a lot of money to print, you know, newspapers, and all of that kind of stuff. So, podcasting is a very level playing field. And it’s likely to remain a level playing field for some time, because there’s lots of people that still see the real benefit of, you know, producing stuff in your spare room, you know, and sticking it out on the internet on an RSS feed. And that’s very exciting. That’s something that podcasting hasn’t no one else does. Now, of course, there are an awful lot more podcasts around these days, there are, you know, more than 3 million podcasts available now more than 2 million on Apple and on Spotify. So there’s an awful lot of, of competition, if you like for your ears if you’re launching a new show. And that means that you have to be clever in terms of how you market it, how you tell other people about it, what you do to get people listening and following your particular show. But on the other hand, you know, it’s still a fantastic opportunity. And you can compare it I think, to books and things like that, that anyone can produce a book. Anybody can get a book into a bookshop, actually You know, the all of the systems are set up for that, of course, the large brands, the large offers are always going to get center stage. But that doesn’t mean that smaller, you know, that smaller work doesn’t, doesn’t also get noticed as well. So I think, you know, it’s it’s really interesting and exciting industry because of that.

John Corcoran 25:25

Yeah, it’s interesting, you know, I’m such a huge proponent of doing a podcast, not just listening to them, but also actually doing them yourself. And yeah, I tell people all the time, you know, it’s, it can seem easy to do, but to do it. Well, you know, it takes some more work, it takes some, yeah, forethought, which Yeah, you know, a lot of people jump into it. And it’s a shame when I see someone, do it, not do it well, for six months, get frustrated, and then quit. And I, I feel bad for those people. And I kind of, I’m always sharing wisdom, because I made a lot of mistakes in the first four or five years. And I almost quit myself. And I’m really glad that I didn’t because of all that, you know, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. You know, I would, there’s so many great relationships. So what advice do you have to someone listening to this thinking about starting a podcast? What should they do? What? What are the common mistakes? You see?

James Cridland 26:17

Oh, I think I mean, the number one common mistake, John is that people just sort of research and research and research and not started, get him get a microphone, and then they might get a mixer. And then they might tell I don’t know whether this microphone is right. And then they’ve read something that says that the microphone is wrong. And so they research again, and then they start researching the podcast host and all of that. And before you know it 18 months has gone past and you haven’t started podcasting. And frankly, you haven’t started practicing or learning your trade. That’s the most important thing is just get going. Just open the microphone. And it can be the microphone on your phone if you really wanted to be. But open the microphone, get going make stuff you don’t even have to put it out. But just make stuff and begin to understand what works, what doesn’t. What works in your tone of voice. You know how to structure things. You’ll very quickly know when a podcast has gone well. Or when a podcast hasn’t, you’ll very quickly get feedback. You know if you if you ask for it. So just just getting started, I think is the most important thing. And we forget you know, as you say we we forget that people who are really good at their job. Joe Rogan, for example, I think he does a dreadful podcast, but many people like it. And the reason why he is so big the reason why Spotify bought that podcast for $100 million is partly because Daniel Eck is mad, but also partly because Joe Rogan has been doing that job and being a stand up comic, and being a TV host, and being a commentator and everything else for 15 years, he hasn’t just popped up overnight and started doing an amazing show. So you know, just bearing that in mind, you won’t become an instance podcaster you know, an instantly brilliant podcaster overnight. So it’s a long, slow hole as you get better in your trade as in any business. So that’s, I think the biggest issue, the other one is also wanting to monetize things really, really quickly. And how can I make money out of this, actually, you make money out of this, you know, by in many cases, by being able to talk to people who you wouldn’t be able to in the past by being able to have those relationships by being able to, you know, meet new people. In many cases, that’s how you make money out of your podcast. It’s that branding, for your own personal, you know, your own personal brand, if you like and I think quite a lot of people forget that, you know that that is a quite acceptable way of earning money from what you do and you don’t have to turn around and instantly pepper your ads, pepper your shows full of ads for mattresses or for insurance companies, right? We’re

John Corcoran 29:30

still gonna make five bucks from anyways, is hardly anything. I want to ask you about the technology. You know, there’s there’s so many changes happening in technology. And you know, a lot of clients that come to us come to us because they’re frustrated, they want to do a podcast, but it’s so complicated. It’s still complicated to this day, although it’s gotten easier. It’s still complicated, getting something up in iTunes and you know, all the different platforms. So that’s a big question. that people have. So what changes do you see happening in technology? Or even a better way of asking this is if you could wave a magic wand? And you could, you know, Flash forward a couple years and and podcasting has improved in some dramatic fashion. How would you like to see that change happened? What, what would be a big improvement?

James Cridland 30:21

Well, I mean, I think that there’s two things which are holding the podcast industry back, one of them is Apple, because it is the most complicated thing to get your podcast into Apple podcasts. You know, if you’re getting an ID making sure that that is a fully qualified ID with a credit card, making sure that you then do X, Y, and Zed and you make sure that you log into Apple podcasts Connect, and then you have to wait for a bit and then finally, you you know, you get you get into there, and then the the artwork is the wrong size, and then you have to wait a bit more. And it’s just it takes such a long time to the point where quite a lot of podcast hosts are telling me now that they’re seeing most people not bothering with Apple podcasts anymore. Because it’s just too difficult. And I think that that’s something that, you know, about three or four years ago, it wasn’t the dumb thing to criticize apple and to criticize the fact that they have, that they have, you know, not really invested any time and effort in making this making this business work rather better. And, you know, you are seeing many more people criticizing Apple now, particularly after the rather botched changes that they’ve currently made in terms of how their their new systems work. So I think that’s one thing that really slows podcasters down. And that’s why when you look at the you know, the the amount of podcasts out there, there are over 3 million podcasts out there 1.4 million are hosted on anchor. And anchor is a really simple, straightforward podcasting tool that they’ve built specifically to make it easy and simple. It gets rid of all of that Apple podcasts stuff, the old God hate it, because it’s not doing it right. But they’ve got rid of all of the complicated Apple podcasts stuff, they’ve got rid of all of the complicated, you know, you need this, this piece of software, you need to be encoding at this bit rate, you know, they’ve got rid of all of that stuff. And they’ve just made it easy and simple. And I think more podcast hosts should be learning from that and making things as easy and as simple as they possibly can. And the difficulty is that Apple doesn’t necessarily make that as easy as they could do.

John Corcoran 32:46

The fear, of course, was something like an anchor, it knows that they still have a free model. So what I’m afraid about with something like anchor or other tools that are out there is that they’re just going to shut down one day, and everyone who built their house on rented land is going to be, you know, completely out of luck.

James Cridland 33:06

Yeah, but I would say that the, you know, anchor is owned by Spotify. Spotify has just posted its first profit in a while. So Spotify is making money. So, you know, and I think what anchor, what anchors free model is there for is it’s a very clever play by Spotify, if they use it correctly, of being able to nurture and spot new podcast talent, and be able to go, Oh, look, you know, that particular show is doing really well in terms of downloads, maybe we should sign them on, maybe we should start selling ads in there. Maybe we should, you know, elevate them to being a Spotify original. And so from that point of view, it’s actually it’s a very cheap r&d department for them in terms of content in terms of content incubation. So I think, you know, it’s a very clever plan, a cast, which is a large podcast, advertising company, they have done exactly the same thing. So they have a thing called a cast open, which is a free podcast host, which does exactly the same thing. And if you are spotted in there, then they then they will grab your show and they will go out and sell it. So you know, I think from that point of view, that makes a bunch of sense. There have been lots of podcast hosts in the past who have promised free and have then gone away, but they haven’t necessarily been backed by the same large companies as as anchor is. I mean, there’s a there’s a fantastic podcast company based here in Australia called wash and wash started with this thing which was called forever free. And it was there forever free plan and you could get up to 5000 downloads a month for free forever. And then a couple of years ago, it was changed to 1000 downloads and it was called the A free plan, you can tell what’s going to happen here. And then finally, there forever free plan is no longer forever free and indeed is no longer free, because they don’t have a free plan anymore. And I think, you know, you can certainly see that that’s the way of some of these podcast, free podcast hosts. But yeah, a cast is a large company, they’re not going to, they’re not going to fall back, and nor is Spotify, they’re not going to get rid of anchor either. So I think from that point of view, that’s good.

John Corcoran 35:31

And I promise, if they do, I won’t replay that clip of you saying that.

James Cridland 35:37

I mean, you know, what you can see is that, you know, what one of the problems is, is that, of course, you have therefore, a lot of people who have gone into anchor who’ve tried it, because it’s so easy, and it’s free, who have put out a couple of podcasts, mostly called test, or let’s talk. And, and, and then given up, and, you know, and that’s it, and all of those podcasts, their own all of the podcast apps. And at some point somebody needs, I think, to take her a stiff broom, and have him brush off all of that old stuff out. But that might be Yeah, that might be an interesting conversation. But it is something that we’ll have to do at some point in the future. I

John Corcoran 36:21

mean, even you know, even with anchor, you could argue that there’s still opportunity for in the podcasting space for other companies to come in and help with other challenges people have, because just just creating it, putting it up an anchor, and you know, and iTunes and everything isn’t enough, because you can do that. And then I see lots of anchor shows that aren’t getting any exposure. And then how do you share it on social media? And how do you turn it into micro content, all that kind of stuff. So other companies, I think are tackling those other pieces, but we’re running little short on time. So I want to wrap things up? First, I want to ask you, James. So I’m a big fan of combining content and relationships. So you know, using your content as an excuse to further relationships, people you already have, or as in the case of us, meet new people have a great conversation. So for those who are listening to this and thinking about doing a podcast, what advice do you have for them specifically around how you can use content and network slash relationship building? Yeah, I

James Cridland 37:22

mean, there are a lot of conferences which are actually entirely full of this, it’s entirely full of growing your own network. And, you know, Jordan, Harbinger does a great session on how to how to build a relationship network, how to keep in touch with people, he’s got a complicated set of tools have, you know, when was the last time I spoke to John, you know, I was three, three weeks ago, I should set myself a reminder in my diary for the next week to then make sure that I’m back, get back in contact, you know, etc, etc. So there’s a lot of that kind of stuff that that goes on, I have to say, I found it very interesting from my side, in that I do an audio version of the newsletter that I do. But of course, that’s just me. And it’s just me talking for three minutes. And you can ask your smart speaker for it. And that’s basically it. I started doing a podcast about six months or so ago called Podland. And I do it with a friend of mine called Sam, who’s based in the UK. And that has a lot of interviews in there. They’re very short interviews deliberately so. And that’s been really interesting, because all of a sudden, it’s given me the excuse to ring people and talk to people and ring people who I’ve been writing about and who are already aware of me, but actually talk to them have a better relationship with them? And so that’s been really helpful. And I and so I would certainly say, you know, I would certainly say that it’s a useful tool to grow the relationships that you have, I would also say, you know, as a, as a Brit, and as somebody who, you know, who who has sort of grown up with the British way of doing things, is, you know, we, in British radio, certainly have always had a view that the listener comes first, that the audience comes first. And so I find it, I always find it slightly uncomfortable. When people say that they’re in podcasting, not because of the audience, but but because it’s a good excuse for them to talk to other people. I mean, at the end of the day, obviously, what you need to be doing if you want to make a great successful podcast is to make a great, successful podcast.

John Corcoran 39:40

I’ve got a cure for that, by the way, I feel the same way. But what I say to people all the time is you should do the podcast because it’s valuable for you whether you get a huge following whether you get a few huge audience or not. Hopefully you will. But even if you don’t, it should still be valuable for you to do it. And that’s the way I feel you I hope people listen to it. I’m glad to have listeners. But I would still do it even if no one is listening because I get to meet amazing people like yourself.

James Cridland 40:08

Yeah, yeah. And I, and I guess I’m, I’m kind of there from the other side going, I would like to make sure that as many people as possible, listen to what it is that I do. And you know, and work and, and that I produce a great product for them. And so you know, but it’s just it’s, as you say, it’s a different sort of mindset in terms of how that works. Yeah,

John Corcoran 40:34

yeah. So I want to ask, so two last questions. I’m a big fan of gratitude. So if you look around at your peers, however you want to define that, you know, others in your industry, who do you admire? Who do you respect those out there?

James Cridland 40:50

I think, you know, there’s a bunch of people out there, there’s a bunch of, there’s a bunch of shysters out there, and a bunch of very unpleasant negative people. But they’re also a bunch of people who are, you know, really good at what they do. I might not necessarily agree with them all the time, but really good at what they do, and very, very helpful. There’s a podcast consultant out there called Dave Jackson, who is the nicest man, but also says the most intelligent things around podcasting. And he’s always trying to help people. And, you know, I, you know, I think that there’s, you know, certainly some people out there who are very keen on pointing out how wrong you are and how you should buy their products and everything else. And Dave isn’t one of those people. Dave is one of those people who just genuinely wants to help people. So you know, so I think, you know, he is very bright and clever. I think also, you know, there are a lot of good business people out there. Mark Asquith, who’s the CEO of a, of a podcast host called captivate, which I’m an advisor for he is, you know, one of the cleverest sort of thinkers in terms of where he takes his business and where he moves his business forward. And, you know, and I found, I found working with him very, very rewarding because of that. So, you know, I mean, I think, you know, a lot of this comes back to just thinking and sharing and, and not just being in it for yourself, but actually understanding that, that when you help other people, there’s a real, you know, there’s a real Halo to what, to what you do there.

John Corcoran 42:37

Yeah, absolutely. Which is exactly what you do. So thank you for what you do. Final question. All right. So let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, like the Oscars, the Emmys, you are awarded being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for everything you’ve done up to this point, what we all want to know is, who do you think initially family friends? Who are the colleagues or the friends or the mentors, or the peers or the business partners? Who are the people you would acknowledge in your remarks?

James Cridland 43:01

Yeah, and it’s? And that’s an interesting question, you asked me that before we came on. And I thought, What on earth? Am I going to say? You’re asking me that again. And I’m thinking, Why on earth do I say, I mean, I think, you know, there are a few people is a guy called Steve Taylor, who I once worked for when I was working at a tiny little radio station in the North of England. And, you know, and Steve was working there as there as well. And, you know, he was, you know, he was a lovely man that, that all of a sudden realized that I had moved to London, and he was working at virgin radio, and he said, You should come and, and run our website, and I had not, not run a website not really looked after a team of people that well before, you know, and so, you know, it’s so so people like, Steve are obviously people that give you that, you know, that that opportunity. And obviously, I’m very grateful to him. But I think, you know, lots of different people who have been, who have just sort of kept on nudging me and kept on sort of moving me forward. You know, and far too many to mention, but Steve will be probably quite high in that.

John Corcoran 44:20

Excellent. All right. Well, James, this has been a pleasure. Where can people go to learn more about you connect with you subscribe to Podnews.

James Cridland 44:27

Yeah, well, you should go to the Podnews website, which is podnews.net. Or you can ask your smart speaker to play the latest news from Podnews, podcasting news. So that’s one thing. You should also get my longer form podcast, which is called Podland, which you’ll find in all of your favorite podcast players and Spotify.

John Corcoran 44:49

Excellent. Alright. James, thank you so much. It’s a great pleasure. Thank you, John.

Outro 44:54

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com and while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.