Brighton Future of News blog

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Podcasting with Richard Vobes (live blog) #bfong

with 3 comments

Podcaster Richard Vobes joins Brighton Future of News Group for the November 1 meeting at The Eagle.

Richard started off with a podcast every day until he reached 500 shows and now broadcasts five days a week at www.vobes.com

It’s an entertainment show covering a wide spectrum of subjects.

Richard is an entertainer by profession. He trained at mime school for a year, great for podcasting. It helps the understanding of showmanship.

From working as an entertainer he started writing for children’s television. Yorkshire Television were interested and invited him along to see how they make children’s shows on a budget when he was 18.

He went on to create and star in the Scottish TV children’s show Snug and Cozi, which became very popular. Had a 33 per cent share of the audience after three series. It ended up being shelved by ITV.

After fighting to get more shows on air and finding the doors shut, Richard turned to the internet to reach an audience directly.

He started off with two minute videos released every day, back in the day of 56k modems. But it was exciting for children even though it was tiny and on a minuscule budget.

As it wasn’t working out as well as  he had hoped, Richard decided to continue withaudio because recording doesn’t have the required permissions to film. He came up with the idea of producing the show as an MP3 to download for commuters on trains. Thought it was original and then found that podcasting existed.

He then discovered in 2005 there were only three British podcasts. Richard listened and thought, not good, and having a theatrical and entertainment background he could do better than people waffling into a microphone or swearing and talking inanely.

He built the studio using equipment he had and recruited his daughter to work with him creating the show, which eventually took over his life . Every day a 30 minute show ranging from things in the news, using sources online, but he wanted it to be a bit different. But Richard wanted to be in different places doing different things. He took out a loan and employed his ex-partner to get the opportunity to do different things. Money ran out because it was free.

More people started podcasting. It was quite new and then the media caught on, would it take over from radio? Richard ended up talking about it on Five Live, BBC Southern Counties as podcasting was thought of as a radio replacer.

Did a little advertising online using directories. It was like the early days of CB radios and lots of the podcasters didn’t see further than that. Richard knew he wanted to reach out as an entertainer and wanted everyone to listen to his show, rather than being a tech, geeky kind of show.

Reaching the audience was difficult and it’s difficult to get money.

Richard works creating videos for radio stations, which made him realise how much money you need to build a marketing campaign.  Selling advertising is also difficult as Richard has an international audience. However, he doesn’t have someone to sell the advertising for him.

Richard believes in subscriptions but also in giving stuff away. Can get news from many sources but you can keep elements exclusive. His fans loved him, so he asked if people would be willing to pay.

“It was like I was marching into Poland,” Richard said as he described the outrage.

How do you get funding to create this? Need to be able to finance it.

Now people who said you can’t make money from it are trying to see how they can make money out of subscription.

Richard wasn’t expecting the initial negative reaction to his idea of charging a small amount, but everything on the internet is free, which is what he was fighting against.

However, it works for porn sites, how different is it?  It’s the same thing but something different.

Adam Curry, the podfather, was sponsored by BT, but that isn’t the case anymore. There are advertising systems out there. However, Richard’s listeners like the fact there aren’t any adverts in it.

On the back of doing the podcasts Richard has had three trips to the US paid for. He did a road trip from Chicago, listeners put him up. He podcasted every day. Marked where he went on Google maps. He interviewed Chicago Police, thrusting his microphone left right and centre.

Second tour along the east coast. Didn’t know where he was going to stay, but it was interesting. Listeners were extremely generous.

Power of podcasting was the multimedia extravaganza. He ended up being best man at a listener’s wedding. He did a podcast at the wedding.

The US audience were very generous and open. A US listener has sent him Pete’s Coffee, roasted just a few days ago. He will be trying it on the show tomorrow.

Half the show is about feedback. Richard likes to hear from the audience. If you see them you can bellow. Podcast is removed, you hope people are going to listen to it. Rather than back them up, just listen to the show on the day. It’s fresh bread. Don’t eat it stale. There’s always another show.

People are generous and anytime he is flagging and asks to hear from people and they write to him. Six years of podcasting has become part of his life.

It changes organically. Another podcast he does is not show like. It’s a raw version of Richard. The Naked Englishman’s name came about to see if people would search for it more than the Vobes Show.

NE is simplistic. Vobes Show comes from a beach hut on Worthing Beach.  It sounds like radio with music in the background and little jingles, it’s a show. Naked Englishman is just recording into a MP3 recorder as he talks about his personal life. It’s twice a week. Some people really like it more than the show.

It’s been a tough three years as he had a bug in his eye and now has a glass eye. This comes after three years of pain, corneal replacements. It was great material for the Naked Englishman. It went on for so long people said it was better than a soap. Any trauma in his life is great Naked Englishman fodder.

Now for the future of what Richard is doing, and where it’s going, because the internet has changed so much with everyone having broadband, iplayer etc.

Used to introduce himself as an internet radio station. Sometimes people walked away because they didn’t have the internet. Now most people do. It’s an exciting time.

Wannabes have fizzled out. There’s niche and serious podcasts out there.

Now you can think about the subject you’re interested in and find the podcast, the blog, the Flickr account. It’s an explosion of activity waiting for the next big thing.

Nature of the show is nothing that can be pitched in a direction. It’s lifestyle, it’s difficult to market. Not sure where it’s going, but he has a loyal audience. It’s an intimate relationship using audio. You’re talking to one person at a time.

Tom Coady asks if that’s the secret of good broadcasting? “Yes” says Richard. It is the one to one.

Has met Danny Baker who used to listen, and Richard went to watch him create his show.  Now Richard wants to raise his profile to increase interest in the show and generate income.

Richard gets a great deal of enjoyment out of his show, broadcasting to the world. However, he does get flack.

The show is syndicated out in Spain to 25,000 ex pats. Hospital Radio take it, too. His show has 300-600 audience. He tried a paywall and audience dropped to 100.

Daily show is free. Vobes Vault at £2 a month has special extras.

Richard does everything himself but does have IT help. If he had 2-3,000 it would be nicer financially, but he would need to produce more and leave out the freelance work.

He has tried webcam shows for two hours at a time for six months. Richard used UStream and JustinTV.

Richard has considered doing voice-over work. He would need an agent for this though. His previous experience as an entertainer and working in TV means he doesn’t want to follow the crowd. He would rather try something new.

Has discussed with Dan Thompson about being a podcasting guru, but Richard is more of an entertainer than wanting to explain the RSS feeds to everyone.

Suggestions from the group that Richard could become an expert on a new media. He could position himself as an expert.

Ask the audience how could he make money? Some happy to have advertising. Others not. Some happy to pay.

Mix subscription with advertising, sponsorship or donation. Has had someone drop beer at his house.

Could have two levels of feed ad free and with ads. Has also had it suggested as a shareware idea. After two weeks free, send us £10 for the year.

Asked people to give what it’s worth. Some people send lots, others send little. But need to work out how to grow that.

Used to have a Paypal button with different options to pay.

Raul interested that the show has created a community and community spirit, but there is not a full willingness to pay for the entertainment value of the show.

There was a 10 per cent who would pay, but you need a greater volume to make money. However, people need to listen to know if it’s worth spending the money.

The group is quite interested that people were reluctant to pay £2 a month.

Richard believes it is very simple, and it can seem complicated. RSS is a text file to add to the show. The mechanics, once learnt, are very simple.

Steve vlogs about gardening but would like to understand the audio.

Chie asks about gadgets and the basic software.

Richard produces his MP3 recorder. He can fiddle about with the recording and the big thing is the hosting.

For a start there is Audioboo, a sort of podcast but it’s not what Richard would call a podcast. As Steve suggests it’s more of an audio blog.

There are services that have come and gone for hosting the MP3. Richard has his own server because of the nature of his extreme output. However, he explained WordPress has built-in  audio files. It’s also possible to upload audio once a day to Tumblr.

Some of the key points Richard made to ensure podcasting success were to be entertaining and also to keep to a short time frame. Between 20 and 30 minutes is best, he suggests. He reacts to listeners, so it can be a delayed conversation.

When interviewing people he always uses a microphone. It’s large and looks the business and stores the recording in an SD card. This microphone has helped him get into places as a media person. It’s more effective than using an MP3 player which doesn’t have the red carpet factor.

Richard breaks up the show with music and little jingles. It changes the mood and punctuates each section.

There were a host of questions and lengthy discussion towards the end of the evening. It was a two hour BFONG, one of the longest we have had, but everyone who came along found it very interesting. Hopefully everyone got something out of it.

 

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Written by Sarah Booker Lewis

November 1, 2010 at 7:46 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Well done Sarah, is great to read this blog so soon after the meeting.

    Cathy_Watson

    November 1, 2010 at 10:53 pm

  2. Thanks Cathy. I’ve given it a bit of a tidy. Now I know I can do it.

    Sarah Booker

    November 1, 2010 at 11:06 pm

  3. What a great night! Sorry I had to rush before the end to see the macarravick twins, if you’re interested.

    I have a confession to make. I’m no journalist. I do a lot of blogs, eg http://rococochocolates.com/blog , but feel very humble in the company of you pros – this write up for example is an awesome example of your speed and avoidance of adjectives like awesome.

    Finally the shameless plug: I might be able to advise about vlogging, rss & hosting for writers sans geek credentials 🙂

    One more thing: apologies for all the questions mid talk!

    Also, Richard , if you read this, please get in touch. As I half heartedly promised, I may have a gig for you, plus an idea or two on promo.

    Tom Coady

    November 1, 2010 at 11:22 pm


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