I was a guest on the Irish Times Off Topic podcast yesterday. We chatted about what separates podcasting from broadcast radio, and the future of podcasting as an industry. It was one of those classic situations which emerge in interviews, whether for a job or in the media, where what you’ve prepared doesn’t quite match up to what you’re expected to talk about. Alas, although I’ve been making podcasts for almost a decade, as I don’t actually listen to any Irish shows I was a particularly poor spokesperson for the medium here. There are many many great short Irish radio series available in podcast or streaming format – the latest being Alan Meaney’s ‘Sound Conversations‘ series. There are also some high quality Irish broadcast radio programmes that make themselves available as podcasts. For example Culture File, the RTE Lyric FM show I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to over the last few months. However when it comes to really great, podcast native, Irish shows, I’m in the dark. If you know of any great ones, please mention them in the comments and I’ll do what I can to promote them in future.
Let me race to point out, this isn’t a failure of Irish podcasting – I’m sure great shows are out there. It’s in part to do with the nature of the medium, which although bound to language is fundamentally international. My own tastes are diverse and eccentric enough that the shows I enjoy tend to be geographically and topically electric. It’s also a natural outcome of my own conflicted relationship to Irishness. I’m from here clearly, but it’s an identity that emerges for me only emerges in contrasts – in moments of unbritishness or unamericaness – rather than as a sense of national pride or felt identity. I don’t watch Irish television, enjoy Irish (or indeed any) sports, speak the Irish language or feel a connection to the myths and legends celebrated by the celtic revival. I don’t read Irish newspapers or (despite working in the industry) listen to broadcast radio here. I’m not passing judgement on these things, or replacing them with the shibboleths of another preferred culture. It’s simply that nationalism, whether it be a felt pride of nationhood or the iconography and ritual accompanying it, have never held an interest for me. Perhaps it’s alienation, or merely a poor cultural fit. Either way, don’t take it personally Ireland, it’s not you, it’s me.
I know what you’re thinking – who does this poltroon think he is going on the radio to talk about Irish podcasting? I’d be the first to agree I’m in no position to talk about it. Alas there was a bit of a misunderstanding all round. Irish Times writer Declan Conlan had seen me speak about podcasting earlier this year at the NUJ freelance forum. That event included a matched pair of talks. I spoke about the history and future of podcasting, while Colm Coyne – whose in depth knowledge of Irish radio and media is unimpeachable – spoke about the podcast scene over here. I’m fascinated by podcasting as a medium, and as a variety of forms of spoken word art and entertainment. But given that there was another guest on Off Topic to talk about podcasting in general – Jason Phipps, head of audio with The Guardian – Colm would doubtless have been more able to answer ‘the Irish question’.
Here’s my talk from earlier this year, at the National Union of Journalist’s ‘Freelance Forum’, where I spoke about the commercial viability and future of podcasting.
Here’s Colm Coyne speaking about the Irish side of the well, coin.