Some thoughts on two years of podcasting

I wrapped up the second season of the Public Procurement Podcast last week with a special episode where the guest was yours truly, interviewed by Albert-Sanchez Graells about contracts below-thresholds, centralisation of procurement and Brexit. After 32 episodes, it is time for a look back to these two years of podcasting. Before that, a heartfelt thank you to all interviewees and to the British Academy which made the PPP possible.


1. There's a big market out there for audio content

It was a pleasant surprise for me to see the size of the market for podcasts on a niche topic like public procurement. The PPP averaged 2,000 hits to the podcast feed which translates in a decent number of downloads every month - how decent it's impossible to say as SquareSpace's podcast analytics are quite poor. As for visits to the website itself, the average is 200-250/month around one third of this blog. Again, not too shabby for a side project.

I suspect one of the reasons for the continued increase in the number of downloads and visits to the Public Procurement Podcast is the network effect arising from the promotion of each episode's guest. Even with overlap, each interviewee had a slightly different network and on the long run that helps growing the audience for the show. 

Another reason for the good audience numbers (particularly the website itself) is due to publication in full of interview transcripts. It really helps with search engines like Google.


2. Podcasting leads to unexpected benefits

For me, podcasting provides a number of tangible benefits. First, it increases my network of professional contacts and keeps me up-to-date with developments not only in my field but also associated areas. In these times of "interdisciplinary research or perish" those contacts may be very helpful on the long run.  

Second, it allows for serendipity to occur. It is no surprise then, that from the podcast/ECR conference came out a fully fledged research project that was submitted for funding 3 weeks ago - composed exclusively by Early Career Researchers as defined by the British Academy. 

In addition, I am collaborating with some of my interviewees on research ideas and submitted an expression of interest for a large grant which benefited from the advice and help from a current holder of a grant from that programme.


3. Securing interviews is still the hard part

I have been running podcasts (on and off) since 2008 and one of the things that has not changed is the difficulty in securing interviews and get them done. Finding time from busy people when you're busy yourself is quite complicated. It does not help that my personal situation changed significantly in the last 13 months or so. A baby in the house meant no office and the likelihood of unexpected disruption as we all saw a couple of weeks ago live on the BBC.

 "Why don't you do them on your office in the University?" That would have worked if not for the jet engine noise of the building's AC, which sits right outside my window. A room averaging 70-72db is not conducive to audio recordings.

If there is something I would have liked to do have done differently is to get a research assistance to secure the interviews and manage the interview slots as that took a lot more of my time than I had anticipated. Lesson learned!


4. Technology has made it easier than the past, but there's room for improvement

As for the recording of the actual interviews, technology has improved significantly since I started almost a decade ago. We're on the cusp of being able to record just with a web browser and a microphone using services like Zencastr and even the editing/post-processing can be mostly automated. But we're not there just yet and those browser based solutions do not work with mobile devices such as iPhones or iPads. If and when that happens then most technical difficulties will really be abstracted away.


5. What's next for the PPP?

For now, the PPP is on ice. On the one hand, I have mostly drained the pool of Early Career Researchers working in public procurement and interested/available to be interviewed. A few interviews fell to the wayside for multiple reasons (see 2 above), but not enough to warrant a new season.

Having said all that, there are a couple alternatives worth exploring. One, would be to secure some "no strings attached" funding so that I could interview a broader swathe of people. I suspect £1,000-1,500 would be enough to record another 12 episode season, which at one per month ensures a steady drip of new content. If you're interested in sponsoring, drop me a line.

The second option is more grant based funding. As it happens, the PPP was included for funding on a larger project so we may end up having a special series with a few (3/4) episodes a year about that particular project. Time will tell.




Interview with Francesco Decarolis about reputation and corruption in public procurement

Episode #31 of the best (and only?) podcast about public procurement is up. This time the interviewee is Francesco Decarolis from the Einaudi Centre for Economics and Finance and we spent some quality time talking about reputation and corruption in public procurement, including how a contracting authority nudged contractors to take their reputation more seriously.

Francesco was awarded a coveted ERC Starting Grant and will be doing in depth research in this area for the next few years.

New Public Procurement Podcast episode is up

Podcast #30 of the Public Procurement Podcast is up on the usual place. This time, the interviewee is Niels Uenk, part-time Researcher at the Public Procurement Research Centre a joint interdisciplinary research centre of the universities of Utrecht and Twente. Before joining academia Niels worked 5 years as international consultant in supply chain and logistics optimization. He specialises in public procurement of long term / social health care services.

New episode of the Public Procurement Podcast is up

I have just uploaded episode #24 of the Public Procurement Podcast. The interviewee this time is Warren Smith, Director of Warren Smith, Director, Digital Marketplace part of the Government Digital Service.

We talked at length about the changes in digital procurement the UK Government is curently undertaking, some that already happened and others which will be happening in the future like the adoption of the Open Contracting Data Standard.

You can subscribe to the PPP directly on iTunes.

Public Procurement Podcast is back!


I have just uploaded episode 21 of the Public Procurement Podcast, interviewing Petra Ferk (Graduate School of Government and European Studies) to the PPP website. We talked at length about electronic procurement in the EU, particularly the current legal framework introduced by Directive 2014/24/EU.

This is the first episode of the second season and I will be posting a new one every two weeks except for August. Next on the line is Willem Janssen from Utrecht University. 

The show is available for subscription on iTunes, and if you want to give it a helping hand please consider rating it there.

Season 2 of the Public Procurement Podcast is coming

TheBritish Academy was kind enough to release some follow up funding for my British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award, making a second season of the Public Procurement Podcast possible.

Not much is changing for season 2. Episodes will last around 30 minutes and the whole season is again 20 episodes long, with new releases every two weeks from early May onwards. As with season one, the focus is again on early career researchers in public procurement with interesting research to tell the world. I am actively looking for interviewees in areas other than law and regulation this time around, so if you're interested to be interviewed or suggesting a colleague, please get in touch.

PS: Speaking of the Rising Star Engagement Award, this year's cohort is looking excellent and I am delighted to see esteemed colleagues like Amy Ludlow (interviewed here for the PPP) and Yseult Marique as award holders.

Links I Liked [Public Procurement]

1. The first season of the Public Procurement Podcast is almost over and interview #19 with Stephan Litschig is now up. The final interview will go live later this week.

2. A good post mortem of the Coalition's Government "SME friendly" public procurement policy. Interesting analysis from Stephen Allot who was the Crown Representative for SMEs. Full of praise for G-Cloud and another example how moving procurement online actual makes life easier for SMEs (as I have argued for many years). On G-Cloud SMEs win 50% of the business (!).

3. 18F Launches Acquisition Innovation Pilot. Looks like (yet another) great idea by 18F and another example how procurement can be done differently in this day and age. Looks like a refined version of what I piloted back in 2011-13 with Welsh local authorities.

4. Tech trends and the future of local waste services. Plenty of scope to use data to improve wast management and thus, procurement.

5. White House Seeks Feedback on GitHub for Government-Wide Open Source Software Policy.

Last day to apply for the Early Career Researcher Public Procurement Conference (March 4th, London)

We will be holding a one day conference for Early Career Researcher Public Procurement Conference at the Centre for Transnational Legal Studies in London on March 4th. 10 Early Career Researchers will have the opportunity to present their research on a non-threatening environment, benefiting from presenting at a leading international conference early in their career and getting expert commentary on their research. We are looking for promising researchers passionate about public procurement irrespective of discipline and interested in engaging with a non-specialist audience.

In addition, the conference will include a ‘speed-dating’ mentoring session in the afternoon, allowing for the beneficiaries to expand their personal networks and helping the development of their career plans. Participants are also invited to take part in the dinner that evening.

Thanks to the British Academy Rising Star Engagement award and the kind facilities offer by the Centre for Transnational Legal Studies it is be possible to reimburse travel costs (up to a maximum of £350), offer one night accommodation and also the dinner on the night of March 4th.

The call for proposals is open at the Public Procurement Podcast website until today.

We already have some confirmed appearances. In addition to myself, Dr. Albert Sanchez-GraellsDr. Ama Eyo and Professor Roberto Caranta will also be taking part. I will be confirming further names in the next few weeks.

In case you are not an Early Career Researcher and would like to attend the conference, drop us a line as we will have limited spaces available.

Two new interviews available on the Public Procurement Podcast

Forgot to announce that episodes #9 and #10 are already up on the Public Procurement Podcast website. Oops.

On episode #9 I talk with Dr. Franco Peirone (University of Piemonte Orientale) about corruption in public procurement and how the US and the EU went down different paths on their fight against corruption.

The interviewee on #10 is Dr. Ramona Apostol (Corvers Procurement Services) with public procurement of innovation as the key topic of our chat.

#11 will go live next week and the guest for that one is Abby Semple from Procurement Analysis.

Right on time for the weekend. Oh, and if you missed any of the previous episodes, maybe subscribing the PPP on iTunes is best solution.

Links I Liked [Public Procurement]

1. One more PPP episode is out. This time with Marta Andrecka from Aarhus University where we talk at length about framework agreements and how they are being used in the UK and Denmark. This is episode 8 of 20 and as usual, many thanks to the British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award for making it possible. By the way, the 2016 call is now open.

2. Albert fired a broadside against my arguments in favour of public contract registries. He remains unconvinced by my arguments and has provide further food for thought. I need a few days to prepare my re-rebuttal, but my argument of price arbitrage does not refer to a single price only for each good/service being acquired (which is impossible to achieve in public procurement) but to a reduction in the current arbitrage levels enabled by the lack of price transparency. In other words, whereas achieving the single price is impossible, extracting more efficiency by reducing arbitrage does not look to me as farfetched.

3. Navarra regional Government has a plan (in Spanish). To help SMEs that is. You will see nothing but good words on my part about standardisation of procedures as long as they are done by the minimum common denominator (i.e., basic) instead of full of complexity as it appears to be the traditional approach. On the negative side, Navarra claims that environmental and social policies will help SMEs and my money is on the opposite: the more complexity that is introduced into a system the more difficult life is for smaller companies.

4. Why Can't Startup Companies Get US Government Contracts? Another of my pet peeves. Great to see an outlet like VICE covering procurement. Directly connected with one my next research projects.

5. How the car industry hid its software behind the DMCA. Not directly about procurement, but ever more relevant and cautionary as more and more software permeates goods and services bought by public bodies. I partially regret having pushed so hard against IP staying in the public sector hands in the run up to Directive 2014/24/EU. Blogpost on this should follow on the next couple of days. More here.

Links I Liked [Public Procurement]

1. New podcast available, this time with Mihaly Fazekas from the University of Cambridge. Great talk about corruption in public procurement and new strategies on how to detect it.

2. Albert wrote an excellent post on the risks of central contracts registries. Sitting on the other sited of the argument I fundamentally disagree with his premise, but he raises important points that need to be taken into account when designing these systems. We need to be aware of the trade offs imposed by contract registries. Hopefully I will have the time this week to lay down the arguments for the opposite position.

3. Netherlands wants to replace OpenXML (Microsoft standard) with ODF (open source document standard). It will be interesting to see how this one pans out. ODF is an unencumbered open source standard that Microsoft keeps not supporting well on Microsoft Office.

4. Sweden tightens procurement labour rules (allegedly). Andrea Sundstrand who I interviewed for the PPP a while back says there is nothing new in here.

5. David Cameron promises fresh shakeup of public services. We'll see how this ends.

Public Procurement Podcast episodes #3 and #4 available

Two new episodes of my Public Procurement Podcast are now up. 

In episode #3 I interview Frank Brunetta, the Canadian Procurement Ombudsman where we talk at length about his work as Ombudsman and what EU Member States could learn from his experience. He does have a lot experience indeed!

For episode #4 I interviewed Amy Ludlow from the University of Cambridge. Excellent and engaging chat about the implications of labour law in public procurement. Most of our discussion was about her experience doing empirical research within a privatised public prison in Birmingham.

You can now also subscribe to the podcast directly on iTunes or any similar podcast management system.

Episode #5 will go up in two weeks.

Links I Liked [Public Procurement]

1. Getting rid of PQQs has unintended consequences as same questions are now asked in full tender. I was about to file this on the "hogwash & bullshit" file as ConstructionLine has a vested interest here, but changed my mind after thinking about it . As I have argued before the UK's pathological love affair with PQQs is a symptom (high barriers at the start to weed out potential suppliers, controlling the suppliers going forward and reducing workload) and not the cause. The problem is cultural and of capacity, but it can be solved as evidenced here. Central Government tackled the PQQ symptom instead of the cultural cause.

2. Apparently I am big in Poland. Thank you Witold for the interview!

3. New York City is looking for innovations in public procurement (fibre optics it seems). I am sucker for competitions like this but always wonder about IP rights...

4. More info about the blockchain, particularly in finance.

5. Episode #2 of the Public Procurement Podcast is out. Excellent talk with Claire Methven O'Brien from the Danish Institute of Human Rights.

New project: Public Procurement Podcast


I hinted over the last few months that I was about to launch a new project. Time to take the wraps out of the Public Procurement Podcast (PPP). Episode #1 with the usual suspect Dr. Albert Sanchez Graells is up and #2 will go on air tomorrow (Dr. Claire Methven O'Brien from the Danish Institute of Human Rights).

What can you expect from the PPP?

20 relaxed interviews about interesting public procurement topics with people that have something important to say. We are trying to go for a style that is easily accessible by lay persons so drop me a line if you think the show is still too jargon-infused for your taste. I am focused mostly on interviewing early career academics but there will be a few shows with heavyweights thrown in there for good measure. Oh, and we have transcripts too.

This project is graciously supported by the British Academy Rising Star Engagement Awards, without whose support it would not have been possible to make happen. Oh, and the support made a conference possible too. Thank you!