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.