Archive for the ‘Multimedia’ Category

On Publishing Five Hundred Podcasts

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Last Friday saw one of the moments where numbers conspired to mean something. Over on ESC Insight, I posted the five hundredth episode of my Eurovision Song Contest podcast. There was nothing particularly special about the contents, it was a regular episode of ‘ESC Insight News’, covering the last two weeks of news in the world of the Song Contest.

The only concessions to the episode number was a sad party twizzler sound effect at the end of the show, and the subtle use of a Fiat 500 as the key image in the post and shared social images.

And while it is podcast #500 on the RSS feed of ESC Insight, I’ve done more Eurovision podcasts and audio that have been sent down other channels – the podcasts and radio shows for the SBS Eurovision pop-up radio station, the work with Radio Six International, the syndicated radio preview shows each year, and even the commentary work I’ve done have all been part of the audio adventure. These shows are not in the core 500, but they all arose because I podcast about something I love and became one of the ‘go to voices’ in the space.

This is the point where inspirational posts would suggest some grand lessons over the last six years of ESC Insight. I’m not sure there are any, beyond find a passion, keep the quality as high as possible, always ask if you can do more, and say yes to every opportunity you get.

The ESC Insight podcast has taken me on some amazing journeys, from a midnight flight into Yerevan to armed guards blocking my path into Azeri press centres; from commentary booths around the world to talking to TV and Radio executives across Europe and beyond; to be welcomed by a community and to create a new community, it has delivered all that and more.

As for what comes next, I’d highlight podcast #499. This is part of a series called ‘Eurovision Castaways’, where host Ellie Chalkley interviews members of the Song Contest community about their favourite records and finds out more about them. That episode arrived in my podcast player with no input at all from me.

I may have started the Eurovision podcast many years ago, I may still contribute, but the podcast is now something much bigger than just myself, a microphone, and some passion.

Now that personal passion is the shared passion of tens of thousands.

Hollywood Is Ready To Blame Rotten Tomatoes For Everything

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Most people have a good idea how good or bad the summer blockbuster movie season was, and I think most people could agree that the quality was not as high as earlier years. For every ‘Baby Driver‘ there was a ‘Baywatch‘ or ‘King Arthur‘. The big game of Hollywood has always been to not be apportioned blame when the music stops.

So the industry has decided to blame Rotten Tomatoes. Brooke Barnes reports on the scapegoating in the New York Times; from how it averages review scores, how it decides Fresh or Rotten, and how it looks outside the handful of traditional old-school white male reviewers in a handful of national titles:

Some filmmakers complain bitterly that Rotten Tomatoes casts too wide a critical net. The site says it works with some 3,000 critics worldwide, including bloggers and YouTube-based pundits. But should reviewers from Screen Junkies and Punch Drunk Critics really be treated as the equals of those from The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker?

Should they be treated as equals by Rotten Tomatoes? Yes.

Should their views be treated as equal by the public? Probably not, and they probably never have, but now there are more than a handful ofvoices to choose from. Movie fans will grow to love the reviewers they love, understand their quirks and hates, and will be able to decide accordingly. The ability of one person to influence or be influenced is diminished. Once more the internet is subverting the ‘one voice to many listeners’ to ‘many voices for many listeners’ as everyone finds their own tribe.

Attacked by Rotten Tomatoes.

Thriller’s Missing Millions

Friday, September 8th, 2017

It’s accepted that Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ sold over one hundred million copies. But do the numbers add up? A fascinating look at sampling, rounding up, sales tracking, and hype from Bill Wyman at The New Yorker.

Did Jackson sell a billion records, or even seven hundred and fifty million? Sure, “Thriller” sold a lot of copies, but Jackson recorded infrequently, and his later albums sold nowhere near what “Thriller” did. We know from SoundScan figures that Jackson was selling, on average, roughly a million albums a year in the nineteen-nineties and the aughts in the U.S.—and that includes greatest-hits albums, like the four-million-selling “Number Ones.” That’s not nothing, but it’s not the sort of thing that adds up to a billion records over time.

Did Thriller Really Sell A Hundred Million Copies.

I’ll Be Hosting Overnight General Election Results Coverage

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

When the snap General Election was called in May, I wrote at the time that my first thought was about the result. Or at least how to cover the result. It was this.

I need to get behind a microphone to do the results show from 10pm on June 8th.

Since then I’ve been working on how to do just that, from finding studio facilities, co-hosts, guests, statisticians, the odd politician or two, and some broadcast partners. I’m delighted to announce that I will be hosting a General Election Results show on Thursday night… not only will you be able to listen in on lie, you’ll be able to watch as well.

Broadcast Details

Radio Six International (www.radiosix.com) will handle the radio and audio side of things, offering seven hours of coverage to stations across the UK and further afield (get in touch if you are interested in picking up the coverage). You’ll be able to listen to the stream direct from the Radio Six International website, and we go on air at 10pm UK time (2100 GMT).

The National newspaper is providing studio facilities through the night in their Glasgow newsroom, which will allow us to stay on top of the results as they come in through the night. We’ll also be talking to The National’s reporters who will be at the Glasgow and Edinburgh counts for immediate reactions and interviews. Our studio is going to be wired up not just for audio, but also for video, so you can watch the Facebook Live stream which will be shared from its Facebook Page.

During The Show

There’s no way to fully script out seven hours of live broadcasting in such a fluid environment as the results of a General Election. What we do have are a number of elements that we can call on through the night to keep the show going along. It is a UK Election and the first Scottish seat isn’t due up till around 2am, so while our primary story will be about Scotland, it’s not the only story and we will be looking across all of the UK.

Like any good election show we have our spreadsheets, swingometers, fancy graphics and maps to make predictions and help us try to make sense of what is going on. Once more Steve Griffin is dealing with the numbers through the night. The livestream also means we need something visual to show off.

What’s an election show without lots of voices and opinions? Leading our ‘Pundits Corner’ will be Benjamin Howarth bringing different viewpoints and discussion points from all corners of the political spectrum from a hopefully packed sofa of guests through the night.

The National’s Stephen Paton will be watching social media for reactions from the public, and by the nature of Facebook Live, we’ll be able to ask questions of our audience around the world.

The key thing for me in all of this is that we tell the story of the night, and through that we re-tell the story running up to the vote, and where the story is going. After previous overnight Election shows and various Edinburgh Fringe broadcasts, Dan Lentell will be in the co-host chair to keep the focus on the story, with Ross Middleton floor managing all of the different elements.

Get In Touch

It’s still not too late if you want to get involved as part of the show, and of course you can drop me a line (mail me at ewanspence@gmail.com).

And now, back to reading lots of background material….

Planning A New Kind Of UK General Election Results Show – Can You Help?

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Tuesday’s announcement of a General Election in the UK for June 8th caught me a little by surprise and set off a riot of emotions. I tend not to talk about politics too much online, so many of the thoughts I had yesterday are mine, or for friends and family.

But I’ll happily tell you my very first thought, because it’s one you can all help with.

I need to get behind a microphone to do the results show from 10pm on June 8th.”

I’ve anchored a number of overnight election shows on community radio here in Edinburgh since 2010. These have been broadcast out to the capital but also syndicated to other radio stations and streamed online for those in the UK (and beyond) looking for something a bit more rock and roll in their election night coverage.

I am confident I’ll be running an election night show this year. Now I need to get to that point, get a team together, sort out logistics, and all the other little bits and pieces in the way. Time is tight.

Putting The Team Together

The Election Results Show will be a collaborative effort, so I’m looking for people to be involved in the broadcast. The rough plan is have a core hosting team of two or three people working through the night, an ‘experts and pundits panel’ to discuss the results and keep the sparks flying, someone to stay on top of the constituency results and trends, another to watch over social media for a more interactive show, and a tech or two to keep the video and audio streams running.

If one of those roles sounds like something you want to do, get in touch – ewanspence@gmail.com is probably the best way to do so.

Finding Our Temporary Studio

The first order of business – and one that really needs sorting out before the end of April – is the venue. Short of finding a radio studio suite, the show will need a decent sized space for up to 15 people, with tables and chairs, good lighting, and a rock solid internet connection (preferably with a mix of wi-fi and wired access).

My initial thought is that the show will be Edinburgh-based, but as the broadcast will be streamed online I’m open to other locations around the UK, including London.

Other Ways To Support The Show

Obviously there are some costs involved in the show, so I am very much open to partnerships. That could be co-working spaces, start-ups in a ‘broadcast’ space, publishers or other media organisations, sugary energy drink manufacturers, and so on. Again get in touch if this sounds like a contribution you can help with (ewanspence@gmail.com).

At the very least I would love to cover volunteer expenses and potentially the venue hire.

What About A Name?

The Election Results Show’ is functional but not incredibly descriptive. ‘Rock and Roll Results’ suggests musical content, and that’s unlikely to happen. There’ll be a good name that talks about the open nature of the show, the slightly rough at the edges feel, the move away from mainstream media coverage, and the online nature of the show. Right now I can’t think of it. Once more, suggestions welcome.

Over To You

I could do this alone, but it’s going to much more fun with a big group of people. Join me?

The one lesson I learned that The Nightly Show needs to understand

Monday, March 13th, 2017

After the first year of hosting my daily chat show at the Edinburgh Fringe (which is still running thirteen years later), Brian Luff gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have had in my broadcast career. It went something like this:

“I listened to the Fringe podcasts, but now I’ve met you I have to ask… why is the ‘you’ that I see in front of me not in the podcast? I want to spend time with that person.”

You can have the latest names, the greatest guests, and the biggest world-changing ideas, but these will only get people to engage with a show once. If they are going to engage a second time, or become regular viewers, they will only come back if there is something consistent that they want to spend time with. I took Brian’s advice, and came up with a rule that I have relied on ever since…

People come once for a guest, but they stay for the host.

Tonight, ITV will launch the third version of ’The Nightly Show’. The first version launched two weeks ago with David Walliams hosting. The second version launched next week with John Bishop. Tonight’s version belongs to Davina McCall. Next week will be the fourth version with Dermot O’Leary.

There is nothing consistent week to week. The second a viewer starts to get comfortable with a host’s style and decides that they’re happy to spend time with them late at night, the host changes. You can’t start building up a reputation for guests, for games, or for viral videos until the foundation is in place. Choose a host and give them a long run to build a relationship with the audience.

That’s why the US late-night shows are as powerful as they are. Every host has been given the time to settle in to find their own footing and their own audience. Stephen Colbert has taken close to a year to understand ’The Late Show’, Trevor Noah is slowly moving out from under the shadow of Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show’, James Cordon’s routine has evolved over time on ‘Late-Late‘…

I don’t buy the argument that ITV can’t do a daily chat show, but it needs to understand the unique demands of the format does not always line up with the ‘celebrity guest’ culture that has developed in the UK scene over the last two decades. Find a host, find a team, and let them work through the problems for at least a six-month run.

And if you need proof that a long-term commitment will slowly grow into a daily success story… look at ‘The One Show’.

A familiar podcasting voice from MWC

Monday, February 27th, 2017

For those following MWC remotely (or need something to listen to on the hike to the Barcelona gatherings), Rafe Blandford is part of the DigitasLBi UK team who are bringing (hopefully) daily shows now MWC is under way. Start of with the preview that aired over the weekend – listen on Soundcloud – and check there tomorrow for more! 

I thought M*A*S*H answered the laughter-track question in the Eighties?

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Apart from the curious fact that Lucille Ball’s mother is the ‘Wilhelm Scream’ of chuckles on US TV’s canned laughter track, it still surprises me that the debate about whether a laughter track is a good idea continues to this day in America. Anthony Crupi on AdAge is the latest voice:

There’s actually very little research to justify the practice. The last comprehensive study to suggest that a laugh track could precipitate genuine peals of merriment was published in 1974, or a good three years before DeDe Ball chortled her last. A far more recent inquiry into the matter arrived at a different conclusion; a 2011 study of British and Norwegian subjects found that contemporary viewers have all but built up an immunity to laugh tracks, characterizing them as “cheesy” and “manipulative.”

I think there’s much less debate about this in the United Kingdom, and that’s down to BBC 2 airing M*A*S*H in the eighties. As far as I can remember, it was a fixture at 9pm every Wednesday. Someone was smart enough to decide that the audience didn’t need to be told when to laugh and the BBC leaned on Fox to strike new prints with clean audio for the UK audience.

Except one week. One week there was a technical hiccup and it aired in the laughter-fuelled American format. With no Twitter to channel the anger, the only outlet was the weekly ‘Points of View’ show that aired at 8.50pm every Wednesday on BBC 1. That week there was nothing but indignation…

The BBC never aired M*A*S*H with a laughter track again.

Gene Cernan RIP: Speaking To The Last Man On The Moon

Monday, January 16th, 2017

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Gene Cernan died today.

He was the last man to walk on the moon, an astronaut from a time of heroes, a pilot from a time where best friends didn’t come home. He also drew his daughter’s initials in the moon dust. They’re still there…
 
I was very lucky to speak to him in 2014 as he promoted Mark Craig’s documentary/biography ‘Last Man On The Moon.’ 

I’ve posted it above, and I’m going to listen to it again.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

The twenty albums on the first iPod

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Fifteen years after the reveal of the first iPod (with a world changing 5GB of storage), Nobuyyki Hayashi recalls the presentation,the first sample machines handed to journalists (for the flight home), and the twenty hand-picked albums that were loaded up on the iPod.

Of course there was a big push to not ‘steal music’ so alongside the iPod were CD copies of those twenty albums. Hayasi still has them, and it makes for a fascinating playlist.

I love the fact that Jobs and his team included two albums from The Beatles (‘A Hard Day’s Night‘, and ‘Abbey Road‘), a band that would be one of the last groups to appear in digital form in the iTunes Music Store.

A third way to make money from mobile apps

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

First up, I consider Overcast the best mobile podcast clients currently available. Marco Arment’s client has grown over the years and developed almost every feature that I could want. The only trouble he’s had is trying to create a solid income from it. Following the initial one-year subscription model, then a patronage-based model, he’s now looking at a third option:

Ads are the great compromise: money needs to come from somewhere, and the vast majority of people choose free-with-ads over direct payment. Ads need not be a bad thing: when implemented respectfully, all parties can get what they want.

Most podcasts played in Overcast are funded by ads for this reason, and as a podcaster and (occasional) blogger myself, I already make most of my income from ads.

I’m far from the first one to try an ad-supported app — among many others, my co-host on Under The Radar, David Smith, now makes the majority of his App Store income from ads — and it’s unwise to rule out any reasonable business model in today’s App Store.

So I’m trying ads in Overcast: simple, non-animated, mostly-text banners on the main list screens that unobtrusively scroll with the content.

Arment has kept much of discussion over the app’s development and business models on his blog, and I hope that he finds true success with Overcast. Needless to say I’ll be paying the premium to remove apps (I’m so old-school sometimes) and watching the continuing story with interest.

‘The Touch’ becomes ‘Warrior’

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Stan Bush’s career shows the power of a single hit song. Since ‘The Touch’ in 1986 pushed him into pop culture and the hearts of millions of fans, he’s re-iterated the same song style over and over… and over again. And why not? Part of being a creative is realising  when you are in the  middle of ‘a good thing’ and it’s not getting any better.

Because it’s really hard to listen to his latest track ‘Warrior‘ without thinking of his classic.

When Lego Batman beats Superman V Batman

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Scott Mendelson reviews ‘Batman V Superman’ for Forbes:

The best moments of Dawn of Justice resemble nothing less than a feature length adaptation of a series of Alex Ross paintings in all their naturalistic glory. But amid the visual treats is an utter mess of thinly sketched characters, haphazard plotting, surprisingly jumbled action, and “cut your nose to spite your face” world building. It’s not a success either as a stand-alone Man of Steel sequel or a would-be kick-off to the DC Extended Universe, and attempts to insert Batman and his Super Friends do real damage to the story and thus the film. And, my word, this movie is almost a self-parody on “grimdark.”

Which is pretty much in line with every other reviewer I trust. So in a flurry of weak publicity, I find it very curious that Warner Bros release the trailer for ‘The Lego Batman Movie

Did anything exciting happen today?

Yes, computer. Yes, it did. Ben Affleck got pwned by Will Arnett.

Overcast improves my favourite podcast player

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Overcast has been updated to version 2.5. It’s my podcast player of choice and while I wasn’t screaming out for some of the optional extras only open to patrons (a dark theme and ability to upload your own single files) the changes to battery consumption and the sound output are very much welcome.

It’s a free download, but you can make a small one-off payment as a thank you through an in-app payment. Grab it from overcast.fm.

Start-ups, Music, and Copyright Avoidance

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Bas Grasmeyer for Hypebot:

What is needed is a Startup License that lets startups quickly and flexibly license music from the majors and largest indies for a set duration. After this duration, startups would still have to negotiate, but at least they’ve got their products figured out and investors will have a better understanding of what the business is potentially worth. The license should allow startups to opt in or out of territories. If you want to do UK-only, fine. If you want to pay more and do something global, it’s possible. A global startup music license would do tremendous things for innovation in music.

The problem is, it’s not in the interest of a powerful part of the music industry. For one, all of the larger music corporations own shares in music startups. Many of these startups still have to prove themselves, so you can see them as bets by the industry on what’s going to work. If it turns out it doesn’t work, the industry can stop licensing them, let them fail and move on to the next thing. If you want to launch a startup that seems like it undermines one of these bets, you’re going to have a difficult time getting it licensed.

If there’s anyone who can manage a paywall, it’s the music industry. Napster may have snuck through, but once that stable door was closed, nobody else was getting through without permission (or equity).