Weekly episodes to download on iTunes, Audioboom and thecyclingpodcast.com.
The Cycling Podcast is a weekly show analysing the world of professional cycling that I present with fellow freelance journalists Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe.
So, what is a podcast? Put simply, it’s radio-on-demand. Our podcasts are generally between 35 and 50 minutes long and the format is similar to a talk radio show. One of the things I enjoy most about the medium is its flexibility. During the Tour de France our shows take on the feel of a travelogue as we follow the race, speaking to riders and managers in the start village before each stage, getting the perspective of journalists from other countries and then dissecting the day’s events over a demi-pression at a café near the press room.
My first forays into podcasting came when Jack Thurston invited me to be an occasional guest on The Bike Show in around about 2009. I’d contributed to BBC radio and TalkSport frequently, usually whenever a doping scandal cropped up and always as a specialist journalist trying to give context to a mainstream audience but The Bike Show enabled me to talk in more depth.
One of my travelling companions at the 2012 Tour de France was Richard Moore, who had experimented with the medium in 2008 and 2009, recording short episodes at the Tour with Daniel and Ellis Bacon. After the opening couple of days in Liege, Richard reached for his iPhone and suggested we discuss the action so far. Part of the joy of covering the Tour is discussing the race with colleagues as it unfolds and the story shifts and changes direction. Over the years there have been plenty of lively discussions based on the gossip and rumour gathered in the start village but which rarely saw the light of day in print, partly for legal reasons but also because the Tour changes so rapidly that interesting sideshows get swept away in the avalanche of interesting stories.
Those early recordings were pretty rough around the edges but we had found an outlet that allowed us to dissect a race in a way we had been unable to before. We could be informal and conversational, which is often a better way to tackle tricky, nuanced subjects than the harsh black and white of the written word.
Often our episodes were recorded over dinner and usually included our colleague Edward Pickering, who was then deputy editor of Cycle Sport magazine. Amazingly, despite the unsophisticated production values, we picked up an audience over the course of that Tour and, by the end, were broadcasting to a number in the low thousands.
2013: The Cycling Podcast is born
In the run-up to the 2013 Tour de France, Richard suggested trying to find a sponsor for the podcast. One of the first companies we approached, Sharp, agreed to sponsor us and so the Humans Invent Cycling Podcast was born. Humans Invent was an official Sharp blog that looked at technological innovations, not just in sport but in business and particular audio and visual media. Sharp also co-sponsored the Garmin professional cycling team.
We signed up Daniel Friebe and The Cycling Podcast as we now know it was born. Our daily episodes during the Tour were more ambitious than before. The daily discussion of the day’s stage was still at the core of each show but we added interviews with riders and other key people working on the race and invited journalists from around the world to add their perspective too. By the end of the Tour, we had trebled the size of our audience and were frequently in the top three places in the iTunes sports chart.
When the Tour finished, people contacted us on Twitter asking us to carry on and Sharp agreed to continue their sponsorship to allow us to produce a weekly episode.
2014: The Telegraph Cycling Podcast, supported by Jaguar
In 2014, our relationship with Sharp came to an amicable end. We were very grateful to them for getting the podcast off the ground but it was time to move on. We joined forces with The Telegraph and, for the Tour de France, we were sponsored by Jaguar. Our audience grew rapidly and over the course of 2014 we had 1.7million individual downloads. We covered more races and had exclusive interviews with Dave Brailsford, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish, Sean Kelly and Chris Hoy along the way. Special guests included Ned Boulting from ITV, Orla Chennaoui from Sky and the staff from VeloNews in the United States.
2015: Launching the Friends of the Podcast scheme
As the media landscape has changed almost beyond recognition, so expectations have altered. People can now watch, read and listen to so much content for free that it masks the fact that producing all this material still costs money. The Cycling Podcast’s costs have risen to the point that they are not covered by sponsorship. Richard, Daniel and I are freelance journalists, which means that if we do not work, we do not earn. Whenever the podcast does not have a sponsor, those costs are being met out of our pockets. When we have a sponsor, those costs are reimbursed and, hopefully, allow us to put enough in the pot to keep things going for another few months.
Over the winter, we considered almost every conceivable model to generate the income necessary to keep the podcast going but our priority was to keep the regular episodes free for all. We decided on the Friends of the Podcast scheme, which offers subscribers an additional 11 special episodes – one per month from February to December – for a one-off £5 charge. The idea is that each of the special episodes stands alone and, hopefully, stands the test of time in that February’s special will still be an entertaining, informative listen for a subscriber who signs up in October.
The team behind the podcast
It wouldn’t be possible to produce the podcast without a growing team of people whose expertise puts our show on the air. Jon Moonie was our first editor and he has been joined by Paul Scoins, Alexandra Adey and Jonathan Rowe in the production department.
A behind-the-scenes look at The Cycling Podcast by blogger The Jersey Pocket.