Why podcasts are taking over World Cup 2018

This World Cup was always going to be a breakthrough for something. Such events always are: some sort of technology always comes to the fore in a way that it hadn’t up until that point.

It’s too early to tell what it is this time around just yet. Virtual reality has been part of the BBC’s output this year, though the lack of mainstream uptake of VR headsets probably meant that particular technology is still a bit gimmicky – even if the Beeb are doing a great job of delivering it, even to those without headsets.

Then there’s social media, which has been integral to the coverage once again, but you could hardly call this a breakthrough World Cup for something which is already a massive part of our lives.

So maybe the real star so far is podcasts.

Whilst podcasting has been around for well over a decade, and even though there has been a sharp rise in popularity over the last 18 months or so, this is the first World Cup they’ve really taken over.

Four years ago in Brazil, the landscape was completely different. This time around all of the major publishers appear to have daily podcasts rounding up World Cup action.

There has been a massive feat of podcasting during this World Cup with ITV and BBC Five Live producing daily (or almost-daily) podcasts, alongside the other big players in the podcasting space – the likes of The Guardian’s Football Weekly (Football Daily for the duration of the tournament) and the Totally Football Show, set up by Iain Macintosh just under a year ago and presented by James Richardson.

That means there’s a tonne of choice – but perhaps too much. With new episodes available within a couple of hours of the last game of the day, most listeners will likely be tuning in during their daily commute the next morning, and that means saturation of the market is a real problem.

Anyone selling football during a World Cup is likely to find that this is a problem of course. But podcasts are not short clips that you can watch at your leisure, they’re 30-60 minutes of chat. The beauty is that they fit quite perfectly into the trips to and from work, but the problem arrives when you’re faced with four in-depth podcasts in your player app every morning.

This might be where the Totally Football show has an advantage.

Instead of being the podcast arm of a massive publisher or broadcaster, the fact that the pod’s social channels have only one thing to worry about – rather than a whole host of articles, videos and other types of content – means that they can make the release of their newest podcast more of an event, with a build-up, a launch and some snippets afterwards.

ITV are taking a similar line, though, promoting their podcast in the same fashion with snippets of the podcast available on Twitter, providing a free sample for potential listeners.

It’s a bit different for the big newspapers, who produce well-known football podcasts, too. Each of the ones below have turned their output into daily podcasts covering the game, but they also have lots of other content to promote and can’t just let the official account become the dedicated podcast account.

The Guardian, The Independent and The Times each have similar problems in that regard, but they all have incredibly popular podcasts with dedicated listener bases and journalists with large followings to rely on to promote on social media.

Podcasts are a growing medium for sports publishers and the fact that so many of the biggest newspapers in the UK media have latched onto daily audio offerings for this World Cup tells you something. Ahead of the start of the new Premier League season in August, we’ll only see more arriving in our podcast apps.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 709 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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