Iain MacIntosh is a football journalist and podcaster but primarily he is the CEO of Muddy Knees Media, the podcast production company responsible for The Totally Football Show, The Offside Rule and many more. We sat down with Iain to talk about his life in podcasting as well as some of his favourite shows.
If you could go back to just before you launched Muddy Knees Media and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Ha! The words, “Don’t do it, you absolute tit!” spring immediately to mind. Looking back, I completely underestimated almost everything and had to learn some big lessons on the job. Fortunately, I had the best presenter in the business in James Richardson and the best producer in the business in Ben Green, so the listeners only ever heard a great show right from the start. They had no idea about the panic in the background…
What makes a great podcast guest?
They need a really good answer to the question, “Why are you telling me stuff?” I have no interest in the views of non-experts. I’m very much the anti-Michael Gove on that front. If someone is telling me about French football, I want to know that they are the best possible person who could be telling me about French football. If I want to listen to someone talk about plumbing, then yes, I want that person to be articulate and intelligent and to have a nice voice and all of that stuff, but first and foremost, I need them to really, really know about plumbing.
What makes a great podcast host?
I think there’s a whole range of attributes in play, but likeability is right up there. When you tune in a radio station, you’re tuning in the brand and what it represents; you’re listening to Six Music, for example, for the music and the ethos more than the presenter. But with podcasts, there’s a clear decision to specifically invite the host into your ears, there’s far more intimacy. And you’re not going to invite someone who irritates you. So there’s got to be charisma. I think you also need an enquiring, curious mind, you need to be interested in other people and you need to know when to listen.
What’s been your worst podcast moment?
Way back in 2005, I produced a football podcast pilot for the now defunct football website Icons. It was called ‘A Bit of Fry & Ollie’ and it was a panel/quiz show hosted by Di Stewart with Barry Fry and Ian Holloway. It was absolutely brilliant, but no-one got it at all. I was sending the audio file to magazines and newspapers and they were saying, “It’s really good, but what is it? I don’t get it. When would you listen to it? ” No-one understood what podcasts were at all and it died on the vine. I felt so guilty that we’d spent £3,000 of my boss’s money and got nothing back and I feel even worse now knowing that his hunch was right, that podcasts were going to be a thing and that he was just too early.
What is it about podcasts that appeals to you?
Inherently, I think most podcasts are aspirational. You listen because you want to learn about something. That’s why current affairs, history and self-improvement podcasts do so well, I think. You’re making a decision to say, right, for the next half an hour, I want to know about The Fall of Constantinople, or I want to know about the political situation in Venezuela, or I want to know about the AC Milan side of the early 90s, or I want to cope with my stress better, or I want to learn about running. There’s a sort of targeted listening there that you don’t get with radio.
What annoys you about podcasts/other podcasters?
I don’t want to be bombarded with long presenter reads at the start of the show. I don’t mind pre-roll, because that’s pretty much fitted as standard for all of us. It’s those long, rambling reads at the start. Advertising is crucial to this industry, it empowers little companies like mine and I think that people understand and accept it, but I want some show first! Entertain me for ten minutes, earn my trust and then, sure, try to sell me something. But let me relax into it.
Which one podcast episode of your own means the most to you?
The first Totally Football Show, for sure. I’ll always remember standing in the studio lobby, sweating and trembling, wondering if I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life. I’d burned bridges, lost friends and unless we bagged some advertising, we only had enough start-up money to get us through three months of the season. And then James Richardson sauntered in, cool as you like, with a bag of fancy pastries as if he was off for a walk in the park. We walked in, sat down, the light went on, he took a deep breath and….“Live! And in high infidelity!” And we were off.
Which one podcast episode not of your own means the most to you?
I absolutely loved Forest 404. For one thing, it is exactly the sort of thing that the BBC should be doing; taking risks, being ambitious, being brilliant. But I think it’s also a marker stone for the industry. Look at the stories that can be told now. Look at the talent available. Listen to Forest 404, listen to Blackout. We have come so far from that traditional notion of a podcast being, essentially, four men in a box discuss (insert subject here). This is such an exciting time for the audio industry.
Iain Macintosh is the CEO of Muddy Knees Media. They are the producers of The Totally Football Show, The Offside Rule, The Bradley Wiggins Show by Eurosport and Series Linked (plus loads of other things)