Crowd Network is an audio-on-demand network on a mission to become Europe’s largest podcast network. Founded in September 2020 by x-BBCers Mike Carr, Louise Gwilliam, Steve Jones, Tom Fordyce, the team is now celebrating its first year in business, having created and launched some incredible shows in that time, including Murder in House Two, The Joe Marler Show and We Didn’t Start The Fire. We spoke to the CEO of Crowd Network, Mike Carr, to get the insight on their first year as a new podcast company…
What does Crowd Network consider when taking on a new podcast?
This could take a while, but to distil it right down: is it a unique idea (which can sometimes be hard to find in the podcast world)? What are the resources needed to make it? If it is a partnership, do we want to work with the creator, personality or media company? How committed will they be to the podcast?
At some stage we also look at sponsorship and the revenue potential, but that isn’t always the deciding factor. Essentially, we want each title that Crowd produces to add value to our company and reputation.
Do you like to have constant input throughout the process of producing a podcast, or do you prefer your role to be siloed?
Nothing at Crowd is siloed, everyone has a say and all opinions are valued and considered. From my point of view, I am a creative at heart and the best part of my job as CEO is being involved in idea generation, commissioning and launching. However, the three other founding members of Crowd, Louise Gwilliam, Steve Jones, and Tom Fordyce, are the best content creators and producers in the industry, and they’re supported by a growing team of brilliant talent. I trust them implicitly, so I am happy to take a back seat and get involved when they ask for my advice or input.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in the past year?
Patience is key. It takes time to grow an audience for most podcasts. At Crowd, we are very much focused on creating long term projects and building that loyal community around the show or personality. We took this approach with The Joe Marler Show and The Geraint Thomas Cycling Club, both of which have been very successful. Part of that success is down to Joe and Geraint themselves being fully committed to the long-term vision of the project, and their listeners.
What is something you haven’t managed to do yet, but you would really like to work on?
I would love to make a podcast with Roy Keane. We had a route in to him and pitched an idea. Apparently, the response was short and to the point, so I’m not sure that will happen…
Steve [Jones] and Tom [Fordyce] created That Peter Crouch Podcast, and I reckon a Keane podcast, with the right treatment, could grow even bigger.
Crowd Network’s shows have spanned the Atlantic – from The Geraint Thomas Cycling Club podcast to looking at the American law system in Unaccountable. Have you found there are differences in the way you approach shows – and how they approach you?
We are increasingly making content targeted to the US market. This includes American Vigilante (launched September 13th ) and Anthrax (launching in October), which is based on the Anthrax attacks that followed 9/11. These opportunities arose through the success and quality of Murder in House Two, which charted a 15-year investigation into the Haditha Massacre at the hands of US Marines. It was our first show to win an award, and has opened a lot of doors for us. Every approach is different, and every business model is different. Crowd are not a production house, so the business model must involve shared ownership and revenue. The US market is much more used to this than the UK, which can sometimes be dominated by the commissioning strategy of the BBC.
With our personality shows, with Alan Cumming, Geraint, Joe, and Jamie Redknapp (coming soon) it is about going to them and their team with a compelling idea, a long-term vision, and a way of working which suits their busy careers. Plus, they are all competitive people, so they want it to be the best it can be.
Shows such as The Mentor and Unaccountable were projects we believe could make a difference to people’s lives. Podcasting can be an effective tool to instigate change or at least get people thinking and talking. From the very start, Crowd has been committed to using our platform as a force for good, reflected in many of the series we create.
We try to give people a ‘point of entry’ to help them discover new things. If readers haven’t managed to catch your shows yet, would you say there is one they should absolutely start with?
I am going to give you two, as at Crowd we focus on producing both personality pods and trail blazing documentaries. The Joe Marler Show – presented by rugby player Joe Marler, but no mention of rugby. Joe’s joined by Tom, and each week they speak to a new guest who has a fascinating background or career. Believe me when I say it takes them to completely new places each week – from chatting to a woman who worked on Death Row, hearing from someone who grew up in a cult, to talking to a real-life clown. Joe is an amazing person and was the first person we approached when we launched Crowd. Authentic, funny, and complex. An absolute star. American Vigilante – just go and listen, I promise you will be enthralled by it. It has taken us most of this year to get this show launched. If you want a strap line, it is about the real-life A-Team, but it is so much more than that.