What does it mean to produce a podcast? The Pod Bible gang wanted to bring podcast producers out from their editing bays and research caves to tell you why they’re passionate about creating podcasts. Today, we’re meeting Tom Fordyce, Creative Director and in-house presenter at Crowd Network...
I hear that the Crowd Network team jokingly call you the Podfather! And you’ve certainly been a creative force on some of the biggest shows like We Didn’t Start The Fire. What do you consider when taking on a new podcast job?
The really great ideas for podcasts always grip you straight away. You might only hear a line or two about it, but you just know it’ll work. When we first started discussing We Didn’t Start the Fire, I thought, this is either insanity or genius. And as soon as your brain starts working it out – “hang on, this is a history pod, but it’s also a number one song, and it’s got almost 120 places, events and people wrapped up inside it, and hang on again, this is all the reasons why the world today is as it is…” you just know it’s going to work, and you know that you’re going to love doing it.
You’ve been a co-presenter for several popular podcasts – the Joe Marler Show, The Geraint Thomas Cycling Club, Peter Crouch and others – how do you bring out the best in the host?
I always think my job is to bring out the best in the host. I need to know all their stories, understand what makes them laugh, and steer us to the point where they are at their most relaxed, entertaining and insightful. And while all those you mention have become excellent – and very natural – broadcasters – they’re also elite sports people first. I will never be an elite sports performer first; I’m been broadcasting and writing across the same period of time. So I should be doing what I’m good at to liberate them to do what they’re so good at.
The Geraint Thomas Cycling Club (GTCC) has recently reached 1million downloads, congratulations! Take us back to the start of the podcast, how did it all come about?
Geraint and I have been mates for a while, working together on his series of books. He’s got the special combination of being a world-class sportsman while also remaining completely down to earth, capable of giving those of outside the bubble sensational insights into what it’s really like while maintaining the same fans’ perspective as us at the same time. We knew the format would work – Geraint talking to fellow cycling heroes, around big topics and big insights – but we wanted to make it more than a podcast, too. A community around the chats, a real club that you felt part of as a listener and contributed to. Our GTCC members aren’t just a passive audience; they make the club what it is – running the social side, meeting up for rides and coffees, recommending reading lists and playlists.
GTCC has also launched a proper cycling club so that listeners of the show can connect with other listeners outside of the podcast. What would you say is the trick to creating a community that exists outside of a podcast?
I’d almost say “trick” is the opposite of it all. It all has to be genuine. The best podcasts are little complete worlds of their own, with their own language, and jokes, and references. And they aren’t just three people in a room, or four; they’re all the people who listen – their stories, their ideas, their interests and sense of humour. The three (or four) people in a room are just the most visible part of it. With the GTCC, we have a group ride each Wednesday evening on Zwift, the indoor cycling app. We might be physically scattered across the world, but come 6pm, we’re all there together – all in GTCC kit, all asking how our weeks have been, discussing the latest ep of the pod, encouraging each other to keep going and then telling some terrible jokes. We do similar things with the Joe Marler Show, with a particular focus around mental health issues. Basically we all try to look after each other. It’s a lovely thing to be part of.
What is something you haven’t managed to do yet, but you would really like to work on?
Good question… There are more podcasts than ever before, but there is always room for the great idea. There’s certain things we always ask ourselves at Crowd Network when we’re thinking about new shows: is this trailblazing, is it inclusive, does it represent the best that a pod can be, in that area? It goes back to what we were saying with the ideas that you hear and just go, yep. That’s the one. That’s a beauty. I’ve really enjoyed helping to develop Crowd Stories, where we try to make high-end, immersive documentaries. That’s a new challenge for me, and it’s been fun. So has working with the team we have at Crowd, and growing it. They’re a talented bunch, making great shows. Something fresh, something original, something you can’t wait to tell people about. Those are always the ones you have to do.