From football to knitting: the rise of the Scottish podcast

Podcasting has become popular with all ages as the technology required becomes cheaper and easier to use. Picture: JP Resell
Podcasting has become popular with all ages as the technology required becomes cheaper and easier to use. Picture: JP Resell
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It’s a format made popular by the likes of Ricky Gervais and Mark Kemode that competes with traditional radio programmes for listeners.

Podcasts are an ubiquitous part of the digital media revolution, with an estimated 115,000 regularly available for download in the English language alone.

They cover almost every topic imaginable, from film criticism to the rules of croquet.

Now a scholarship is offering assistance to students in Scotland to help them learn the skills required to make their own attention-grabbing production.

The winner will receive funding, pro-level recording equipment and a year’s worth of online hosting to ensure their finished programmes are easily available to potential listeners around the world.

The competition is organised by Dundee-based tech firm The Podcast Host, and aims to encourage more youngsters to learn the kinds of transferable skills - from audio editing to presenting - that are essential to good podcasting.

“The number of podcasts available has been growing steadily since we started the business in 2012,” said director Colin Gray.

“The technology has become much easier to use, meaning people of all ages can try it out. Apps on smartphones mean listeners can subscribe to shows at the touch of a button.

“People have become accustomed to picking and choosing what they watch or listen to in their spare time. TV streaming services such as Netflix are challenging scheduled programming, and that process is happening with radio.

“When you’re in the car, you don’t have to listen to the same old DJs.

“You know have more choice - you can choose to stream programmes about niche hobbies, sports, you name it. There’s even a popular Scottish podcast on knitting.

“It’s the on-demand aspect of podcasting that’s really driving its popularity.”

Among the most popular podcasts in Scotland are, unsurprisingly, those dedicated to sport and football in particular.

But what sets them apart from traditional sports broadcasting is many of those involved are young and have little or no previous media experience.

The Terrace, which was first produced by a group of Napier students in 2007, has evolved to become essential listening for fans looking for an alternative take on the Scottish game.

“I had been listening for podcasts for years and always thought it would be much harder to do than it actually is,” said Terrace contributor Duncan McKay.

“We’re now recording two pods a week with an iPhone and a dictaphone app. You press record and away you go.

“Because podcasting is very much a pull medium, you don’t tend to stumble upon podcasts by accident.

But conversely because people have to seek it out they have a real affinity and bond with The Terrace which is brilliant.

“We started a Patreon campaign this season to help us buy online highlights from the clubs where listeners chip in around £3 a month and they get bonus podcasts. We were blown away by the demand. None of us get paid for doing the podcast. It’s a labour of love, but one that’s absolutely worth it.”

Gray believes there is huge potential for growth in podcast audiences in Scotland.

“We’re still a bit behind the US, where the format is more established and there’s a lot of great shows being produced,” he said.

“It’s a medium we’re passionate about and one we want more people, particularly in Scotland, to become involved with.”

The scholarship competition is open to any student studying in Scotland. Entry forms can be found on the Podcast Host website.