In this special edition of ’10 minutes with…’, the Mirror’s chief football writer John Cross talks about how podcasts give journalists the flexibility to tell stories they want to share, why episodes from the Qatar World Cup were so well received and who he’d bring on as his fantasy podcast guest…
How did you get into making news brand podcasts?
It’s been over a number of years really. I enjoy podcasts and have been hugely enthusiastic about doing them. In the past, we would do the odd Mirror one but that tended to be a one-off or about a particular game or subject — a Man United special or when Arsene Wenger retired.
More recently, the opportunity increased and we do them regularly, now as a weekly football podcast.
I feel there’s a gap in the market for a really good football podcast. I’m not even sure we’ve nailed it yet! But we’ll keep trying. So many people say to me: “I really miss the Sunday Supplement [the Sky debate show].” I liked that as a podcast. And I don’t feel that gap has been plugged yet.
I listen to a lot of podcasts and I feel there’s an audience there. With our Football Digest podcast, I feel we should promote it, own it and really make it ours.
How does the format help tell the stories you want to tell?
That’s the point for me: it’s all about telling the stories we want to tell. Anyone can have a view on what they’ve seen in a match or a press conference. And so they should!
I feel what we should offer is something behind the scenes. Something we can give through being there. The little insight from a press conference. Something you’ve seen in the tunnel. A little bit of inside info which isn’t always a big story but can be interesting and revealing. I love the detail in any story.
That’s what I want when I listen, an inside track. So often I hear something or know something and I can’t do it as a story. It doesn’t work. But my little chat with someone who said this player might do this etc. It’s so often the nuance and that can be expressed well in a podcast.
What’s the process behind making each episode?
I think the podcast works best when you have a chemistry that comes from a regular panel with a regular presenter.
At the start of each week, we check who is available and our producer — mostly Ned Keating — maps out an agenda, talking points and then sends a link. It feels very straightforward — but that is probably down to him.
What’s been the episode that’s attracted the most engagement from your audience?
Without a doubt, episodes around the World Cup in Qatar. I think it’s been obvious we have been abroad, we are on location and the figures have been good.
It’s strange but there’s often apathy around England coverage. Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal get great figures. The national team doesn’t. But if you get a good talking point, then it drives the show. We had actually stopped doing podcasts using national writers but the podcasts around the World Cup sparked an interest which persuaded people to bring it back.
What’s been your favourite episode to record?
Again, in Qatar. It would often be around the England games. Myself and the Daily Mirror’s chief sports writer Andy Dunn have a great working relationship. I think Andy is terrific. He’s bags of fun and has super energy. I think we bounce off each other well.
Who would be your fantasy podcast guest?
I reckon Jurgen Klopp would be a lot of fun. I think he’s so energetic, he’s passionate, has strong views on politics and is a brilliant football manager. I reckon you could have a beer and a night out with him. What a podcast that would be!