How Did The Creators Of ‘The Football Ramble’ Build The World’s Biggest Independent Football Podcast?

The Football Ramble hosts have been entertaining and informing Premier League fans for a decade – but how did they build their audience and retain their credibility while being commercially successful?

RISING How did you build your podcast brand – did you start out with a clear vision? LUKE MOORE, PODCAST HOST ‘With our first show The Football Ramble, we started it way back in 2007 where it was difficult to have a long-term vision for a podcast, so that grew totally organically, but our subsequent shows On The Continent (which covers European football) and The Luke and Pete Show (which is more of an informal general interest show about the weird and wonderful world around us) definitely did and do still have a clear vision. I think it definitely helps to have a clear, concise vision of what you want to do and why.’ [See The Football Ramble’s 5 Top Tips For Growing An Audience at the end of this feature, ED]

You have to take a good amount of criticism – the internet is a pretty unforgiving place

RISING You hit the top of the iTunes chart, but what has been the most challenging aspect of getting to where you are now? LM ‘It takes a lot of hard work to deliver consistently good shows several times a week, so all the preparation is there to make sure the shows themselves sound as natural as possible. It's like doing anything worthwhile, it takes work and doesn't come easily. For the majority of this time we’ve had full time jobs alongside the podcasts, so dedication and commitment to get there and make it happen after a long day at work was absolutely imperative.’

‘You also have to take a good amount of criticism and accept there will be people out there that don’t like or care for the show you’re making. We all know what the internet is like; a pretty unforgiving place. You have to reconcile yourselves with that, and that can take time.’

RISING How have podcasts changed in the ten years you’ve been running? LM ‘There are more of them, there is a greater understanding of what podcasts are and can offer, and I would say that the level of professionalism has increased with bigger media companies becoming more formally involved. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're all interesting, just that they're well made. In 2017, everyone now knows what a podcast is, which is great.’

RISING Podcasts seem to reward a more long-term approach – has that been the case with you? LM ‘I would agree with that, yes. Podcasting is an extension of radio, and radio is all about building a relationship or a friendship with your listeners. It can take time to develop that trust and settle on an engaging format. But like any worthwhile friendship it takes time to get to know each other. Our audience is as committed to us as we are to them and it’s a great feeling to have it work both ways.

We’ve never missed a show – that means every single week during the football season since 2009

RISING In terms of compelling content, what would your top three pieces of advice be for someone starting a podcast? LM ‘Always keep the listener at the centre of what you do, and make sure you're doing it to entertain or inform them and not just yourself. Make sure you commit to a regular show so listeners have an appointment to listen, and overall be yourself. Listeners can hear through the act.’

‘We’ve never missed a show, so that means every single week during the football season since 2009 (when we moved from fortnightly to weekly) we’ve made and released The Football Ramble, without exception. Get yourself in a position where your audience can rely on you and they’ll appreciate it.’

RISING The Football Ramble has managed to raise revenue – was that your ultimate goal and how hard is it to balance the commercial with the content? LM ‘I wouldn't say it was initially our 'ultimate goal' but we're a professional outfit and so we all have roofs to keep over our heads, and lives to lead, so it has inevitably become important. It's not hugely difficult to balance commercial with creative – all of our sponsors want to work with us for what we are and not for what they can turn us into. There are general red lines that come along with working with sponsors but that's no different to any other media, and they're rarely prohibitive. Commercial and creative work best together when each area knows their expertise and doesn’t try to encroach on the other.’

RISING How do you pick the topics to cover and do you use listener feedback to fine tune things? LM ‘We follow our noses to a large extent. After a while you can start to develop an understanding of what will go over well with the audience of each show and we always encourage feedback from listeners as well as inviting them to get involved in correspondence sections. The Luke and Pete Show is hugely listener-led, so we spend a lot of our time telling listeners’ stories. A community feel is a must.’

‘At the same time with something like The Football Ramble it’s not possible to cover everything – there’s just too much happening and so we need to prioritise. Generally we’ll go with the stuff that we feel we can bring the most value to. We’re not a breaking news show, so we have no pressure to find the big lead story of the day.’

People listening want to have a good time – learning something new, or being made to laugh

RISING What’s been the most surprising reaction you’ve ever had to a podcast? LM ‘We tend to get a good reaction when we make people laugh, or anger them, or cut through the bullshit of other media companies. It's important to not be sensationalist for the sake of it though, you don't want to be chasing those reactions, they should come as a natural by product of a good show or segment. People listening want to have a good time, whether that's through learning something new, or being made to laugh. That's what'll get you the positive reaction.’

‘We tend to always receive a good reaction when we pore over England being knocked out of a major tournament and assess what we think went wrong. So look forward to another one of of those in Russia in June! It would be great to have a positive reaction from listeners to our coverage of England actually winning the World Cup but I won’t be holding my breath for that…'

RISING How do you know when you’re getting it right and how do you keep building your audience? LM ‘If it feels right it usually is, and the key to building an audience is patience. You're not going to become a podcasting star overnight, you have to learn your craft and commit to it. You have to genuinely be interested in people and events and be inspired by having a chance to comment on them and add to the conversation. There needs to be a reason, a niche as to why people are going to listen to your show. And ‘getting it right’ usually boils down to a brilliant execution of a great idea.’

WHAT NEXT? Want to start your own podcast? Then you’ll need ‘The Football Ramble’s Five Top Tips For Growing A Podcast Audience’:

  1. ‘Settle on what you think is a brilliant idea. If your team all think it is, the chances are other people will too.’
  2. ‘Concentrate on your execution – how’s it going to sound? Have a fully formed vision for what your show actually is beyond the initial idea stage.’
  3. ‘Commit to making the podcast regularly, give people an appointment to listen. Don’t let your audience down by being flaky.’
  4. ‘Revel in the making of it, enjoy it. Make it something you love to do.’
  5. Learn from your mistakes, turn the lens in on yourselves and commit to trying to improve.

You can listen to The Football Ramble podcast via the Acast app or platform and buy the book on Amazon

Follow the writer on Twitter