Thursday, 21 February 2013

Podcasts: How mine was made and what I think of it


I like podcasts. They're fun to listen to, are packed full of facts and analysis, are interesting because they tend to go behind the scenes, can be listened to practically anywhere and don't require your full attention.

But what is a podcast, for those of you who don't know?

A podcast is a piece of audio (or video, more recently) that is published periodically in the form of episodes that you can listen to on a particular website and/or download. It's a portmanteau of the words iPod and broadcast, given that the initial success of the podcast 

The Concept

Last year, when I was working, I found out that making podcasts can be fun too. What you see at the top of this post is one of several podcasts made by me when I was working as an editor for a sport website called Sportskeeda.com.

Based in Bangalore, India, this company was looking for ways to expand its reader base and my colleagues and I arrived at the idea of a football podcast, which I had first mentioned to management during my job interview with the company. 

Since the idea of a podcast was quite different from that of print (which was primarily what we dealt with) and videos, it was accepted by everyone rather well. Moreover, it provided us with an opportunity to expand our reader base horizontally (more variety with the same content) that vertically (more content with the same variety).

In fact, so good was its acceptance that a cricket podcast was also conceptualised and created a couple of weeks after the first football podcast was aired.

The Idea

The idea of the podcast came to me around mid-September. 

Christened 'The Footy Mumble' - taking inspiration from The Football Ramble, one of Britain's most successful football podcasts - the Mumble took a pre and post match analysis at the weekend's upcoming games primarily in the English Premier League and at times cast a glance at the Spanish Primera Liga and Europe's cup competitions, the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Super Cup. 

The maiden edition of the podcast is right at the top of this post, while another edition can be found about midway through the post.

We would also shed some light over pertinent issues in football, such as the presence of racism in the sport, the introduction of the much talked about goal line technology and how the Union of European Football Associations' (UEFA) Financial Fair Play (FFP), which would give all clubs a level financial playing field given the recent presence of billionaire owners at football clubs, would effect the game all across Europe.

Our targeted audience being mainly Indian football fans, the idea was for our in-house journalists to voice their opinions on the above topics.

With most podcasts on football originating from either Europe or North America, the plan was to bond with the Indian audience and put them in their comfort zone on the basis of the podcast being produced and hosted by Indians in India.

The Process

The first plan of action was to create a script for the podcast. 

That in itself was pretty easy, since the match previews, results and other issues in football made the script flow quite nicely. 

While that was being scripted, those of us who would be on the podcast were to research facts pertinent to the games that would be or had taken place.

Only those of us who actually had watched the games would speak on episodes which featured post-match analysis.

Normally around 30 minutes long, it was to be divided into two halves, with two - sometimes three - journalists coming in for the first half, with 'substitutions' being made at half time where two or three (depending on the above) would come in to replace those who had spoken during the first half.

This was done with the intention of not keeping the 'pod' - as we called it - monotonous.

We also had a host whose job was to poke us with questions both general (what is your opinion on tomorrow's game between Arsenal and Chelsea?) and specific (Wayne Rooney scored two goals last night for Manchester United at Liverpool. Will he define United's season?) while remaining impartial.

The first couple of podcast recordings took well over an hour to record, because people used to fumble their lines while recording was underway. Since most of what was said was opinion and therefore impromptu, many takes were required to get it right. As people grew more familiar with the process, however, podcasts were wrapped up in around forty minutes.


The tools

One of my intentions with the publication of this post is to show that a podcast can be made with very little financial investment.

Sportskeeda.com was a start-up entrepreneur-based company, which meant investment came from external sources in cycles. I knew therefore that money towards the podcast would not be of a large amount. But that was not my intention anyway.

We recorded the podcast in a storage room where merchandise was kept, off the main office, which shows that a basic podcast doesn't require a recording studio. Our recording device, Windows Sound Recorder with the three (or four) of us sitting around it, giving our views.

Myself and a fellow colleague were the ones held responsible for the editing of the podcast, which was once again done through very simple software, which in this case was Adobe Audition. It took about half an hour to edit the podcast, after which it was uploaded onto SoundCloud, where there existed an official Sportskeeda account.

That was then embedded into an article, published on the site and then shared via Twitter and Facebook.

The entire process took maybe two and a half hours at most and cost the company absolutely nothing.

What could I have done better?

Since this podcast was very basic, on reflection, I could have done a lot more, which would have unfortunately cost money.

Like the Barclays Premier League podcast, we could have invited fans to phone in and fit that into the recording, giving listeners a chance to hear one of their own, increasing the bond between us and our audience base. But that would require a recorder and a telephone jack, since recording off a mobile phone would also record the cellphone signal sounds as well.

One of the biggest elements of a podcast is music. Unfortunately we never had any and although some of my former colleagues did take efforts and produce a sample opening sequence, it was never followed up.

But a cheaper (and nearly free) alternative which I thought of just now while writing this blog post is giving people the number of our Sportskeeda phone line and then recording that off a mobile phone.

Like James Richardson's European Football round-up for The Guardian, we could have taken a look at newspapers and what they said about transfers and what their columnists said about matches, both those that were being played and those that would be played. That would have been free as well. Sources on Twitter could have been used as well.

Talking about new transfers in and out of clubs is always an ear-grabber, and although we did do that to some extent, we could have done more.

With permission from either British football clubs, the Premier League or the football association, we could have gotten a sound byte from some of the Premier League coaches and players. I would suggest some of the other leagues but few people in India know a foreign language apart from English, which was the language the podcast was in anyway. But that would have come with a commercial fee.

It would have also helped to get a few famous personages from India, either via phone or in the studio. Football Fever, the podcast of international football website Goal.com, for example, featured in one of their podcasts former Indian League-winning coach Karim Bencherifa, football columnist Neil Humphries, former BBC World and Real Madrid TV presenter Mayur Bhanji and Malaysian sport channel Astro Sport's executive producer Jason Dasey.

Corporate sponsorship towards the podcast might have helped it bring in funds to the company, thereby promoting its overall growth.

I had considered getting us a subscription to the news aggregating software Burli, but it turned out to be too expensive at the time. 

The podcast was not shared enough, neither was it advertised the right way or given its own spot on the site. But I cannot blame those who were sharing the podcast as they did their utmost to make sure it got views.

Aftermath:

The podcast was a moderate success after its inception. That was expected, since it would grow with time, as do all things. Rome was not built in a day and all that.

But it was put on hiatus around the month of November due to a lack of resources in terms of manpower at the company and I left the company soon afterwards.

Merits and Demerits of the podcast:

Merits:

1.) Increased the horizontal development on the site, giving visitors more variety and expanding the reader base

2.) Came at little or no cost

3.) Was an excellent way to increase the brand name of the site and bond with visitors since the podcast was produced for and by Indians

4.) Made Sportskeeda.com one of the few Indian sport companies to have a podcast catered to the Indian audience.

5.) Did not require a specific recording studio. All that was needed was a quiet room.

6.) Gave birth to a cricket podcast, christened 'Inside Out'.

Demerits:

1.) The potential of the podcast was blunted by the lack of equipment which could have made it better, but would have come at a cost.

2.) We were unable to get quotes from personages which would have surely added depth and quality to the podcast, neither did we get people to phone in and air their views on our topics, which would have helped increase the site to listener bond.

3.) We only spoke about a limited number of topics, which reduced our potential audience base. More topics, such as transfers or the opinions of internationally recognised columnists would have certainly increased both the quality of the content and - as mentioned above - a bigger audience base. Music would have helped there as well.

4.) A corporate endorsement in the podcast would have surely helped in bringing in funds for the company, which would have made it more worthwhile from a business perspective.

5.) We were unable to share the podcast nor promote it enough, thereby reducing the number of listeners it attracted. Had it been given it's own space on the site as well, listeners might have tuned in.


Legal and Ethical Considerations:

1.) Had we decided to follow up on our transfer stories, sharing of information that we received through direct messages or protected accounts on Twitter from reliable sources would have been a breach of confidentiality, leading to a potential legal wrangle. There are many people on Twitter who work at football clubs and tweet news from there covertly, and the discussion of that news may be construed illegal. According to McNae's Essential Law for Journalists (2009), the elements of a breach of confidence are:

  • The information must have the necessary quality of confidence i.e. shared only with those people who were authorised to access this information in the first place, which is usually a small number.
  • The information must have been imparted in circumstances which show the aforementioned loss of confidence.
  • There must be an unauthorised use of that information which is detrimental to the party which first communicated that information.
But the above laws pertain not just to transfer stories, but any information that was generated from a confidential source would have been a legal no-no.

Although the above information has been taken from a book that explains British law, the same holds good for Indian confidentiality agreement laws as well, since they are nearly the same as laws in the UK. The same was enshrined in the Information Technology Act of 2000 (Legal Service India, 2009) and was further analysed in a report published by the European High Commission  titled the Overview of Data Protection Laws in India.

A paper published by the Directorate General Justice, Freedom and Security of the European Union (First Analysis of the Personal Data protection Law in India, 2005) also confirms the same according to Section 72 of the Indian Information Act, 2000. In addition, it says:

"Any person who, in pursuance of any of the powers conferred under this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder, has secured access to any electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material without the consent of the person concerned discloses such electronic record  book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material to any other person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both." (Directorate General Justice, Freedom and Security, 2005)


2.) Had we decided to analyse what a columnist had said, we would have had to ensure that our statements towards said person were not seen in a defamatory way whatsoever.

McNae's Essential Laws for Journalists (2009) says that a defamatory statement is one that tends to:
  • Expose the person to ridicule, contempt or hatred
  • Cause the person to be shunned or avoided
  • Lower the person in the estimation of the right-thinking members of society
  • Disparage the person in his trade, office or profession
The words 'tends to' are very important here, the book says, since the test for defamation is if under the given circumstances of the defamation, "reasonable men and women to whom the publication was made would be likely to understand it in defamatory sense".

This is present in Indian law as well, as mentioned by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution (Civil Defamation: 
Undermining Free Expression, 2009) and is punishable under the Section 499, Chapter XXI of the Indian Penal Code (The Indian Penal Code, 1860: Chapter XXI, on Defamation, 2009).

In relation to the same, law firm Kelly-Warner says that according to Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code:

"Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person" (Defamation Laws In India, 2012).

In the same article, the firm also says that defamation via the internet is punishable for upto three years and a fine according to Article 66A of the Indian Information Technology Act of 2000. 

But social media sites are exempt from the above rule, the site says, as long as said defamation has been caused by third parties and the networking site has only acted as a communicator of the alleged defamation, according to Section 79 of the Indian Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008, which became law in February 2009 (Defamation Laws In India, 2012).

3.) Even if we had mentioned confidential information, we would have had to reveal our sources if asked for the same. 

Although the law guarantees protection of sources, that source then ceases to have the same ability with which to provide us - and the general public - of the information he/she has worked hard to collect.

Clause 14 of the Code of Practice published by the Society of Editors in the UK says that "journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information" (Banks and Hanna, 2009).

In addition, Section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1981 (UK), says that:

"No court may require a person to disclose, nor is any person guilty of contempt of court for refusing to disclose the source of information contained in a publication for which he is responsible unless it is established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime" (Banks and Hanna, 2009).

In India, Section 15(2) of the Press Council of India Act provides protection to a journalist when it comes to revealing his sources, but these are only applicable to proceedings in front of the Press Council. A Court can ask for these sources if it sees fit. (Press Laws Guide, 2011)

But Robin Ackroyd, a freelance journalist who was in the midst of a seven-year legal battle with the UK's National Health Service to reveal his sources over his reporting on a murder case. He ultimately won his case, saying:

“Journalists protect their sources because they have a professional duty of confidence to them. It is not a standpoint we take because we are being difficult or precious. I do not reveal confidential sources of information as an overriding matter of conscience”. (Hudson & Rowlands, 2007)

Never ever use an interview for anything other than its intended purpose. This will come back to bite you in a bad way.

That, in short, is the story of my podcast and the legal and ethical ramifications that go with it. I apologise for the legal mumbo-jumbo being so long, but it was necessary in order to give you all the details of my tryst with podcasting.

Until Next Time,

Peace

Bibliography:

Banks, D. and Hanna, M. (2009) McNae's Essential Law for Journalists. 20th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, p.304-305, 508, 515.

Chawla, M. (n.d.) Overview of Data Protection Laws in India. [e-book] New Delhi: p.1-2. http://www.ehcca.com/presentations/privacysymposium1/steinhoff_2b_h1.pdf [Accessed: 21 Feb 2013].

CRID (2005) First Analysis of the Personal Data protection Law in India. [e-book] Namur: University of Namur. p.28, 30, 32, 35. Available through: European Commission's Directorate General for Justice http://ec.europa.eu/justice/policies/privacy/docs/studies/final_report_india_en.pdf [Accessed: 21 Feb 2013].

Helpline Law: Legal Solution Worldwide (2008) Chapter XXI: Of Defamation, Secton 29. [online] Available at: http://www.helplinelaw.com/docs/THE%20INDIAN%20PENAL%20CODE,%201860/CHAPTER%20XXI%20OF%20DEFAMATION [Accessed: 21 Feb 2013].

Hudson, G., & Rowlands, S. (2007). The Broadcast Journalism Handbook. Harlow: Pearson.

Kelly-Warner Law (2012) Defamation Laws in India. [online] Available at: http://kellywarnerlaw.com/india-defamation-laws/ [Accessed: 21 Feb 2013].

Legal Service India (2009) Breach of Privacy and Confidentiality under Information Technology Act, 2000. [online] Available at: http://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l288-Breach-of-privacy-&-Confidentiality-.html [Accessed: 21 Feb 2013].

Spencer, O. (2009) Civil Defamation: Undermining Free Expression. [e-book] London: Free Word Centre. p.3,5. Available through: Article 19 http://www.article19.org/data/files/medialibrary/1427/civil-defamation.pdf [Accessed: 21 Feb 2013].

The Hoot: Watching Media in the Subcontinent (2011) Press Laws Guide. [online] Available at: http://www.thehoot.org/web/home/cyber2.php?cid=51&sid=6295 [Accessed: 21 Feb 2013].

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