Podcasting – Part 8: 20 questions in 20 minutes with Wikishuffle



I’ve rambled enough in my podcasting series so far, sharing only my opinion with you. It’s about time you heard from someone much better than I am at this whole new media malarky.

Specifically, that would be Jack Stewart, Chris Wallace and Phil Sharman, probably better known together as the trio behind the weekly comedy podcast, ‘Wikishuffle‘, whose show I recommended in part 3 of this series.

In September this year, they became the first ever show to win ‘Best Comedy Podcast’ at the inaugural UK Podcaster Awards. The ceremony took place during the two-day New Media Europe conference in Manchester, with around 300 participants in attendance.

Earlier this month, I caught up with Chris and Phil at their studio in Kettering to ask them about their experience of winning the award, about their ambitions for the show, and to find out their take on the ever growing popularity of podcasts.

Check out the YouTube video below to see how their ’20 questions in 20 minutes’ interview went.

Podcasting – Part 7: The interview


Over the past few weeks, I’ve interviewed a few people for various University assignments. I interviewed folk like the secretary for the Kennel Club and the Junior Vice President at the British Veterinary Association, as well as a local dance instructor and a cheerleader team captain.

In the past, I’ve helped Failed Critics colleagues draft questions for interviews with film director Jessica Cameron and actor Ryan Kiser, as well as film producer Jonathan Sothcott.

However, this weekend was the first time that I have ever been interviewed about Failed Critics!

Podcasts Are The Best, a fantastic blog by Andrew Jacobs, asks various people involved in podcasting a series of tailored questions about their show. Steve and I (from Failed Critics) were lucky enough to be allowed to waffle on about our show on Andrew’s website.

Here’s a sample of one of the questions that we were asked and our response:

Do you have a preference as far as DVDs/Blu-Rays vs. digital/streaming? If so, which one and why?

OWEN: I have a massive ego, so of course, I love it when people come over to my house and see my DVD and Blu-Ray collection on the shelves in my living room! But honestly, streaming is the future. The other week, I was stuck at Uni with a couple of hours to kill, so I opened Netflix on my phone and watched Re-Animator. Depending on your internet connection, the picture quality is very rarely noticeably different too. The fact that more often than not, computers aren’t even made with disc drives these days, I just can’t see the format lasting for many more years. It’ll be all digital within the next decade.

STEVE: Not overly. Streaming is far more cost effective, so that’s how I watch most films now but any “special” film, I have to buy on Blu-Ray/DVD.

Want to know how Steve and I met, what our influences were, as well as which episodes have been our favourite to produce so far? Then you better read the full interview!

Podcasting – bonus entry: Responding to constructive criticism


One thing that I always try to stress the importance of in podcasting is taking on board constructive criticism. I’m not referring to somebody saying your podcast is a load of crap, but when somebody offers you an invaluable piece of feedback that helps you shape your output to suit your audience, then why on Earth would you ignore it?

We had some feedback very recently for a new concept we tried over at Failed Critics. Some of it was very positive, which is always nice to hear! Even though there have been over 190 episodes in total (including a few minisodes that we created earlier this year) and found a format that we’re comfortable to repeat often, we do occasionally like to play with new ideas. For example, earlier this week, we released a podcast that you can listen to whilst watching the cult 90’s found-footage horror, The Blair Witch Project. Kind of like a fan commentary, if you will.

What I hope to do in this article, continuing my ‘podcasting‘ series, is to show you some feedback that we received on that latest podcast – and how I responded to it.

It came from one of our regular listeners who has always been brilliant for us in terms of providing quality, useful and informative feedback. I’ve anonymised it, although it was originally posted on a public forum.

Anyway, I hope that you can see how much value I place on criticism and that it emphasises just how useful the right kind of comment can be.

Apologies in advance for some of the shorthand and abbreviations!


I got about 40mins into it before sacking it off tbh

Movie commentary pods are tricky, some count you down to them starting to watch so when they are pointing out specific things in the film you’re watching on screen the same thing they are

I have never done this, so wasn’t bothered that you were not just talking continually about what you were seeing however you made hardly any reference at all to what scenes were unfolding or significant beats.

That was a conscious decision not to constantly refer to what was on screen all the time. When it makes sense to, we mention it (for example, for laughs (like the Del Boy and AIDs ridden Clark Kent line), or the reason some pictures are in colour, others in b&w, and the significance of this in terms of how it changes your perspective on each scene between professional/personal) but the prior agreement was that we wanted it to be more conversational. We’re fans of the movie, chatting about the movie, whilst it’s playing in the background. Rather than pretending like we’re two producers, one director and one writer etc.

So it did come across a bit under prepared, that you hoped the film itself would trigger discussion as you went along, rather than pre-empt (from notes made from earlier viewing) that something about to happen visual/sound wise was significant

Hmm I see your point, but there’s a couple of things I should clarify, I think.

Firstly, probably most obviously, Brooker, Matt and Steve were unprepared because they only found out what film we were watching not long before we, well.. watched it. I recorded their reactions when I revealed to them that we’d be watching Blair Witch, then they had about 15-20 minutes to scan for stuff. We already had an agenda sorted so it wasn’t pod-prep, just reminding themselves about it (checking IMDb, Wikipedia, Letterboxd and so on).

I don’t think that was properly clarified in the intro, but was on the website blurb that I’m not sure anyone ever reads! They have all seen the film before though and I thought we had a good range of “loves it” (Matt), “doesn’t care” (Steve) and “hates it” (Brooker).

TBF, if it didn’t work, then it’s my bad and so I apologise. Lesson learned. Steve did press me for the name of the film that morning but I wanted it to be kept secret. I won’t do that again!

Secondly, I prepared the s**t out of it and I’m a bit gutted that it doesn’t come across in the final podcast. I watched the film twice in the two days before watching it again during recording – 3 times in total! Once properly, once with the DVD commentary and I even rewatched the Curse of the Blair Witch documentary. I had about 2 pages of notes about stuff I thought significant or interesting and threw them in either at the same points the 3 producers and 2 directors/writers did on the actual commentary if it was stuff they mentioned, or just everything else whenever I thought it appropriate.

Also, the thing is, as you probably know if you’ve seen the film before, a lot of what happens in Blair Witch is almost entirely in the last 15 minutes. It’s a lot of build up, suspense building, atmosphere and foreboding before then so that’s when we decided to get out all of our material about how we reacted to the film when we first saw it, what we think of it now, all the “did you know [this]” and “did you know [that]”s.

A lot of the DVD commentaries that I’ve listened to (Day of the Dead is a good one, as is the Predator commentary and surprisingly the X-Men: The Last Stand too (because it’s hilarious listening to the people who made the film struggle to understand anything about it)) they’re almost always full of tangents and anecdotes inspired by the production of the film. I’ve listened to a fan commentary on YouTube before, probably when the idea was first suggested, but can’t remember what film it was. All I remember is thinking how boring it was to listen to someone say for every f*****g scene “this is an example of how the camera angle / colour palette / framing / etc suggests that the scene was constructed in a way to show how this thing means that so and so feels such and such blah blah f*****g blah”. I really wanted to avoid that, which is why we skirt around constantly saying what’s on screen.

I appreciate it was not an ideal film to talk about the cast’s previous roles, but what I did hear didn’t talk about future roles any of the cast or production staff went onto (a common topic of “pod commentary”) maybe that was in the second half?

I guess it must’ve been in the latter part of the film? We did talk about what happened to the cast after BWP. Not really much about the crew – in fact, one of the things I regretted afterwards when I listened back to it was we didn’t actually mention the co-directors by name at all. Seemed a huge misstep. But we definitely did mention future roles and the like.

Will make a note to include it earlier on in the film commentary in future should we do it again if that’s what people are interested in hearing about. Thanks.

No mention where the film had drawn on stylings of previous films in the genre (horror/suspense), what worked or didn’t in your opinions. You could easily have made more about on reflection how obvious the staging was or how the budget controls must have limited choices/decisions.

Good point. Don’t really have an answer for you for this! It felt like we all had quite a lot to say about the film though. We were conscious that with it being audio and probably more people listening without watching along at the same time, we didn’t want to have long pauses in the conversation. I mean, I literally didn’t edit any of the conversation – as I normally would during a regular podcast to cut down on the erms and gaps and so on – and it seemed like we were struggling to cram everything in, never mind worried about dead air.

Maybe it’s something to do with the length of the film? It’s only 80 minutes (the podcast ended up being in total one of our shortest for about 6 or 7 weeks) and we were all trying to make sure the silence was minimal…

I like the variety of the theme as a special I think the movie choice didn’t help, should have gone with something like Evil Dead 1 for low budget but lots of depth to discuss

Funny you should mention that! I’m sure it was suggested way back when we first thought up the idea of doing this style of pod. Ghostbusters, Predator, Jurassic Park, Evil Dead, and so on. We decided to focus on something cult-y, with lots of trivia behind it that we know like the back of our hand. Maybe I was a bit arrogant and picked a film I liked and that I knew a lot about, but didn’t fully consider that the others might not necessarily.

But I do think there’s a lot of depth to Blair Witch and was sure we got most of that across amongst our personal experiences with the film. But it’s hard to tell when you’re sitting on the other side of the microphone sometimes. I think I’ve mentioned before; some of the episodes I’ve really liked have gone down like a lead balloon and then suddenly others will be hugely popular. Shows what I know!

Oh and 4 is too many people for a commentary

Gonna have to disagree there, buddy. I’m not sure I can think of any commentaries off the top of my head with less than 4 people on them.

Perhaps the confusion here is in the word “commentary”. It suggests insider knowledge from someone involved with the film or with enough credibility to talk about a movie from a technical standpoint. What we do (and what we’ve always done) is try to be like sitting around with mates in the pub and chatting about films. Jackson Tyler on the pod once remarked “I thought this was a film podcast?” when we light-heartedly fobbed off some heavy critique of his about some kids film or other, and Steve aptly responded: “Nope, we’re a podcast about films.” Seems only minor but I do think there’s a crucial difference. I mean who the f**k are we to talk so comprehensively about a film? We don’t make films, we don’t work in the industry, we’re not academically or otherwise trained to assess movies. I think at best Steve is a [sports reporter], Callum’s a film student, Brooker is a writer/reviewer, Paul’s family owned cinemas, Matt worked in a cinema.. erm.. that’s it I guess so far as professionalism goes! We just watch a lot of the bloody things – and enjoy doing it. And I don’t think anybody listens to us for any other reason than that.

Sorry that was a roundabout way of me saying that it’s more of a “watch along” than a “commentary”.

And sorry for the huge post. All I wanted to do was clear it up for anyone who might’ve been thinking the same things, rather than go all weirdly cringeworthy and defensive.

Podcasting – Part 5: How I do it


To round off this series, I thought it would be quite nice to give you a quick overview of how each of the weekly podcasts that we release through Failed Critics actually gets made, from the first preparation stages through to the moment we send it off into the ether.

I’ll get the boring origins bit out of the way quickly, I promise. The name Failed Critics is hopefully not too accurate about our team, but is in fact a pun. There are far too many attributable quotes out there for me to name just one, but it’s often said that critics are failed artists, writers, film makers, etc. Therefore, we are the failed critics. Get it? Good.

We have a website updated almost daily with new written articles, alongside our weekly entertainment podcast.

As I choose to organise and block-book guests for the podcast quarterly, the first stage of the process is to take a look through the film calendar (filmdates.co.uk usually does the trick) and see what’s coming out over the next three months. I add all of the titles to a big spreadsheet and line up the dates for when we’ll be recording.

It’s then important to look at what anniversaries might be coming up in that period in case we need to theme that particular podcast. For example, is it Christmas? Halloween? The Academy Awards? Is there a film festival going on? Is it the first day of the summer period, and thus the first of our Summer Blockbuster previews? They’re all important to tally with the new cinema releases, especially when the films out during that week look terrible. Although we have a core number of subscribers, our download numbers spike when we’re discussing a popular film, such as Skyfall, Jurassic World, Godzilla, etc.

Next, I have to actually book the guests to appear on our show, of course. Included in that quarter’s email newsletter that I write, I invite the recipients to participate in the podcast by replying to me, listing the five episodes on the schedule that they are most interested in appearing on. I then decide who appears on which episode, ensuring no more than two guests (excluding me and our host Steve Norman) are on at a time. If there’s any more than that, it can get confusing for listeners with everyone talking at the same time.

Once every episode has been scheduled, with the guests all booked in, it’s a case of simply watching whatever films are out that week and preparing notes. I also need to keep an eye out for any related film news (for which Twitter is an invaluable tool) prior to emailing around an agenda to everyone ahead of the recording date.

As we record the episodes over Skype (using software called Pamela) and not together in person, there are no rooms or studios that need to be booked – thank God! We all meet up online at 9pm on a Monday, run through the items on the agenda and for approximately 90-120 minutes, recording everything.

As easy as it would make my life to just publish whatever the raw audio sounds like, unfortunately it’s not as simple as that. For every 90 minutes that we record, it has to be edited down – usually to about 70-80 minutes. ‘Erm’, ‘uhm’, ‘ah’, long pauses, distorted audio, mistakes, failed jokes (we all make them!) or simply just “bad bits” that didn’t work; they all have to be trimmed. Oppositely, all of our jingles, opening theme and closing credits have to be inserted using Audacity.

Once the audio file is ready, all that’s left is to write the accompanying blurb giving our subscribers some idea of what’s in the episode, before uploading it to our podcast hosts (Acast). Lastly I publicise it through our various social media channels.

It takes about ten hours per week to make sure an episode is at a standard that I’m happy with. Sometimes, if I have time, I’ll appear on other people’s podcasts too. Below are five podcasts that I’ve either recorded and edited, or just taken part in. I hope you enjoy them!

If you have any questions about any part of the process, if you’ve enjoyed the series, or even if you’re looking to start up your own podcast and simply want some advice, please leave me a comment below.

Failed Critics Podcast – Corridor of Praise: Danny Dyer – Earlier this year over at Failed Critics, we talked to film producer Jonathan Sothcott and stand up comedian James Mullinger about the career of British actor Danny Dyer. It became our most popular episode ever.

Failed Critics Podcast: Panning Pan, Suffering Suffragette and Walking The Walk – Guests Andrew Brooker and Callum Petch joined us to talk through a number of new film releases recently, as well as discussing a few other movies and TV shows that we had seen.

Black Hole Classics #2 – 2001: A Space Odyssey – I talked to Tony Black about one of the greatest films of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece, released in 1968 (one year before the moon landing).

Black Hole Cinema – Episode 35 – I was invited onto Black Hole Cinema to discuss Everest, which had just come out in the cinemas here.

The Failed Black Wikishuffle Hole Quizcast – In a special episode, Failed Critics competed against Black Hole Cinema and Wikishuffle in a quiz-show style format for a bit of fun.

Podcasting – Part 4: Does anyone know the way to… podcaster

IMG_20151018_123526Perhaps this is the point in the series that I should point out my bias.

I’d consider myself to be a few things (yeah, yeah, keep it to yourself) such as a husband, a writer, a trainee journalist and – one of the things I’m most proud of – a podcaster.

Not a lot of people really know what that means. A ‘podcaster’ in its most basic form can probably be interpreted as: “someone who records audio conversations and releases them as an MP3 file.”

If you ask Google to define the word ‘podcaster’, it returns a description of what the word ‘podcast’ means:

podcast is a form of digital media that consists of an episodic series of audio or digital radio, subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device.

Therefore, I think it’s safe to assume then that a ‘podcaster’ is somebody who creates digital audio media that can be downloaded or streamed. You don’t have to be a professional – you don’t even have to be any good at it, I guess! But you do have to actually do it.

If you delve a bit deeper into it, it might then surprise people to know that producing a podcast – good or bad – takes up a lot of time.

In my case, producing the weekly Failed Critics film podcast, that’s time spent scheduling guests, drafting written agendas, researching film news, (unsurprisingly) actually watching the films we’ll be discussing, preparing notes and reviews for discussion, distributing preview screeners amongst the group when necessary, editing the recorded audio, publishing and promoting it. All of which is done for free and it’s not uncommon for it to take around 10 hours per week.

I was lucky enough to inherit a website and podcast in 2013 that already had most of the heavy lifting done for me. For others, it shouldn’t be taken for granted just how difficult it is to get a new series off the ground and grow it to a high enough standard and listenership that the creator deems enough to continue devoting so much time to.

However, it is a moniker that provides me with an enormous amount of satisfaction. Owen Hughes, podcaster. To me, it’s a term that expresses a wide variety of skills and knowledge.

What does it mean to others…? Well, it’s hard to know for certain. Ten years ago, it probably meant something completely different. It was a word that came with a certain assumption that you knew what you were doing.

However, if you’ve ever subscribed to a random selection of podcasts recommended to you in iTunes, you’ll realise that isn’t necessarily the case any more. It’s full of podcasters just giving it a go. Trying it out for themselves. And that’s a good thing.

With 17% of Americans over 12 years old listening to podcasts (that’s over 46 million people without even considering the wider international audience) and with that figure growing exponentially year on year, at least these days you can assume that the majority of people you meet will know broadly what a podcaster is. Even if they don’t know exactly what that entails…

In my final part of this series, which will be published tomorrow, I’ll try to give an insight into more background detail on what goes into creating an episode of our podcast.

Below are three relatively new podcasts that – if things all work out as planned – will hopefully go on to be very successful. So far, so good!

The Adam Buxton Podcast – Remember how in part one I said that Adam & Joe were basically the reason I started listening to podcasts in the first place? Well, thankfully Adam Buxton is back with a brand new solo series. Up to episode five, featuring conversations with guests like Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux, it’s utterly absorbing and highly recommended.

Pick A Flick – A simple premise: the audience ‘pick’ the ‘flick’ that the contributors to that episode talk about. It’s still very early days at just three episodes in, but knowing the shows creators like I do, I’m confident it will be a fun hour or so spent in their company every week.

My Dad Wrote A Porno – Each week, Jamie Morton reads out a chapter from a porno that his dad wrote called ‘Belinda Blinked’. Yep. Just take a listen to the trailer to see why the first four episodes have quickly become essential listening for podcast fans.

Failed Critics Podcast: The Crimson Halloween Beasts



All of you that have never listened before and have seen your family die [from laughing], huh, you now have something that stands for you! That would be the Failed Critics Podcast: Halloween special.

OK, so it is a couple of weeks early, but think of all that extra time we’ve given you to source the incredible horror movies from a whole host of different decades that we discuss during our spooktacular (urrgghhhh sorry) triple bill. With picks by hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes, and guests Carole Petts and Phil Sharman, there’s plenty for you sink your fangs into (aahhhhhh sorry sorry sorry).

Before all that, we begin as we always do – with a quiz! Steve is in control of the questions and still 2-1 up after last week’s disaster (get it?) leaving Owen teetering on the edge of being handed a potentially diabolical booby prize should he be unable to prevent a joint Carole and Phil triumph. Perhaps regardless of whatever film might await either Owen or Steve, nothing could truly be more distressing than the news that a Die Hard prequel has gone into production. Still, at least there’s the London Film Festival round-up and Godzilla vs King Kong news to discuss, eh?

We even found time to sneak in a couple of new releases alongside our main triple bill feature. With reviews of Guilermo Del Toro’s latest visual gothic tale in Crimson Peak, and the very first Netflix original movie, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, there was plenty to talk about in this week’s episode.

Join us again next week for DE NE- NEEERRRR, DE NE- NERRRR, DE, DE NER NER NERRRR… 007 is back for his longest outing yet with the release of SPECTRE.



Podcasting – Part 3: It’s you against the world, kid

IMG_20151018_123526Podcasts are more popular now than they have ever been before. Not just in terms of the amount subscribers, but also the number that are produced all the time. The dust has settled and they have found their place in the modern zeitgeist.

It’s no longer only a gimmick employed by news outlets, or struggling professional bodies believing they’re down with the kids by producing 5 minute audio bites of their latest product development meeting. Snooze.

You, I, him, her, them; we all have a means of producing our own shows and a number of ways to produce them.

Are you a professional looking to expand your audience or increase your brand? A hobbyist with an insight into a particular field? A fan of a particular TV show? Do you have something to say about a certain sport? Believe you can be funnier than the supposed comedy already on offer?

It doesn’t matter what, if you want to, you can get your voice heard and be a part of the movement. And there’ll never be a better time than now.

Coinciding with the rise in popularity and sophistication of social media, the hardest part of producing a show is never going to get any easier. People are never shy about sharing their opinion through Facebook and Twitter, but that’s nothing to be frightened of. Without constructive feedback, you won’t know how to improve or learn about what you’re doing wrong.

It’s also a great method for finding your own voice. Interact with other podcasters from similar fields and genres, see what they do and how they do it. Take advantage of the experience of others in networks like the UK Podcasters group on Facebook or listen to the Acast trailers to get an idea of how to present your show. And don’t be afraid to mess up. It’ll happen, nobody is perfect first time, but you’ll find podcast audiences generally have more patience than you may expect.

In part four of this series, I’ll try to explain a little bit more about how to define what exactly a “podcaster” is.

Below are three indie podcasts that I listen to. I believe they showcase just how bloody good a self-produced podcast can be. You don’t need to have dozens of sponsors, or backing from a news or media provider. Just take a listen to see what I mean.

Wikishuffle – Three chums of mine get together every week to hit the random article button on Wikipedia and discuss whatever comes up. It’s such a fantastic yet simple idea and has just won best comedy podcast at the UK Podcaster Awards.

The Explosive Alan Podcast – A sporadic games podcast that’s produced by a video production company (winners of the Games Media Awards 2015) that is always full of laughs and interesting discussion.

Reel Spoilers – Keep away if you absolutely hate having films spoiled for you, otherwise this movie podcast with a bunch of guys sat around a table discussing new releases every week will keep you thoroughly entertained.