James Carroll reviews Second Captains World Service and speaks to the show’s Ken Early about podcasts, politics, and plans for the future.
On 13 February, Ireland’s cult sports programme Second Captains announced they were launching the brand new Second Captains World Service.
The Second Captains podcast started in collaboration with The Irish Times in 2013, and quickly became one of Ireland’s most popular podcasts when it won iTunes podcast of the year 2014.
Their new development, Second Captains World Service, is an independent, member-led online station that allows you to listen to all your favourite Second Captains podcasts.
However, ‘member led’ means that listening to their daily programmes now comes at a cost of €5 per month.
About the lads
The group worked at Newstalk for eight years until they left the broadcaster in 2013. They then went to work with The Irish Times, creating the Second Captains podcast.
The podcast, which has been running for nearly four years, has a following of over 200,000 on Soundcloud. Nearly 800 episodes were available for free download during this time, with new programmes released every Monday and Thursday.
“I feel advertising agencies don’t have the same kind of respect for podcasts. Loads of people listen to podcasts now, that’s just a technological fact of life now.”
“Lots of people listen to podcasts now, it’s a technological fact of life.”
Ken Early of Second Captains spoke to The City about the move from free content to a subscription-based format.
“We decided we could do it by ads or subscription, and we decided that the subscription based model was better,” he said.
“Advertising has changed a lot over the last 15 to 20 years. TV, radio and newspapers are all kind of part of a long established system…but then the internet comes along and completely turns everything upside down”.
Ken says that it’s much cheaper for organisations to advertise online in comparison to newspapers and television.
“I feel advertising agencies don’t have the same kind of respect for podcasts because they are unwilling to pay the same fee as they would for a show on the radio even though a podcast might have more listeners,” he said. “Lots of people listen to podcasts now, it’s a technological fact of life.”
“The subscription angle with the audience we are taking is not entirely a new phenomenon. For example, if you were running a magazine back in the 90s, that’s how it would work, people would buy your magazine every month.”
Why are podcasts so popular? “If you have the option of watching or listening whenever you want to, people tend to do that,” said Ken.
“I guess we are doing it because we get to decide what we are doing, we are not working for a larger entity but I guess we are working for the members/ audience,”
“We get to decide what we are doing”
Now that they have gone independent and added a pay wall, there are six episodes a week – two free on a Monday for non-subscribers, and new episodes from Tuesday to Friday for paid members.
“We are doing a podcast a day and most of them are sport. I guess we are doing it because we get to decide what we are doing. We are not working for a larger entity but I guess we are working for the audience.”
Alongside the usual Second Captains programme, there are new shows including Ken Early’s political podcast, and Second Captains Breaking News Special. Once a month, there’s The Player’s Chair with former professional footballer Richie Sadlier.
“It’s not necessarily meant to be a political podcast, it’s meant to be programme about interesting ideas,” says Ken of his new show.
This week, he will talk to journalist Mark O’Connell about his new book To Be a Machine.
Early was impressed with the first episode of The Player’s Chair, where Richie Sadlier interviewed Burnley manager Sean Dyche.
“He is a good interviewer, empathetic kind of person and people tell him things, which is a good quality to have I suppose,” says Ken.
Second Captains World Service has been subscription-based for over a month now, and has nearly 7,000 paid members so far.
“We are delighted with the figure,” said Ken. “We didn’t really know how it was going to go.
It hasn’t been done in Ireland, however there are examples in the US like Chapo Trap House.”
Second Captains’ content is unique among other sports podcasts.
Last Thursday, they debunked the myth that Brazilian soccer legend Sócrates studied medicine and played football for UCD for a year. In the same episode, they discussed the origins of Kerry GAA from the book Forging a Kingdom: The GAA in Kerry 1884 – 1934 with the author Richard McElligott.
Two weeks ago, they had live show from London with Irish soccer player Damien Delaney who was incredibly honest and frank about his career. The Player’s Chair featured former Ireland manager Brian Kerr.
But this is not all the podcasts have to offer – they cover a wide variety of topics from boxing to rugby, and discuss US sport with Brian Murphy (who some listeners may remember from Newstalk’s Off the Ball ).
For €5 a month, you get informative discussions, interviews, and you’ll also get some laughs. The guys usually do not take themselves too seriously and often include their guests in the fun. Second Captains Extras gives a flavour of the outtakes from the recording of an interview or discussion.
Even though Second Captains has typically been a sports podcast, the best compliment I can give is that if you don’t usually like sport, you will still enjoy listening to Eoin, Ciaran and Ken.
I have yet to come across any sport podcast or programme like Second Captains where they produce a huge amount of original content and they really think outside the box
Feature image by Second Captains