Friday 23 March 2018

From Arseblog to arts: the blog king with big podcast plans

Andrew Mangan created one of the most read blogs in world football. His new Dublin-based podcast network, Castaway Media, aims to capitalise on the switch to on-demand radio

Andrew Mangan, Arseblog founder and co-founder of Castaway Media: 'Podcasting advertising is miles behind where the medium is.' Photo: Steve Humphreys
Andrew Mangan, Arseblog founder and co-founder of Castaway Media: 'Podcasting advertising is miles behind where the medium is.' Photo: Steve Humphreys
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Blogs are for amateurs and podcasts are for a small number of nerdy hobbysists. Right? Wrong.

One Dublin entrepreneur has already conquered the world in his online blogging and podcasting niche and is now looking to create something bigger.

Kimmage-based Andrew Mangan is well known to millions of Arsenal football fans around the world for his hugely successful daily blog, Arseblog, and its accompanying twice-weekly podcast, Arsecast.

The two have risen to stand among the most-consumed football fan content in world football, with 4m monthly views and 400,000 streams for the blog and podcast, respectively.

Mangan, who also runs a book publisher (Portnoy Publishing) and has a steady sideline in voiceover work, is now looking to deepen his broadcasting set-up. Together with co-founder Adrian Carty, he has launched Castaway Media off Dublin's Grafton Street, the central point for a raft of new Irish podcast series that include sport, business and culture shows.

Anchored by Arsecast, the shows include 'Not Now Cato', a podcast looking at business, media and startups. They also include 'Pod-a-Rooney', an entertainment interview show hosted by Dublin comedian Joe Rooney. Arts, culture and general interest shows - 'The Fizzy Pop Culture Thing' and 'The 738am Podcast' - make up the rest of the studio's first wave of podcasts launched. A sports show is also planned, says Mangan.

"Nobody else is doing this on a regular basis," says Mangan. "Podcasting has become a thing that is really starting to mature as a regular medium."

There are few available figures for podcasting in Ireland. One sports podcast ('Second Captains', run by a breakaway team of former Newstalk 'Off The Ball' presenters) is said to have over 100,000 listeners through its various online media.

But in the US, the medium is much more accurately measured, with most surveys showing between 10pc and 20pc of people regularly listening to podcasts.

Last year, the hit US podcast 'Serial' garnered more than 100m streams worldwide.

And on-demand media, in general, is creeping up at the expense of live broadcasts. The combination of Netflix and 'catch-up' TV services, for example, are now used by hundreds of thousands of Irish people.

But live broadcasting and subscription-based television have well-developed commercial and advertising infrastructure.

By contrast, podcasting is largely dependent on disparate sponsorships. pre-roll ads for a small number of internet services (such as Mailchimp or Squarespace) and slightly clumsy 'native' ads read out by the presenters themselves.

"Podcasting advertising is miles behind where the medium is," says Mangan.

"Ultimately we're looking to see more commercial activity from ads and sponsorship, but we also see real opportunities in taking it out to the real world." Ticketed events such as live Arsecast shows in public venues have seen healthy demand, he says. "The last show we did in London sold out in 12 hours," he says. "But in general, Arsecast is probably under-monetised. There are a few small deals, but we haven't really focused too much on that."

It's a similar story for Arseblog. "Right now we use Adsense but could probably make much more," he says.

Mangan did get money out of Arseblog once before. Seven years ago, a US-based blogging aggregator called OleOle bought Arseblog for an undisclosed amount of money.

Mangan says that the sum involved was "nothing near" the rumoured multi-million dollar figures floating about the internet at the time. The deal didn't work out with OleOle collapsing and Mangan left out of pocket.

Since then, he has had other offers for the blog, but has chosen to keep it independent.

"One of the reasons that we have a big, loyal following is that we try to avoid bullshit," he says.

"We're fairly careful about what we report, for example, and we won't give the type of credence to off-the-wall rumours that other sites will."

Mangan says that the new Dublin studio set-up will also be used for contract work for others who need editing or recording facilities.

"We chose the city centre venue because it's just easy for people to come to when they're in town," he says.

"We're open for business."

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