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'Second Captains' takes punt on paywall for its podcasts


Second Captains directors Ken Early, Simon Hick, Eoin McDevitt, Mark Horgan, Ciarán Murphy

Second Captains directors Ken Early, Simon Hick, Eoin McDevitt, Mark Horgan, Ciarán Murphy

Second Captains directors Ken Early, Simon Hick, Eoin McDevitt, Mark Horgan, Ciarán Murphy

One of Ireland's most popular podcasts is to ask people for a subscription fee.

In a move that will be closely watched in Irish media circles, the sports podcast 'Second Captains' is to begin charging users €5 a month for a new 'World Service' edition.

According to the show's editors, the subscription will help fund a variety of new ad-free shows, including a new political podcast hosted by sports pundit Ken Early and a programme presented by the football pundit and former Ireland player Richie Sadlier.

The money will also make up for the end of the podcasting company's contract with the 'Irish Times'.

Second Captains is equally owned by Mark Horgan, Ken Early, Ciaran Murphy, Simon Hick and Eoin McDevitt. From next week, it will broadcast two free podcasts on Monday and one subscriber-only podcast every day from Tuesday to Friday.

Second Captains began podcasting in 2013 after its broadcasters split with Newstalk radio. The broadcasters had been working on Newstalk's long-standing 'Off The Ball' nightly sports show.

The podcast currently logs over 200,000 streams per week, according to Second Captains producer Mark Horgan, who said it's "difficult to say" how many might pay up for the new service.

"We don't know what the conversion rate will be," he said. "Our listenership is very high. We're not looking for massive numbers, because we also have live events and some sponsored events in the works."

Horgan said live events are a potentially lucrative activity for the company.

"At our last event, in December, we sold out in hours," he said. "Part of the deal with the new membership subscription is that members will get first call on tickets."

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The company is betting that its audience is devoted enough to the programme and its presenters to back them financially.

"The way our audience has developed is interesting," said Horgan. "Many are the same people who listen every week and they want more. They've been dedicated since the beginning. A lot of our audience is outside Ireland. But this is definitely a first. It's also rolling the dice in some ways, but it's perfect for this type of journalism."

Horgan said that the company looked at the success of podcasts such as 'Chapo Trap House', the American left-wing political humour show that offers extra weekly shows for those willing to pay $5 a month. The creators of the show, Will Menaker, Matt Christman and Felix Biederman now reportedly make over $10,000 a month from the premium subscriptions.

"That's a show that has a dedicated following on Soundcloud and its listenership figures wouldn't be astronomical," said Horgan. "But it's a show that people go back to."

The subscription process will be handled through Patreon, an online payment service used by thousands of podcasts which takes 5pc of the subscription fee.

"It's a month-to-month system that users can subscribe to or quit at any time.

"It's something that has been proven to work for certain types of podcasts in the US," he said.

"We did look at all the various payment models out there. We also considered alternative commercial options. But ultimately we decided on a member-led model. We're betting that people are willing to pay for things they really like. We're definitely in a new era of media."