Case Study – Football Ramble Daily

2019 was a ground-breaking year for the Football Ramble. Following the launch of Football Ramble Daily and after embarking on their blockbuster tour of their live-stage show across the UK, Europe and the USA, the quartet have firmly evolved into one of the UK’s biggest independent football brands and are breaking the mould for the contemporary podcast movement. But how do these podcasting mavericks stand out and continue to grow after all this time?

After taking a risk and ditching the award-winning formula of a Ramble on a Monday and a Preview Show on a Friday, a format that amassed downloads in the millions on a yearly basis, for the launch of Football Ramble Daily on August 5th 2019. The launch grants listeners a new podcast six days a week, with the addition of four new shows incorporating the pre-existing Ramble and Preview Show all under one football saturated umbrella.

Luke Moore, for his sins, is a Portsmouth fan. He jokingly told me that his “agent” had forbidden all contact with people from Southampton. Being one fourth of this podcasting quartet that pioneered the expansion of Football Ramble Daily, Moore believed that in an industrial world that never sleeps, now was the time for change. “Football is constant, and so we have the resources to do the show daily, and then factor in the idea that it’s not realistic to make shows every day with identical people, I think it gets a little bit samey.”

“There’s also the idea that plenty of people out there that don’t like our show. So if we can bring some new talent through, some new ideas with people that we’ve worked with in the past or that we admired that we could hopefully convince to come and work with us then we could do it.”

Marcus Speller, Luke Moore, Pete Donaldson and Jim Campbell are the journeymen of the football podcast world. After starting in 2007 in a small flat with four microphones and a minidisk player, the Ramble’s quirky and informal take on the beautiful game slowly became infectious amongst listeners and by 2009 the fortnightly show was increased to a weekly episode – reaching number 1 in the iTunes sports podcast chart. Fast forward a decade, the podcast now has its own permanent home under the wing of production company, Stakhanov.

Luke Moore is, and I quote from their latest podcast, “never wrong”, but he has his feet firmly on the ground. At the time of writing, Football Ramble Daily currently sits at the eighth most popular sports genre podcast, and the 88th most lusted for pod in the overall Chartable UK podcast charts. “We started out on University Radio, Marcus and myself,” said Luke. “He got in touch and said do we want to take the Saturday sport show from our Uni radio station and turn it into a podcast? At the time we had two other guys with us, both called Chris. Long story short they both left for different reasons and then we picked up Jim and Pete along the way.”

“The short history to all of this is that we just stuck at it really. Word of mouth meant we picked up a bigger and bigger audience. We improved the frequency, from going fortnightly to weekly and now obviously we do it daily, with a host of different other presenters.”

“There’s no secret or formula to it, just sticking at it and making sure you keep consistent and keep on making the shows and now here we are.”

The ticklish and often slapstick tone sets these four regular chaps apart at the top of the football podcasting ladder and offers a sense of resonation amongst listeners that you don’t get anywhere else. It’s just like convening with your mates around a pub table on a Saturday afternoon. Whether they’re discussing the misfortunes of Kevin Keegan, locating the whereabouts of Sven Goran Eriksson or laughing about Alan Pardew’s next managerial move – you grow a sense of rapport and endearing attachment to these somewhat loveable rogues.

The Ramble are simply the masters in picking up and exploiting the pageantry and stupidity surrounding football, because believe me, there’s a lot of it. These tend to be topics that mass media channels of the same calibre let slip through the cracks and don’t devote their time to exploiting, the boys at TFR are situated beautifully underneath these gaps, ready to pluck up these niche topics and raise them to see light.

But what is it that has kept the Ramble boys at the top of the podcasting food chain for such a long period of time? “It’s not even really for me to say,” replies a forever modest Moore, “but I would say that we’re consistent, and that we always deliver shows when we say we’re going to deliver them.”

“The joy, interest and the fun is completely authentic. With making any kind of media, if there is no authenticity to it, if you don’t like it and you’re just phoning it in you’ll get found out.”

Moore stretched his pithy further by saying: “People aren’t stupid, they’ll work it out straight away. If its cynical and you’re just doing it to make a quick buck, or whatever, you’ll get found out pretty quickly. I always remember that millions of people have either never heard of it or hate it anyway.”

One of the key responsibilities in building a media empire, is sustainability. We already know the colossal numbers behind advertising in the podcasting industry. In 2019, Football Ramble Daily coincided their relaunch with the introduction of their glitzy patreon scheme.

Patreon continues down the paywall pathway and can act as a more reliable form of income for independent podcast brands. This membership platform allows creators to provide a subscription content service. Believe me, if you have an audience the size of the Ramble – people will come.

Moore instigates some kind of responsibility for his brand and elasticizes the importance of preserving their tiny podcast kingdom at any cost. “We need to keep the lights on, we have people who work with us, we have to pay people, families to feed and we have our own kind of self-worth as well, however small that is.”

“Beyond that, There’s two reason for the patreon: one is that there are people out there who always want extra content, and because we’ve got the facilities, ideas and resources to do this. We are happy to make extra content we think people will like.”

In the Ramble’s instance, a $5 subscription to their patreon service will promote you to the Ramble On tier. This grants you exclusive access to the discord server to interact with fellow Ramble fans, and access to vlogs/bonus content that free listeners are simply devoid the pleasure of receiving. A $10 subscription not only grants you the perks already listed, but you’re held in the highest regard, firmly perched on the Friend of the Ramble tier.

All while supporting your favourite content creators, at an affordable price that doesn’t burn a glaring hole in your back pocket.“If we can set up a patreon angle, that protects us a little bit,” replied Moore. “The reason for that is we know loads of people out there love the show and want it to stay, we also wanna keep making it, so it’s just an extra added option for people which gives us a little bit of security aswell.”

The lads have made the podcast their oyster, having used the platform as a catalyst for their own success. I think it’s fair to say they owe their own personal triumphs to the success of the podcast; alongside the hard work they’ve pumped into their audio baby.

One of the rambles own, Pete Donaldson, has started his own podcasting network (Stakhanov), off the back of finding success with the Ramble and a stint on Absolute Radio. Jim has an established career on the stand-up comedy circuit having performed at the Edinburgh fringe, and Marcus has utilized his previous experience in the broadcast industry to captain the on-air ramble ship, becoming the focal point of the show and maximizing the tribulations achieved for the podcast posse.

Luke, alongside co-owning Stakhanov with Pete, has made the splash to the other side of the audio world – presenting the gameday countdown for TalkSport on a Friday evening: “The pressures completely different”, stated Moore off the back of coping with the burdens of live radio. “The environment and team is bigger, the stakes are much higher. When you’ve been doing a show like Football Ramble for so many years with the same people everytime, you start to inherently understand the type of broadcaster they are.”

It’s been one hell of a ride for the awesome foursome.  Podcasters seem to be the working-class heroes of the digital age. Easier to reach than corporate celebrities. Moore was the living and breathing epitome of this and he doesn’t take himself too seriously, nor does any of the Ramble gang for that matter. But what was his favourite memory amongst his media career thus far?

“Certainly not sharing a bed with Pete for a week in South Africa.” He comedically intoned, as I can’t began to imagine the pain he endured amongst that experience. “It’s not like I’ve achieved an enormous amount or that I’m some kind of David Beckham character, I’m pretty normal, I’m quite proud that I’ve stayed normal, and that’s it really.”

Moore hailed how the dynamic has shifted in the podcasting landscape in comparison to when he emerged on the scene: “When we first started, the challenge was to explain to people what a podcast is and get them on board with the idea,” said Moore, pointing out the new test for aspiring podcast tycoons, as increased popularity in the medium has collated with the climb in content creation. “The problem you’ve got is clearly one of cut through and standout, if I was starting now you would have to find a niche. We didn’t plan to have the amount of listeners we have, there was no plan, we just did it.”

“Particularly in radio (and podcasting), it’s never too late. I didn’t do any live radio til’ I was almost 30, maybe even a bit older than that. There’s plenty of time on people’s side, and the experience you build up over time will stand you in good stead.”

Microphones are cheaper. Internet connections are easier than ever. The time has never been riper. Anyone can do this podcast lark, and these four gentlemen are testament to that. The Football Ramble were a cog in the chain that catalyzed the start of a movement and the way we digest podcasting in this country. To our contemporary ancestors, who laid the foundations down for a medium that possess a shelf life with simply no expiry, we salute you.

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