15 May 2023 Podcast

What Eurovisioncast can teach us about podcasting for events

Headphones next to a mobile phone featuring the Eurovisioncast being played.

The Eurovision Song Contest may not be your thing, but with the competition being hosted in Liverpool this year, it would have been hard to miss that it was happening. Coverage has been widespread with all three television events being on BBC One for the first time, plus The One Show coming live from Liverpool and a 24/7 stream of additional content on BBC iPlayer. It’s not surprising seeing as the host broadcaster is the BBC. There’s also been a podcast from BBC, Eurovisioncast, that has been running from January to the day of the Grand Final and it’s this that I want to focus on in this article.

I started listening to it out of curiosity. Coming from BBC Sounds staples such as Newscast, Americast and Ukrainecast, was this just another news-based piece of audio content?

As it turns out, no, it isn’t. In fact, the more I listened, the more I was drawn into this microcosm of Eurovision, sitting unassumingly, on my app. I became invested in, not just the news and backstage gossip, but the presenters’ relationships and the sadness that the show would end after the competition.

Why? More to the point, as someone that works in podcasting, what lessons can we all learn from a show such as this that has come, and now gone?

Why create a podcast about an event?

Let’s start with why the show was created. The BBC, as have many big organisations (eg Global), has gone big on podcasting as part of their supplemental content strategy. We live in the on-demand world, where you can watch, read, or listen to content when it’s convenient to you. As a result of this, that content doesn’t need to stick to some of the rules of live broadcasting. A TV show episode doesn’t have to be a precise length to plan for commercials and the Ten O’Clock News. Neither does a podcast episode.

In the case of Eurovisioncast, the show was created to work with other output planned for the Eurovision Song Contest and the run up to it.

Organising and producing a worldwide show like the Eurovision Song Contest costs millions of pounds so it’s not surprising that the BBC would want to generate as much buzz as possible about the first time it’s hosted it in 25 years. It’s in its interests to get the maximum viewing audience it can. Only broadcasting the show in 2023, when there is such choice for that audience, is very different to 1997 when there were fewer TV channels, social media and YouTube was not a thing to compete with it. In the attention economy, you need to use every tool in your kit to ensure your audience is going to tune in.

Creating a podcast about an event means there is a long, constant build up. From early beginnings and episodes like What are Liverpool’s plans for Eurovision 2023? the show takes listeners on the journey of the contest: behind the scenes of organisation, through to the different countries selecting their participants and how to get tickets.

Now imagine you are running a big event. You need attendees. At some point, you make tickets available. Wouldn’t it be ideal if there were lots of people waiting to buy as soon as that moment arrived? Creating a podcast with content about how the event is being organised, what’s involved, who’s going to be there gets the audience involved and invested in the process. They are captive while you are talking in their ears about how amazing the event is going to be, the excitement of the presenters a reminder of the energy the event is going to have.

Creating a buzz in the build up

Once tickets are on sale, and in the run up to the event itself, the show can be a reminder of what’s coming up. It can give a sense of the collective energy of those coming, like an exclusive club that ticket holders are in. The presenters of Eurovisioncast certainly created this buzz with episodes like What to wear at Eurovision and What Eurovision smells like. You may say these all sound like desparate attempts at content. They took the listener into a multi-sensory journey – I’m not sure that was deliberate, but that’s what happened.

Host chemistry

The presenters of Eurovisioncast are really what makes the show what it is. There is such great chemistry between them.

Nina Warhurst, BBC Breakfast anchor, and clearly in the mother hen role (her words) along with Daniel Rosney, BBC Eurovision reporter lead on the news and investigation into what’s happening. Ngunan Adamu from BBC Radio Merseyside brings the local angle and Eurovision 2015 winner Måns Zelmerlow has the experience of working on the inside.

As the season develops, the relationship between presenters does too. If you just listen to the final episodes, you might feel that you’d missed out on some of the in jokes (speaking “Belgiun” [sic]). I started listening to episodes at random. It soon became clear that I would get more from going back and listening in order and catching up on those I’d missed.

For a podcast, the relationship between any hosts is paramount. If the hosts don’t gel, the conversation is going to be stilted, possibly awkward, and that doesn’t make for comfortable listening from the audience. This isn’t a surprise. Think about other great presenter combos where it works: Phil and Kirstie, Radcliffe and Maconie, Ant and Dec. And those that didn’t last long: Simon Mayo and Jo Whiley anyone?

Who would make a good fit overall? People shouldn’t host just because of their roles or their seniority. Hosts need to be able to hold a conversation with each other and, potentially, with guests. People who can bounce off one another, have a bit of fun and take the audience with them on their own journey helps the listener feel closer to the show.

When listeners feel close to the hosts and the show, they listen to more episodes and, in the case of a business podcast, are more likely to take the action you wish them to take.

Creating a format that works with the audience

Structurally, Eurovisioncast follows a fairly standard format: about 30 minutes or so long. Any breaking news is covered off first. There’s a main topic, which might involve a report or an interview and then some analysis. There are questions about what it may mean. Each presenter has a role to play, once again, highlighted by their individual expertise or experience. I feel Nina Warhurst also plays the role of everyday fan and was a great person to represent the audience and ask the questions they would want asking – this is a good idea for any podcast: representing the audience, when a podcast is predominantly a one-way vehicle.

There were submissions from the listeners, whether via social media, email, or voice note. This is a great idea. Obviously, the Eurovision fan base is massive, so it is great to be able to get the audience involved. If you’re creating a podcast, think about how you make the audience part of the content. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to create fans and, if your podcast is to help your event or business, that can result in real opportunity for you.

Coming to an end

When Eurovisioncast’s final episode was released on the morning after the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, there was a sense of sadness that the show was coming to an end. As a listener, I genuinely felt sorry that it was over. I’d been on that journey with them, experiencing the excitement of the build-up, the shock results and the celebration of a show well done. That’s the kind of feeling you want your audience to have if and when you decide the show ends.

I ended hoping there would be another season next year, for the 2024 contest, with the same presenters. An audience wanting more – how perfect.

Want help structuring a podcast or producing your recording to a polished episode that will get listeners? Talk to us about how to create and launch your audio show!

Updated to replace examples of presenting partnerships that worked together well (awks).

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