How to build a magazine show
Myself and Olly Mann have a new project: The Modern Mann. It's a ten part series, loosely based around the structure of a men's magazine, so there's a section on trends at the start, and the inevitable sex chat towards the end. Pretty much what you'd expect from the (now defunct) FHM.
But really it's about Olly (and me) trying to work out how to stay relevant. So rather than being targeted at men, it's specifically about a Mann; if you relate to Olly, then it's a show for you.
So how did we build The Modern Mann? Here's a walkthrough of each of the segments.
I'm jealous of radio show podcasts - they get to have a show, and a bit before the show where you can address the podcast listeners specifically. If you do an independent podcast, they're the same audience... but it doesn't feel like it. So I've cheated it a bit here, and got Olly to do personal shout-outs before the menu, so we get to have more of a connection before the bells and whistles begin.
Ollie Peart is our resident trends explainer; his job is to get excited by the week's developments in fashion, tech, arts and society. And then for Olly Mann to shoot him down. Every time.
Episode one was only the second time they'd met (I'd worked with Ollie at the Guardian on a video series) so setting up that opposition ("this is great!" / "you've been sucked in by another press release") means we can have fun with them finding out about each other on air. Which makes discoveries like the fact Ollie auditioned for the role of the Milky Bar Kid so much better when they're during a recording.
Just to get really geeky here: we worked out early on that the first word you should hear from Ollie should be the trend, whether that be "Space", "fitness apps" or whatever. No warm-up, just straight in. And it means that Olly is cynical from the off: that partnership is obvious to a listener from the very first exchange.
THE MAIN FEATURE
It's good to have a structure that people recognise, and it's no revelation that 'magazine' has become the shorthand for a radio programme with different segments. I love the idea that you can turn a page and be whisked off somewhere totally unexpected - and so in amongst the regular features, we wanted a space where we'd do some original journalism, finding people that inspired us or indulged a secret shame of ours.
Crucially, what goes in this section becomes the title of the show, as it's the most timeless element, so we have to work out something suitably SEO-friendly that fits with the interview. Our most talked about episode so far is 'I Was a Teenage Rock Star' - whose title we acknowledge came from the original theguardian.com article. Those guys know how to do SEO.
I've wanted to work with sex educator Alix Fox for a long time (we may now be working together on a few things), since making an episode of Spark with her in 2011. Softly spoken and foul-mouthed, Alix manages to promote the messy brilliance of sex and take on the difficult, darker side of it all as well.
This section is about sex advice: listeners write in with their query and we Alix answers it. Tricky if you're starting from scratch and need to win the trust of your audience... but Olly has been making Answer Me This for a long time, so we had some confidence that we could coax some writers from the very start.
FINAL MUSIC TRACK
This is also the first podcast where I've used commercial music. There's a whole blog about UK copyright I should do sometime, but the headline is that I have a PRS podcast licence for the show, and get permission from every music publisher and manager for the each track we feature, agreeing the standard length of 30s clear. It's a bit of a slog, but I think it's worth it for that punchy ending.
So there we are. At the time of writing, all ten episodes are in the can and we're about to take a break until the Spring. If you've enjoyed reading this and now feel like you can see how much it takes to put it all together, why not buy us a beer?