New Power Case Study: Wooden Overcoats

After some struggle to focus in the midst of global choas in March, we invited podcast producer + RBC friend Andy Goddard into our Rebel Book Pub, to refocus ourselves on our March book ‘New Power’ by Henry Timms + Jeremy Heimans. This time in the context of media and podcasting.

Wooden Overcoats – Cast + Crew

Andy is one of the producers of Wooden Overcoats, a podcast sitcom which has risen to cult-like success with New Power magic. Andy was a young radio graduate from Goldsmiths trying to break into the Old Power world of radio, when Andy and his friends dreamt up Wooden Overcoats – a tale of two funeral directors on a fictitious Channel Island.  

What is New Power?

Here’s a quick recap for those who are not reading with us…

New Power framework from This Is New Power

You can find a more comprehensive summary of the framework via this article in the Havard Business Review.

The cycle of Old + New Power in Media

The reason this story stood out whilst reading New Power, was the cyclical nature of Andy’s story. From dreaming of working in Old Power Radio Production houses but finding it hard to break through, to creating DIY Podcasts on a shoe-string and finding himself with a New Power success story. Then as a result of this New Power success, landing jobs in Old Power establishments and wrestling with Old Power structures again… who wanted to mirror New Power success! And so it goes on…

What makes a New Power podcast?

Back to Wooden Overcoats. When asked about what he thought had led to New Power style partipation with Wooden Overcoats, Andy reflected on how they had found a surprise following across a number of social media platforms including Tumblr and Facebook:

“We tapped into something by accident and started leaning into that… Facebook is often overlooked in podcasting circles, as it’s our natural audience. I.e. the early adopters of podcasts were primarily men over forty who work in IT. They took us in with equally open arms as the younger Tumblr audience”.

Word of mouth started to spread through these communities and on Twitter too, where fans kept validating others’ curiosity and encouraging them to listen. They realised they had created something special when they noticed that the organic reach of the podcast had spread around the world.

Wooden Overcoats: The Last Season
Indie Go Go Campaign: raising just short of £25k from fans to make the final series.

Before long they had fan art emerging on social media and a fantastic, global community of podcast lovers. Together their community crowdfunded another 3 series of Wooden Overcoats, meaning fans and cast alike, could join their favourite characters once more as their stories evolved on their little fictitious island of Piffling.

Wooden Overcoats Fan Art – Courtesy of @Scrapnic via Twitter

Old Power Amplification

Through their New Power fan power, the now award-winning series has featured in Old Power publications such as The New York Times and The Telegraph. These Old Power publications are still instrumental in amplifying any buzz that has been generated and for reaching new audiences.

Yet when asked about audience growth in podcasting, Andy says that the ‘ultimate goal of a show is to find its audience and not a wide audience’. He sees ‘podcasting as narrowcasting rather than broadcasting’, with ‘audience growth [being] an economic reality rather than an aspiration’. Which is, perhaps, the attitude needed to be part of something that generates New Power momentum.

Conclusions

Coming full cycle, this New Power success – accidental or not – has led to production roles for Andy with Old Power media houses, Hat Trick, Audible and BBC Studios. So should media ever really be all Old or New Power? Where does the balance lie?

Overall Andy concluded that he has always needed a blend of Old + New Power. Having had a taste of both, we asked him to identify which bits of Old + New Power he tries to keep in mind as he continues with his Podcasting career…

Old Power:

  1. Lots of things I’ll never unlearn: safety, payment, how you do admin and contracts. Something you don’t think about so much when people do stuff with you vs. doing it for you.
  2. Expertise – i.e. people who do their jobs well
  3. You can’t run everything on passion when you make it into your full time job. Turning passion into something to do long term is something that I’ve taken from Old Power.

New Power:

  1. Keep an element of DIYism, authenticity is key
  2. Go with the current of the crowd, let it flourish + don’t try to control it
  3. Transparency, there’s no need to hide things from the audience

You can check out Wooden Overcoats on all major podcast platforms

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