Behind the scenes: Mag Heroes podcast

by Steve Watson in January 2015
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After nearly a year’s break, Dan Rowden is back with his Mag Heroes podcast. The Magpile founder plans to broadcast an interview with a different magazine maker every week, and he burst back onto iTunes (and Soundcloud, and all the other usual places) earlier this week with his 43-minute interview with Offscreen editor Kai Brach.

I caught up with Dan to find out why he’s made the return to podcasting now, and to see how those listener numbers are doing (Stack has sponsored the first couple of episodes of the new Mag Heroes).


Let’s start at the beginning – what was it that drew you to podcasting in the first place?
I really enjoy podcasts. I studied radio a bit in my degree but I’ve never had the chance to do it myself, and podcasts have a very low barrier to entry – it’s easy to call someone on Skype, ask them a few questions and put it online. I’ve made some nice contacts in the magazine industry through Magpile, so I thought I’d contact a few and talk to them, and hopefully find out some things about them that other people might not know.

Your last podcast was in February last year – what made you stop back then?
We moved countries and it kind of got lost. I always wanted to get back on it, but other things took priority.

So what has led to it being the priority now?
I think just a year of it being on my mind, eating away at me! The fact that it’s now been a year has jogged me into starting it again, so I sat down and refreshed the whole thing, and I’m doing it a bit more properly this time and more frequently.

And of course podcasts are hot now – has the success of Serial inspired you back into it?
I don’t think it has changed my outlook on podcasts – I’ve been listening to them for years. But it’s nice to see other podcasts come out and be more mainstream than they’ve been before – more people know about podcasts now than ever have, so it’s nice to ride that wave a little bit.

You mentioned that you’ve refreshed things – what differences can people expect?
It’s been updated visually and I’ve thought a bit more about how the podcast is presented, so the website now focuses more on the people I’m talking to. I’ve also brought in sponsors to force me to take it a bit more seriously – people are paying money so I need to give back listeners and exposure to their product.

So how are we doing on that so far?
At the moment listener numbers are much the same as they were before – I haven’t seen a huge jump or a huge dip in numbers, so it’s going okay. But I’ve got a few ideas I need to explore to give it a boost, and it’s really fun getting back into the swing of things. I can hopefully make it better and better.

How do you pick the people you interview? I always find it difficult to choose because there’s so much interesting stuff going on in independent magazine publishing at the moment.
It all comes down to variety. I try to get magazines from different genres or from different countries, and while all my interviewees have been male so far, I do have a few female editors and designers coming up.

But mainly I make a long list of people who spring to mind and then I try to order them in a way that means there’s some variety week on week. And I also try to tie in new releases, so for example Kai released the new issue of Offscreen the day after the episode went out, so that kind of thing helps in creating a bit of a buzz around the magazine.

What are your aims for it? What do you want it to have done by this time next year?
I don’t really think about it as a long-term plan. It’s just week-by-week, trying to get a new interesting episode out. Obviously if the numbers increase that would be great, but if nobody listens I still get to have a fun chat and learn from the people who make these great magazines, so I can’t lose really!

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