Fan Media has come a long way since the 1980s. Now sitting alongside mainstream media, it gives us a louder voice and brings us together…
Last week, The Anfield Wrap won two awards at the Football Content Awards – Club Podcast of the Year and the bronze medal for the Best Branded Content for the JÜRGEN documentary. Sadly there was nothing by way of the Best Weekly Email category. The quest continues.
I’ve only been to one of those shindigs. In 2014 Andy Heaton and I went to the FSF Awards at the Emirates where we finished second. I was elated. Not because of our loss but because seconds before the announcement Heaton had whispered ‘If we win this, you’re going up’ into my disbelieving ear. Me, a stage, a microphone, Natalie Sawyer and an awful lot of undigested Guinness. Not an ideal recipe. I think I cheered louder than anyone else in the room when were called as runner-up.
We lost out to The Guardian’s Football Weekly which was absolutely nuts. I’ve twice worked for the paper so this isn’t sour grapes. No, it’s that a show that began life with eleven lads gathered under a group of mics, sat in a circle and with knees practically touching had come close to beating one of the big boys at their own media.
Fan media has changed so much since then. If you wanted your say in the 80s and 90s you’d handwrite a letter to a fanzine and wait three months to see if you got a reply or a glossy copy with your long-forgotten words contained within. Now, of course, anyone can ring Chris Sutton (slightly disappointed in your call) and Robbie Savage (still sounds a bit stunned that he got the job) and be put through to the world. Even that’s escalated. Nowadays it’s lads in big chairs shouting at nothing or whole TV stations dedicated to your club, though some of those are very good.
If someone had asked me to write a five-part documentary on the manager including trips to Dortmund and cosy sit-downs with King Kenny in 1993, I’d have laughed myself hoarse. Times, fan media, technology and talent have moved on considerably.
The sea change began when Jake Humphries invented podcasts.
Suddenly fans were either echoing silent voices from the terraces or challenging the status quo. This was a Godsend for people like me, who thought that the fanzine culture was on its last legs. Peter Hooton’s The End was even then just a memory and I thought that we’d be back to 606 and calls from anyone who wanted to be on the radio regardless of lucidity.
Things are far more even now. Most of my mates go to the standard broadcasters for news but to our own people for opinions – even if they don’t agree with them. A case in point. Last Sunday I was stood in the Glenbuck and said that Endo had a good game that afternoon.
The following day a couple of people whose views I respect claimed the opposite. I frowned but heard them out. If Tim Sherwood had said the same on Sky Sports, I’d have been a lot less respectful.
I find it strange when ex-players are treated like the final word when they’re just interpreting the same things we’ve just seen. Oh, I love it when they explain tactics and body shape at set pieces and the like as I’d never be an expert at that, but I can see when offside is offside. I’m not keen when they promote their mates (though that’s a natural thing to do) when their fans aren’t convinced. Ole’s at the wheel, eh, Rio?
And don’t get me started on former referees justifying this week’s bad decisions or ‘let’s go to Peter Walton.’ Let’s not, eh? Let me be angry instead with other angry people rather than hear the tones of ‘shut up and listen’ from authority figures. Surely no one thinks ‘Hang on, he’s a ref! Now, he’s said that I can see he’s right.’ We’ve got eyes.
Of course fan media can go wrong. There’s always the accusation that you’re getting ahead of yourself and think yourself superior to everyone else simply because you sit in front of a microphone from time to time, but the best fan media talks to fans because they’re fans, not punters. True, that can become niche at times. I’d love to do a show about the best away pubs in the country but I can’t see the numbers being high. It was always The Vines at West Brom, by the way. Some people are nodding at that which makes me happy.
I love that the fans have a louder voice now. Podcasts and blogs can bring so many of us together.
Thank you, Jake.