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  • Peter MacKay

The Peter MacKay Motorsport Podcast journey so far

In recent years, podcasts have revolutionised how we consume information. Although podcasts came on the scene all the way back in 2004 on, they now command a huge share of audio content consumed every day.

In 2019, Edison Research revealed that 90 million Americans listen to a podcast every month. In 2014, 42 million Americans tuned in to a podcast during the same period.

In most advanced economies, at least 75% of the population own a smartphone. Even the most basic of devices, will offer easy access to a plethora of podcast platforms. Does an Alexa live in your home? Ask her nicely and she will play a podcast of your choice for you to enjoy when cooking dinner.

However, the popularity of podcasts can be attributed to many factors other than their accessibility. Before the podcast emerged, commuters had the option of a personal portable stereo system or a radio if travelling by car. If we focus on the spoken word, radio was the only viable option.

During commuting hours, breakfast and ‘drive time’ programmes were and still are generalised to suit the widest possible audience. However, this wide sweeping approach does little to engage the individual interest of each commuter, trundling in single file to work. Unless the listener is particularly enthusiastic about politics or pop music, they’re left with little stimulation.

Podcasts have filled desire for entertainment, devouring a significant chunk of listenership previously enjoyed by traditional radio. Even the most popular breakfast show, Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 programme, recorded its lowest audience in a decade between July and September 2019. In contrast, podcast audiences have risen by 40%.

Crucially, podcasts offer the listener the freedom to listen to content on a subject of their choosing. Take motorsport, for example. Despite the UK producing world champions in Formula 1 (Lewis Hamilton: five championships from the last six), World Superbikes (Jonathan Rea: 5 titles in a row) and Moto GP (Danny Kent: 2015 Moto 3 world champion), coverage on traditional radio is limited to 10 or 20 seconds at a time. Therefore, given that my passion is for all forms of motorsport, I ignore traditional radio and listen to a variety of podcasts instead.

On average, I will listen to least 15 hours of podcasts every week. All of which will be related to motorsport. ‘Below the bonnet’ hosted by Aussie V8 stars Michael Caruso and David Reynolds, gives a hilarious insight to the banter between drivers in the southern hemisphere’s top level of motorsport. ‘Beyond the grid’, produced by F1 and hosted by respected journalist, Tom Clarkson, produces fascinating in depth discussions with the biggest names in motorsport. ‘The Marshall Pruett podcast’ provides rich detail of the inner workings of sports car racing from a reporter with his finger on the pulse of the sport. None of the above will you get close to from listening to traditional radio. Regardless of the country you reside in.

In my daily life, I am constantly on the go. Trains, planes and automobiles. All of which, on the face of it, are tedious at best. However, I often look forward to such previously mind numbing journeys, with the help of a good podcast. I count myself lucky, without this time on my own, I would never be able to keep up with all my favourite shows.

Following a turbulent year or so in my professional life, I took the opportunity to reflect on sources of happiness in life. Motorsport and fast cars are a permanent fixture in this department. Since childhood, I have been fascinated by speed and those who can command vehicles to perform at their ultimate level of performance. When I was young, my superheroes were Colin McRae, Petter Solberg, David Coulthard and Sebastien Vettel. This hasn’t changed, in fact the list has only become longer.

When I had time to look at how I spent my ‘free’ time, the answer was immediately clear. If I’m not listening to a motorsport podcast, I will be watching motorsport. If I’m not reading about motorsport, I will be playing motorsport simulation games on my games console. If I’m not taking part in any of the aforementioned activities, I will be thinking about motorsport.

‘Passion’ is a word that is overused in our daily lives. As a matter of fact, in my professional life, it is bandied around all too liberally. By definition, passion is an advanced level of enthusiasm for something. I can rest at night after telling anyone who will be kind enough to listen, that I am passionate about motorsport. There is no other topic which I could endorse with the accolade of being passion about.

In my professional life, I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to perform public speaking engagements on a regular basis. By far, it is the highlight of my job. Many people shudder at the thought of public speaking and I completely understand why this could be the case. But, for me, I relish it.

Since the age of 20, I have been performing to crowds in the UK, Canada, Holland, Austria, Japan, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. My job is to maintain engagement with my audience, despite their advancing levels of inebriation. I must entertain and educate in equal parts. Regularly, I must engage those who are a walking textbook and those who have little passing interest, simultaneously. I love this challenge.

My role is to transfer my enthusiasm and knowledge about the product I represent. Often I am greeted after a presentation with generous praise, which is humbling. However, I do wince slightly when I’m told “Your passion is so clear to see”. Of course, this means I have done my job to an advanced level. However, if only I could admit that the only topic I am passionate about, is motorsport.

Now, for those still hanging on, let me reveal the relevance of the last few paragraphs to podcasting.

When I swiftly concluded where my passion in life lay, I set a goal to take this passion to another level entirely. My ambition, is to commentate live on motorsport. Why commentary? Well, I considered that any good commentator must be able to engage and entertain their audience, simultaneously. Much like I do in my current professional life. Obviously, anyone who wishes to commentate properly on a given sport must possess an advanced level of enthusiasm for that sport. Passionate, even, you might say!

So, the dream that lingered and was ignored for too long was set. I am going to commentate, live, on motorsport. Now, that’s all well and good. I could also say, I’m passionate about motorsport so my goal is to win the Monte Carlo Rally. However, the shortfalls in my ability behind the wheel keep this thought well under control.

However, I asked myself the question. Can I present well? Absolutely. Do I have a detailed knowledge of motorsport? Yes. Am I passionate about motorsport? Of course!

Cue the google search ‘How to become a racing commentator?’. Before long, it became clear that many established commentators began with a journalistic background. A look at my exam results for English at school would leave any careers advisor struggling to stifle a giggle at this suggestion. However, I stubbornly carried on undeterred.

Enter The Peter MacKay Motorsport Podcast. Figuring that Eurosport weren’t going to pick up the phone to open their Le Mans broadcast because I have told my family that I want to commentate, I knew I had to think of all avenues to reach this goal and get my voice heard.

Having listened to a variety of motorsport podcasts over the last six years or so, I felt I had a good understanding of the varying formats. And so, my podcast was born.

So far, the podcast journey has been very fulfilling. In just a matter of months, I have interviewed BTCC independent champion,Rory Butcher and Jim Clark’s cousin, Doug Niven. In January, I will travel to Daytona for the Rolex 24 hour, as accredited media. At the event, I will have the opportunity to interview the stars of sports car racing. These opportunities have only manifested through my podcast.

However, the majority of my content comes from me, behind the microphone, talking about motorsport. Displaying my passion and knowledge to a growing audience is a joy.

In Scotland, despite having an extraordinary motor racing heritage, the sport is nowhere near as popular as football or rugby. Go into any pub, pick up any newspaper, turn on any TV set and you will be met with football. Struggling for conversation in Scotland? Football is a useful lubricant to stimulate dialogue. That, and Tennent’s lager.

Football, is a sport I have zero interest in, which often leaves me a spare part in conversations. With my podcast, I enjoy the feeling of speaking to people with a common interest, even if they are listening on their way to work on the other side of the world. Take that, Talk Sport radio.

My ultimate ambition, is for race fans to tune in to their favourite racing series and have this spectacle enhanced by my commentary. So far, podcasting has provided the best preparation to work towards this ultimate goal.

Whatever your passion is, listening to, or creating your own podcast, will grow this advanced enthusiasm to new levels.

Check out my podcast on www.petermackaymotorsport/podcast or via your podcast provider.

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