Noted Interviews: Myke Hurley

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Myke Hurley is a professional podcaster from London. He is the co-founder of the Relay FM podcast network and the host of a number of shows covering topics like Apple, technology, video games and pens. I chatted with Myke to get to know a little more about him, his passion for the spoken word and plans for the future. 

Tell me a bit about how you got into podcasting and why podcasting was the medium you chose.

Well, for me, podcasting just made sense because I’m not much of a writer and have never been much of a writer. Writing has always been a real, kind of, slog process. But I can talk forever, and I’m kind of a person who has lots of opinions on things and I want to get them out there and so podcasting is a great way to do that, right? Because I can just talk. It can be scripted or really heavily prepared with some stuff or it can be more extemporaneous — just chatting with people about things going on. I find it to be a really great outlet. 

"WRITING HAS ALWAYS BEEN A REAL SLOG PROCESS. BUT I CAN TALK FOREVER."

I got involved in it because I had a good friend of mine and we used to talk about this stuff all the time so it kind of made sense for us to try and put it into some form. We always wanted to collaborate on some sort of project together, we both wanted to be creative, both had the dream of having a career in media and the tech world. It felt like a really good start for us and a great way to get some opinions out there and it kind of — well, definitely — worked. 

So, did you listen to a lot of podcasts at the time?

Yeah! I’ve been a huge podcast fan since they began, really. My first podcast was Diggnation with Kevin Rose. It was only two guys sitting on a couch but it worked and was very popular. It pioneered a lot of what we’re doing. They had sponsorship and all of that kind of stuff. From there I listened to TWiT shows. I listened to those and then started picking up more independent shows on the way.

After I started podcasting myself, I found 5by5 and became a fan of all the great shows like The Talk Show and Build and Analyze. That really helped inspire me to continue and to plough forward.

You started with a single show — The Bro Show — and expanded into running the 70Decibels network. How did it go from having one show to having a network of shows?

Once I started doing some shows and having guests, there were people that we had on the shows that I thought it would be really cool to talk to all the time. So, there were people I was convincing to start shows with me and it got to a point where I was doing 4 or 5 podcasts and they all lived on their own independent websites. It was a real mess. So I thought I could have my own podcast network. So, me and my friend Terry — the co-host of The Bro Show — started working on 70Decibels and managed it for a while. 

Later, Terry moved away and I took up everything and started working closely with Stephen Hackett — my co-founder now on Relay — and we kind of became the dynamic duo we are today because of that time there. So, it just kind of became its own thing. Podcasting is a thing that I enjoy and I just got bitten by the bug and just kept doing more and more of them.

You later moved all of your shows over to the 5by5 network, did that take a lot of the business-side pressure off of you?

Definitely. I mean, working with other people brings its own pressures because it wasn't my company anymore so decisions weren’t always mine — it was ultimately Dan [Benjamin]’s decision which was why I kind of ended up moving away in the end because I wanted the control back again. After doing it on your own for a while you get used to it being your thing and then you have to get used to sharing it with somebody else. 

However, the reason I [joined 5by5] was so I didn't have to worry about that stuff for a while which was definitely the case. All of the business end and the admin — all of that was taken care of by 5by5, I didn't need to worry about any of that anymore which was exactly what I was aiming for. It definitely made that worthwhile for us and for me in general.

How have your experiences helped with Relay? 

I think I learned things about myself as opposed to necessarily being taught things, if that makes sense? I felt like during that time I got a lot better handle on the content side, how to create and manage the shows and how to work with people. 5by5 was where I grew and started to understand the industry a lot better. It put us on a wider stage and opened us up to a wider audience initially and then we were able to grow it from there. I was able to work on and launch some more fantastic and popular shows like The Prompt which was a project I worked on while at 5by5. It was totally the three of us working on it together — we created the show — and we were able to make it a great success.

Being on 5by5 gave us a bigger platform to reach people from and also it added legitimacy to people that didn't know us because people knew that brand name. Now, I do genuinely feel that we have a lot of that attention again at Relay. I feel like we’re building a brand of our own that people are becoming familiar with so maybe I’ll be able to help somebody else in my situation one day like I was with 5by5.

You’ve done really well with the branding of Relay. The consistent look and feel across all the artwork — it really helps with that. 

We have an incredible designer. He is just an absolute marvel of a man. All of that stuff, we’re like ‘we need a thing’ and he’s like ‘what about this?’ and it’s like ‘oh, you made it perfect’. We’re very lucky. 

Would you say you were happy with how Relay has progressed in the first 6 months or so? 

Yeah, I’m thrilled. The things we’ve been able to accomplish and the things we’ve been able to do genuinely weren’t even dreams. I hoped that maybe I’d be able to quit my job by the end of the year but I didn't think it would happen and I did it in October. And Jason Snell! Of all people, we have him as a part of our great roster of people. The audience that we have is amazing and it’s more than before for basically all of the shows. We’ve been really able to grow this thing on our own and I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve so far.

How have you found quitting your job has helped your podcasting ability? Are you more able to structure, plan and prepare or have you found that it’s made you more flexible? 

It’s interesting because it’s kind of a bit of both. I have more time which is great but ultimately the shows are benefiting from it. I’m able to prepare more, I’m able to take more information in, I’m able to take more time in the editing process, I’m able to spend more time with everything. And also, using Inquisitive as an example, that show just couldn't exist if I didn’t have the time to put into it. 

Speaking of Inquisitive, you’ve moved to a more highly-edited, story-telling format with Behind the App. How is that paying off? Do you plan to do more of it? 

I think it’s still too early to tell. We had goals and pretty much achieved those goals. But I wouldn't say that we’d got to a point yet where I can say this is definitely how we’re going to go because those goals were set before I knew how much time and effort it was going to take. I haven't come to a decision about this yet, we need to think a lot about it, but it might be when we review it that the goal that we set wasn’t strong enough and we need to be higher than that. But I genuinely believe that there is a long tail for this kind of content.

The show’s doing really well. We’ve doubled the audience — to be able to do that and sustain that is incredible. However, it’s way, way more than twice the work. So, we haven’t decided yet what happens at the end of the season. I would love to do more but it probably won’t be straight away. There may be a break, or it may move to a slightly different format. 

Would you return to the one-to-one interview style for a while?

If we take a break, I would assume the one-to-ones would come back although we haven’t made a decision on that. We’ve still got a couple of months of Behind the App so we’ve got some time to think about it. 

You are on seven shows and often appear on guest spots. How do you manage to do so many? And how does that sit with the behind the scenes running of Relay? 

I have the time now! Behind the scenes, Stephen and I share the responsibilities. I do basically everything sponsor-related — making deals, making calls, do the invoicing and chasing. Stephen does a lot of the business paperwork, the accounting stuff, the things that on a day-to-day basis help us run. And he handles a lot of the technical stuff that I’m not so proficient in. So, we have a really good mix of responsibilities.

How does it work being geographically separate from Stephen?

In theory you think that it would be difficult but it’s actually not. With the hours that I keep it works quite well. I’ll wake up at 9am and go to sleep at 2 or 3am so we’re awake together for an awful lot of the day so we end up not having that much of an issue with it. The only problem time-wise is the scheduling of shows as everyone has their own schedule that they keep in different timezones. For me personally it’s not too much of an issue because I can set my own clock. 

How is the work/life balance? Do you find it’s easy to slip into working every hour of the day?

I need to have a better sense of a schedule but my main thing is the amount of brain space that Relay consumes — I think about it constantly, no matter where I am. But I think work/life balance is only a problem if you have a problem with it, and I don’t. There are things that I would like to refine but having a day where I’m pretty much switched on 9am to 2am I don’t have a problem with because I like the work that I do. 

What do your friends and family think of your job? Do they understand podcasting or is it just something you do on the internet? 

They definitely don’t get it! I think the longer that we go on, the more it is settling in. There are a couple of members of my family that actually listen to my shows for entertainment, not just because I am on them. They actually enjoy them, which I like. And that took a long time, that’s only happened recently. That’s a good feeling. But it’s really difficult to explain what I do and the problem that I have now — and this goes for when you meet new people, too — is that I used to be able to say I work in marketing. But now I am a podcaster I will say to people ‘I am a podcaster’ and they just look at me weird. 

How do you describe what podcasting is to these people?

Well, I feel like it’s getting better all the time but it’s still not mainstream. I think if I said to people I made videos on YouTube then people would be able to grasp it a lot easier. I tend to say that I create on-demand radio shows that you can listen to when you want, over the internet. Radio is effectively the best thing to compare it to. 

Tell me about the tools you use to get the day job done. 

My setup has evolved and is way more than most people will require. I currently use multiple computers. I record on a late-2013 Mac Pro — the trashcan. I have a new audio USB thing called the USBPre 2 — this is a little interface so I am able to plug my microphone into it and it outputs audio into the Mac Pro. The mic I have is the Heil PR-40 — it’s considered one of the best for this type of stuff. I really like it but your mileage may vary. Once you start getting into the high range it gets more difficult. Some people have tried it and it doesn’t sound great to them but I really like the way that I sound through this microphone. It’s suspended over my desk with a Heil Boom Arm like you see in a radio studio so it hangs in front of my face so you won’t hear taps on the desk in the recording and it’s mounted on a shock mount to help with vibrations and limiting those. My main computer that I use for all of the work that I do and to compile the shownotes is the Retina MacBook Pro. The only thing that happens during the recording process on the Mac Pro is the recording. I don’t use it for anything else except recording, editing and publishing. It’s the production machine whereas the MacBook Pro is my personal machine. 

I use Logic Pro X for audio editing, Skype for calls, a mixture of the Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype and QuickTime to record raw audio to then put into Logic to edit. I don’t record directly into Logic as I’ve had mixed results with that. I record my end locally and my guests record their end and send it to me over Dropbox and I put them together.

You recently launched Rocket with Brianna Wu, Christina Warren and Simone de Rochefort. Despite there being many influential female personalities in tech and media, there seem to be far fewer female voices on podcasts. Was this on your mind ahead of Rocket or did that show come about naturally?

I wouldn’t say Rocket specifically was a plan but we did want more female voices. That was a plan. We wanted to add more women to our network because we were just a bunch of dudes and I didn’t really like that. I wanted to change that. 

"We were just a bunch of dudes. I wanted to change that."

Brianna and I struck up a relationship and she said to me that she wanted to talk about a podcast idea that she was interested in and I just said yes. We were looking to make sure we had a greater mix and I don’t think there’s anybody better placed to help us with that vision than Brianna. I love working with her because she makes me consider things differently. She’s part of like a moral compass for me now. I think it’s fantastic to have someone with strong views like that and to have someone of her intellect and caliber on Relay. And to bring along Christina and Simone is just amazing. We now have three really strong, incredibly smart and clever voices creating a show that is so different. They talk about things in a way you will not hear anywhere else because they are women and it adds a really unique viewpoint. I’m so so happy that we have a show like this because I don’t know of any more. They really have created something that is fantastic and I’m so happy that we’ve been able to play a part in it. 

We are working on and have plans to bring more women to Relay in the very near future which I’m very excited about [shortly after our chat, Myke welcomed Isometric to the Relay network]. And then from there we’re just going to continue making the decision to find the right people, the right voices, for the right shows.

Do you have plans for more shows, more growth? 

We'll definitely wait and see. We don’t have a document of projections or a document of financial goals or a document of audience goals. We just don’t have those as it’s not the way that we do business. We very much just do it and see how we go. 

One of the best decisions Stephen and I made was not to take any investment because it means we can run the company the way that we want to and that’s exactly what we do. Relay will grow because it’s natural that it will. I will do more shows, I will see some shows go away in the future as is the natural progression of things, and we will find new people who we want to have a voice on our network. I don’t envision and I don’t want Relay to be a place you go to and see a list of 25 shows. The way that our website was built doesn't really work for that and that was a conscious decision. You don’t get a tiled view of artwork because we believe it’s really interesting to see the content upfront and I’m really proud of what we did there.

What about topics? Apart from The Pen Addict, the shows are all (at least loosely) tech-related. Do you plan on more diversity in terms of topics covered? 

I would love that. At the moment, we mainly talk about technology and video games. That’s the big focus for us. I would love to do more pop culture stuff, I would love to look at movies and music and things like that. A music podcast would be really interesting. 

To talk about The Beach Boys for an hour a week? 

It was that episode of Analog(ue) that made me want there to be a music podcast on the network. Music is a really hard topic to cover because tastes vary widely and there’s so much of it. But ideally we want to see a wider scope, a wider range of topics, but I don’t have a specific thing I really want us to run toward. There are even things in technology that would be interesting. Like, what about Android? We don’t have any shows that talk about Android in a sensible way. That might be really interesting. There’s more there and there are broader topics that I want to get into but I don’t want us to go too far. I don’t think we need a politics show, for example. I don't think we need to cover everything. 

Maybe moreso than topics I’m interested in a show that does things a little differently. Like, Clockwise is another tech show but it’s formatted like no other tech show. Clockwise has been a real success for us that nobody was really expecting.Clockwise and Rocket are both tech shows but they have different things about them that make them really interesting and sometimes that can be more exciting than a new topic. 

When you look five to ten years down the line, how do you see Relay? 

"I want the brand of Relay FM to be respected and for people to see us as a source of really high quality entertainment."

It’s difficult to say. I think I will probably be on the mic less. My hope would be that in five to ten years time that we’re still doing this. I would like to think that by that time we are successful enough that I need to have less output and can think more big picture. Maybe I don’t need be on as many shows and can focus on different things and we have a lot more help than we do now. 

I hope I’ll be in America at that point and working from there. There are so many advantages to me being in the States for the way that we run our company. For me and Stephen to be full time on Relay would be a dream. I really want the brand of Relay FM to be respected and in five years time for people to see us as a source of really high quality entertainment. 

As a tech fan, what are your hopes for technology in 2015? What innovations are the ones to watch?

I do want the Apple Watch to be a success. There are so many things in that type of product that can be really interesting, something that you have on you at all times and can create different kinds of experiences. I don’t think we’re talking iPhone level of innovation here, or iPhone level of ‘change the world,’ but I think it could make a bigger impact than the iPad has. Maybe not this year, but eventually, because this is a device you will always have with you like the iPhone and even more so because it’s physically on you. So if developers pick it up well and if it continues to evolve from a technological perspective, I think it’s definitely a device to watch. I’m also very interested now in the field of connected home stuff. I think we’re getting to a point where home automation is becoming a lot more interesting to people and could become a real thing over the next year or so, but that sort of stuff always feels like it's so close but so far out.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?

You can follow me on Twitter at @imyke and follow Relay at @_RelayFM. You can also head to Relay.fm to learn more about our shows.