Formula 1 Insight

Battle of the Podcasts

To my mind there are only two F1 podcasts worth listening to - Sidepodcast and Formula1blog. It is fascinating to compare them since they are so similar and yet so different at the same time. Both adopt the two-presenter, male-and-female, format and run through the F1 news, giving their opinions and comments as they go. They aim at the same target and should, theoretically, be equal in appeal.


Yet I listen to every 'cast Sidepodcast produces and only occasionally wander over to Formula1blog to hear the sexy tones of the wonderful Grace. Why?

It really is a matter of time. SPC gives you half an hour of chit chat on the week's news, F1B stretches to an hour - and I really don't have the time to spend listening for as long as that hour. Maybe if F1B's 'cast was full of content for its entire length, it might be worth it; but the two 'casts deal with much the same material and are about equal in information given.

Apart from the time demand, it comes down to style in the end. F1B is American and delivers in exactly the way you would expect. Americans seem so much more at home in the broadcast media and Grace and Negative Camber are no exceptions. They are smooth, relaxed, very witty and totally at home in front of the microphone. But they also love talking and much of the time is spent in clever chit chat. It is a pleasure to listen to the banter between them but, at a certain point, it becomes too much and I start to watch the time. Okay, I know it's a privilege to be allowed to eavesdrop on their conversation like this but I have work to do!

In contrast, SPC is so very English. Christine is still slightly nervous when that recording light goes on, it's fairly obvious when she is clinging to the boundaries of her knowledge and the banter between her and "me" (hereinafter known as Sidey since we are all "me"s) is sometimes contrived. But the funny thing is, it works. I find myself becoming protective of Christine, willing her to succeed and cheering on those occasions when she gets in a good point to counter Sidey. Grace might seem more knowledgable and would definitely be first choice for a candle-lit dinner for two (oh, sexist comment!), but it's Christine who you'd go to for a serious discussion on F1. And that, after all, is what the 'cast is supposed to be about.

On the guys, Sidey versus Negative Camber, there is nothing to choose. Both know their subject well and are pretty cynical in their views. NC has the more natural and less restrained laugh but you'd expect that, considering their nationalities. And Sidey has the British advantage of sounding like he knows more.

So it comes down to personal taste. If it's professionalism you want and you have the stamina to last the course, F1B has to be the choice. If it's information and informed comment you need, go for SPC. As a Brit living in the States, I can listen to both but it's that time factor that gets me - cut it down to half an hour, F1B, and you'd gain me as a regular listener.

So far I have looked at the 'casts in isolation but there are matters concerning the sites that also affect our perception of them. And here F1B loses out quite badly. Consider for a moment - when listening to a 'cast, we sit there with nothing to do (if we're concentrating properly - multitaskers need not apply). And those red start lights in F1B's banner become supremely irritating after a while. Add the bouncing 8-ball and the cause is lost - SPC wins through having a quiet interface that doesn't insist on attention.

Then there is the matter of comments. Sorry, F1B, but having to register before commenting is just not the way to go in blogging. Your forum roots are showing! Open the comments to all and sundry, as SPC do, be prepared to delete the odd spam comment, and be amazed at how traffic and interactivity increase.

I have probably been too hard on F1B in this comparison. The fact is that they do a professional, entertaining and enjoyable F1 podcast. It is also the one Bernie should be listening to because it would prove to him that, far from being non-existent, the American F1 fanbase is alive and well, highly knowledgable and deserves better than he has served up for them of late.

Blogs are all about opinion, however, and it's mine that SPC wins - just. Now, if we could combine the two, what a wonderful product we'd have, Christine with the facts, Grace with the gorgeous voice and lightning wit, and the two guys outdoing each other for cynical comments...


Alex Andronov
The fact that both of these shows are much better than any of the so called "pro" podcasts is the most remarkable thing. I had two other thoughts.

First, I think you're being a bit hard on Christine about the dinner companion thing.

And second I think one of the best things, and the hardest thing to keep going, with sidepodcast is the fact that Christine is learning F1. It allows them to really usefully explain some of the hardest concepts in F1 in a way that's fun for people who know it and easy to understand for people who don't.
Date Added: 29/02/2008

You're absolutely right, Alex, and I should probably have revealed my bias in dinner companions - I find female American accents sexy (only fair, since I hear they have a similar reaction to British accents) and have proved my preference for Stateside ladies by marrying one!

True, too, about Christine learning F1, although so often the format used is that it's Sidey who asks the questions when we know he has coached her on the answers. That's really what I meant by finding SPC a little contrived at times. But certainly SPC would be much easier for a newby to F1 to listen to.

Hmmm, that again says something about American F1 fans, perhaps - they really are pretty clued up on the sport.
Date Added: 29/02/2008

Forgot to mention F1B's intro - which is excellent, especially the exerpts from radio transmissions ("Ralf, do not overtake Damon", "Did you get that, Ralf - do not overtake Damon", "Ralf, acknowledge", "Please acknowledge, Ralf").
Date Added: 29/02/2008

brendan stallard

I don't find the problem that you do with the time to listen to either cast, I walk for an hour at least every day for exercise: so I bung 'em on me Ipod.

I do think Sidepodcast is very well written, the scripting is tight, and the two protagonists get the point across in no time at all.

I too wish "me" would name himself, even if he has to give himself a false name.

I do enjoy also the podcast of F1 Rejects, a funny pair of wags those two are:)

Date Added: 29/02/2008

It's Clive, actually, Brendan. ;)

Unfortunately, I don't own an iPod (what, am I the only one left?!) but I doubt the device would help me much, tied to the computer as I am. So I have to judge things from my viewpoint - although I can appreciate that others will have ways around the problems I encounter.

You have put your finger on the secret of SPC's more useful length - the tight scripting. F1B tends to spend too much time in wandering around the subject and could do with some pruning.

But as for Sidey's choice of name, it's too late, I have christened him already! Although I admit I'm considering a slight change to the Australian variant : Side-o.

F1 Rejects' podcast I've not tried yet - must have a listen.
Date Added: 29/02/2008

Alex Andronov
The funny thing is that I guess it was me who caused the stray "Alex" name, and I'm afraid I do own an iPod and listen to the podcasts when I'm walking. Even though I have an hours walk a day, it's a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening so the shorter format works in that way.

And I have to agree with Clive, having a shorter time limit really does focus the mind.

Clive: I know what you mean about the contrived thing but... somehow it seems to work for me. Horses for courses of course.
Date Added: 29/02/2008

"we know he has coached her on the answers"

can you give an example? only i don't believe she listens to a word i say :(

"But as for Sidey's choice of name, it's too late, I have christened him already!"

i can live with that. the important point is christine is the star of the show, and the less said about me the better.
Date Added: 29/02/2008

"Coaching" may have been a bit strong but it was a quick way to say what I meant. There are myriad examples along the lines of:

Sidey (feigning surprise): Oh, they're making Bodkin the test driver, are they?

Christine (smugly in the know): Yes, and Huppelmeier gets the race seat!

Perhaps not so much a matter of Christine being coached as Sidey pretending ignorance. ;)

As regards the star of the show, you are completely wrong - it's a double act and you are every bit as important to it as Christine, Sidey. It's the interaction between the two of you that makes the podcast, just as it is with F1B's version. Take away either of you and you have a newsreel.

Actually, that relates to F1 Minute, too. There you have Christine on her own but limited to a minute only - and that is why it works. It does exactly what it says on the tin - it's a newsreel.

SPC is a different creature entirely, much more of a "get a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable and enjoy a half hour of discussion on the news" sort of thing. I see you trying to be merely incidental to the 'cast but it will never happen. Like it or not, you're a star too! :D
Date Added: 29/02/2008

"Perhaps not so much a matter of Christine being coached as Sidey pretending ignorance."

ahh, well that's probably true. any ideas how else i can play it, because coming across as a know-it-all can't be a good thing either?

"it's a double act and you are every bit as important to it as Christine, Sidey"

what about the videos though? i'm exclusively behind camera there. you wouldn't know me if you passed me on the street, but i bet you'd spot the girl.

i *really* don't want to be in the limelight. i know my place is inside a cupboard, engineering stuff, away from natural light. the name thing is about putting christine front and center... the face and the voice.

Date Added: 01/03/2008

I said don't change a thing and I stand by it - contrived it may be on occasion but it works, Sidey. It's homey and cuddly, whereas F1B is slick and worldly-wise. Both are valid ways to go about podcasting and it's a matter of taste as to which anyone prefers - I, personally, prefer your style and that's why I listen.

The videos are a different matter and worthy of separate discussion. Visually and presentation-wise, they're superb. Christine and the script preserve the homey feel of SPC, however. It's perfect for the F1 clientele - if you wanted to broaden the appeal, you'd have to get the make-up artists and hair stylists in to make Christine look a bit more plastic and that would never do, would it?

You will have to face it, however, that you are an essential part of the show. Christine may rule the videos and F1 Minute (while you do your techie thing behind the scenes) but otherwise your influence pervades the blog and the 'cast. And that's a good thing - even the fact that you don't always see eye to eye with each other adds a necessary spice.

Don't change anything!
Date Added: 01/03/2008

nuff said.

actually i probably don't need to reply to your last comment, but i just wanted to clarify that i don't lift a finger for F1 Minute.

i observe like any other listener, the girl writes, records and publishes the thing all on her lonesome.

you probably knew this already, but sometimes i fear she doesn't always get the technical credit she deserves.
Date Added: 01/03/2008

Alianora La Canta
I find it difficult to make time for podcasts (I can sort of read and multi-task, but listening to speech and multi-tasking is another matter entirely!), but I enjoy F1 Rejects' irreverent take on podcasting. OK, they are rather biased and sometimes this causes irritation, but the rest of the time there's a good balance between looking backwards, looking forwards and looking at familiar new stories in a completely different light. Plus I only have to give an hour over to listening about once every too weeks. Sidepodcast is good, but I simply can't keep up with Christine and "me"'s productivity. I haven't tried Formula1Blog's podcast yet.
Date Added: 02/03/2008

I think the time factor is quite important when it comes to podcasts. So many of us have to keep an eye on the clock these days. And you can't skim a podcast as you can a written article...
Date Added: 02/03/2008

Alianora La Canta
Speaking of written stuff, one thing I do like about Sidepodcast is that they do written transcripts of their videos. Handy for people short on time or with temperamental computers (sometimes I find myself in both situations at once...)
Date Added: 02/03/2008

Negative Camber
Greetings all,

Great feedback and a terrific review, Alex. You only get better with good, well intentioned feedback.

That being said I must say that I love Sidepodcast, ME and Christine. They are terrific. I give them the edge as well because darn it, I’m an anglophile at heart and who doesn’t like a couple of Brit’s discussing F1? I think you all have made a terrific choice in listening to Sidepodcast as they are my favorite…well, other than ours of course but you’d expect me to say something foolish like that wouldn’t you? To Grace and I it is an honor to be mentioned in the same category so here is to all things British and ME and Christine. Cheers. Christine is the bomb and Grace is a sweetheart that stands alone in knowledge and sexy voice but let’s face it, ME is a much more handsome man and all around good bloke than I am. ;)

As for F1B’s podcast, there are some funny things about the length. We talk a lot but then again we’re American…would you expect less? When we mentioned shorter podcasts, there was a bit of a backlash with our listeners so we felt torn as to which format to choose. In the end, we just love to talk about F1. Sometimes we cover it efficiently and other times it’s like the Monty Python quote, ‘Get on with it!’. We appreciate your patience with us.

The original intent of even starting the web page is well documented on our site but the podcast was something different. Our real intent is to have an audio version of our site. As our site is a Journal of F1 Opinion (as we call it), it stands to reason that we follow our stories and share our opinion. Let’s face it, Grace and I aren’t short of opinion. It’s part of her charm and the irritating part of me. ;) Sometimes that gets a little wordy and while we do want to feel less scripted and more conversational, that was the intended effect. Grace’s take on it that is should be like a conversation that two folks would have at a pub without all the burping, yawning, coughing, hair-pulling, chest-pounding bravado found on other podcasts.

The growth we have experienced over the past year has been amazing and much of it has to do with many of you that do stop by or listen. I can’t tell you how indebted Grace and I are to all of you for your patronage and time. The majority of our traffic is from the UK and we owe much of our success to the fabulous Empire that brought us the modern world. It is impossible to tell you how much we appreciate it.

All that to say thank you for listening, thank you for the review and terrific feedback, thank you for finding Sidepodcast as great as we do and we are honored to even have been mentioned on your site. We wish you the very best in all your endeavors.

Date Added: 17/04/2008

And thanks for visiting, Todd. Two things to clear up quickly - firstly, the name's Clive! I can understand how the mix-up occurred, however, as Alex's name is right below mine as the first comment. Might have to talk to Mad about making the break more obvious...

The other thing I need to say is that the review was written some time ago - late February, in fact. Since then I have listened more consistently to your podcast (don't think I've missed any) and I would change it slightly now.

For one thing, I have found a way around the time problem; I visit the site daily but wait until I know I have plenty of time before listening to the 'cast. That can be a few days after it first appears but, since we're talking opinion rather than newsreel, it doesn't matter - always good to listen to conversation about F1.

Grace is really good, apart from the sexy voice. You found yourself a gem there. And I now find that I have to put you and SPC on a par - I listen to both. Maybe I should do a re-review at some time in the future...
Date Added: 17/04/2008

Negative Camber
thanks for the kind words Clive. We really appreciate it. I agree about Grace, she's makes it all worthwhile.

I like your site very much. Great insight and comment. Oh...welcome to America, its great to have you here;)
Date Added: 17/04/2008

Thanks, Todd. Really enjoying America.
Date Added: 20/04/2008

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