An Interview with Myke Hurley of 70Decibels

Author’s note (Feb 4, 2015): Relay.fm is now the new home of Myke Hurley’s podcast network.

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Myke Hurley, the co-founder and executive producer of the 70Decibels network. Myke can be found on Twitter @Imyke and at 70Decibles.

Alex Knight: Many people know you from 70Decibels fame. For those incognizant, tell me a bit about yourself and what the impetus was that drove your desire to start a podcasting network.

Myke Hurley: So I’m Myke. I’m 24 and I live just outside London, England. I have a real boring, behind the desk day job that I hope to be able to give up in a couple of years and move in to podcasting full time. I’ve been a Mac geek since 2005 and my first Mac was one of the first intel iMacs.

About two and a half years ago, after a long conversation about who Apple was suing that week, me and my best bud Terry Lucy decided that it would be a great idea to start a podcast. We’d been having more frequent conversations about tech and thought it would be really cool to give us an excuse to talk about this stuff for a couple of hours every week – and we thought there might be a couple of people that might want to listen.

After a few episodes we reached out to some people to see if they would want to come on the show. Patrick Rhone agreed – the rest is history.

In October of 2011 we launched 70Decibels. By that time we’d started to amass a collection of shows and this gave us a place to unify them and also to create a platform to launch new shows in the future.

I have always been interested in technology and the business that surrounds it. I’d tried and failed many times with blogging and I could never really find my niche. It turns out I’m much more comfortable with talking than writing, and podcasting really helps me focus my energy and allow me to create – which I love.

Hope that answered your question!

Alex: It does indeed. On the topic of trying and failing, I’ve been there numerous times myself and can relate. It’s certainly frustrating, but the rewards are great when you persist. Finding one’s voice and an equally suitable outlet to be heard is something many people don’t even attempt. Even from my own observations, it seems like so many people give up their dreams because they feel they’re just too audacious — something which doesn’t seem to be a problem for you right now. What’s interesting to me is your comment about your level of comfort with the human voice over the written word. What strikes you about speech that makes it more comfortable than writing for you? Do you feel that you can reach a larger audience just by the virtue of the audio format itself?

Myke: I wouldn’t say so much that it’s about the size of audience. I actually think written word can reach more people. I think that the audience for a blog is still inherently larger than podcasts. People read at their own pace and it’s a medium people are very familiar with. I do feel that podcasting is growing quite dramatically. But we have a way to go yet.

When I write blog posts, I agonize over them. I find it hard to just let the words flow without going back and editing them, rethinking what I’m trying to say. With audio you don’t get that luxury so much. It’s possible to edit words out but this is extremely time consuming and leaves you with a file that sounds peculiarly disjointed. If I have to correct something while recording I can do it immediately afterwards and a like that. Or I address it later.

What I also like about audio is the finished product. If I sit down to record for an hour, I have an hour of audio at the end of it. If I sit down to write for an hour, I could have a thousand words or ten. There’s no consistency there for me.

Alex: That’s a very interesting perspective which I had not previously considered. As one who tries to write as often as he can, there are those times where I get a block and end up barely being productive. Sometimes I might stare at my screen for an hour and manage to get an introductory paragraph out. Other times, I could spend an hour and write a thousand or more words — thus seeming like my productivity is all over the place. It’s completely maddening sometimes, yet the process of creating something is so entirely thrilling that I just live through the pain.

As a medium, audio seems to have less of this problem. Perhaps so because speech is the most natural means of communication for most people — whilst writing takes us more mental energy. We scrutinize every single word we put down and can over analyze things, thus impeding the creative process. While dabbling with audio myself in the form of singing and even playing an instrument, I can instantly start creating. When I go back to writing, there are so many variables to think about: what’s the central topic, what am I trying to ultimately say, and how do I want to conclude this piece? Podcasting to me feels liberating sometimes, and is a welcome breath of fresh air from the occasional frustrating experience of writing.

So talk to me more about the 70Decibels process. Currently your shows are all pre-recorded and then edited and released at a later time. What are your thoughts on live broadcasting? Is this something that interests you at all? Do you believe there are any advantages to the live broadcasting method? It seems even more spontaneity would be needed for that kind of format, although I can see the appeal and advantage of that. I would imagine there may also be certain barriers involved with that kind of setup in terms of availability of audience members as well as how to host the audio stream.

Myke: Another great thing about Podcasting as opposed to writing is the fact that I have co-hosts. If I’m having an off day or haven’t got a lot to add to the conversation, I can usually rely on my co-hosts (who are hand picked because of their great insight) to help guide the conversation, add some thoughts of their own, or inspire some ideas of my own. This collaborative process is very important for me.

I’ll ignore the technical discussion from this answer, as my ‘concern’ with live streaming is not that. I am typically adverse to live streaming our broadcasts. I have been a guest on some live shows and by the time this piece is concluded we will have broadcasted an episode of The Bro Show on 5by5, with Dan as our guest (NOTE: this is scheduled for Wednesday of this week). These fleeting fancies with live broadcasting are fine with me, but I don’t have a desire to do it myself.

I do not edit our shows for content. I have made very few cuts in an episode of any show in the two and a half years I’ve been recording. I just feel that it ruins the conversational flow. If someone is wrong it can be corrected, as I mentioned earlier.

What turns me off is the pressure. I’ve never been a fan of public speaking, and our shows at the moment are typically only heard live by one or two people. They are just conversation between me, the other hosts, and any guests. Typically a maximum of three to four people. And this is fine. However if you throw a live audience into the mix, the show can now be heard live by an unlimited amount of people, which to me makes it public speaking.

When recording it’s always best to feel comfortable, as this gives the show a great flow – nerves are not good as they will disrupt things. I can see that ‘live’ has the benefits of an active chat room and for some that instant feedback can be vital. But for me, I have yet to find a way to balance the positives and negatives.

Alex: It seems like you and your co-hosts are getting to the point now where you have this lovely creation that has an eager audience which needs to be nurtured even further. As far as the network is concerned, how do you feel 70Decibels has grown since 2011, and what lessons have you learned along the way?

Myke: I feel like I have a family of people that help create the network with me. We work together on creating the shows but everyone brings their own piece when it comes to developing the network. I have been very lucky to have surrounded myself with people who come from different backgrounds online and who have varying skills that help me develop 70Decibels from a creative standpoint, and also as a business.

I have learned some real key things along the journey:

  • One is what I mentioned above. It’s important to build a network of people. Some refer to it as a board of directors. People should listen to this episode of Home Work to get the idea.

  • I have also learned that it’s important to fully consider arrangements and agreements before jumping in. I have made some not-so-wise decisions that looked really good on paper, but have been a little too hasty to agree with them. These sort of mistakes are good to make as I have learned from them and am much more cautious with some of the ‘business’ that we do. I encourage people to not fret about mistakes and to learn from them. That makes them useful.

As a network we have grown dramatically since our inception. This year alone we have doubled our audience and we are seeing some real growth still. This has come from adding new shows but also attaining a much larger audience. Additionally, the sponsors that we have been attracting have really been helping us develop the quality of the shows and also adding legitimacy to us as a business. Outer sponsors are really getting a great deal and great results.

Going in to the second half of 2012 I am really focused on further growth. I have some new shows planned and am trying to work on bringing some others into the network. I want us to expand our offering to cover more diverse niche markets. That has served us well and it’s what I believe 70Decibels should be. It’s important to me that we create a network full of differing shows that cover wide interests.

Alex: Myke, thank you for speaking with me. I wish you all the best with 70Decibels.

Published by Alex Knight

Alex Knight is a broadcaster, podcaster, and audio engineer. In addition to over 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector and media landscape, he holds a diploma from BCIT’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program and numerous certifications from the UBC Sauder School of Business in project management and general management. He’s been working on building a podcast network media company more recently and has done Voice-over engineering, mixing, and mastering sessions at On The Mic Training in Vancouver.