Guardian in exclusive Gervais podcast deal

By Dominic Ponsford

The
Guardian is to break multi-media ground next week when it exclusively
“podcasts” a new series from the comedian Ricky Gervais.

It follows the Telegraph’s decision two weeks ago to launch a daily
podcast that consists of articles from the paper read out by the
writers themselves or actors.

The Gervais programme will be
available as an MP3 to download free on the website Guardian Unlimited
from Monday, 5 December, and for the following 12 weeks.

Guardian
Unlimited editor-in-chief Emily Bell said that Gervais and colleagues
Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington approached the paper with the idea
of a podcast. Under the deal The Guardian will pay a fee for the
material and benefit from advertising on the site.

Bell said:
“What we have realised is that audio is now something we can do in the
same way that the web enabled the BBC to do written journalism for the
first time.

“It takes us into an area we want to be much more
involved in. This is better than having Ricky Gervais write a column
for 12 weeks, which is perhaps how we would have got him into the paper
before.

“We are finding there has been a real change in the
audience’s reaction to rich media. If we put really big pictures or
audio on the website two years ago we got lots of complaints from
people who said they couldn’t download it.

Now we get people saying ‘I’m really sorry, but I don’t have broadband’.”

Bell
added that there was no reason why, when broadband speeds increase, The
Guardian shouldn’t also broadcast video on its site.

But she
said: “We are first and foremost a website that promulgates fine
journalism, and we will continue to do that. The majority of that will
continue to be in written form – text is great on the web, it’s
searchable and easy to read.”

According to The Guardian, the
weekly show will consist of a “rummage around in the mind of Karl
Pilkington to prove he’s not just the village idiot, he’s beaten off
all competition to take the national title”.

Gervais said: “I
want to do a radio show where I can say what I want, when I want, for
as long as I want, and that’s free for anyrody who can be bothered to
listen anywhere in the world.

“We didn’t want it to just be the
best bits of a radio programme you’d missed, so this is a show that is
straightto- podcast. I suppose we’re trying to create an exclusive club.

“We’d prefer this to be a few people’s favourite show, rather than a huge, samey, ineffectual broadcast.”

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