After a short break, the British investigative journalism podcast The Tip Off is back with its fifth season. Each episode tells a story of a journalist who explains the twists and turns, dead ends and tip-offs that landed them their biggest scoops.
We caught up with investigative journalist and The Tip Off host Maeve McClenaghan to find out what lies behind the show’s success.
Q. What is new this season?
We have developed quite a lot since our launch in June 2017. This season starts with an episode from the USA, featuring journalist Jim DeRogatis who broke the story about R. Kelly’s alleged sex crimes against underage girls. This season, we want to bring more international stories and behind-the-scenes accounts. We also offer a real view on how hard it is to be an investigative journalist and navigate the maze of regulations.
Jim was in a bind. The court case he had been expecting was finally here. But he was being called to take the stand... and if he did he faced the choice: betray his sources or go to jail for contempt. Find out what happened next: https://t.co/rM5Fc2POY4— The Tip Off podcast (@TipOffPodcast) August 3, 2019
Q. Tell us more about what we can look forward to.
Amongst the guests this season is Barry McCaffrey who investigated the 1994 Loughinisland killings by the paramilitary group UVF in Northern Ireland, amongst other stories. He was most recently suspected of stealing confidential documents from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman's office but the case against him was dropped.
We will also hear from the Guardian’s reporter Amelia Gentleman who covered the residency crisis affecting some Caribbean-born UK residents, known as The Windrush scandal. She will also talk about what it means to be approached by so many people in need and the emotional impact this investigation had on her.
Q. How do you grow your audience?
We now have around 30,000 listeners per episode around the world, including the USA and New Zealand. More and more people seek out our podcast because they want to understand how news is made, who to trust, and why.
We also saw an uptick in audience growth since we won the British Podcast Award in 2018. But mostly it is the word of mouth and social media that helped us spread the word.
Q. What are your best tips on producing a successful podcast?
Do not be afraid to do something different. The wonderful thing about podcasts is that there are audiences hungry for content they do not get elsewhere. It is also important to shout about it, not just to other podcasters but also to niche audiences.
If you have a high-profile guest who can spread the word get them engaged.
Finally, content is important but the packaging can be a deal-breaker. Pay attention to your script and structure - it is crucial to write your story accurately and dramatise it without slipping too far from the truth. Right pacing of your story will help keep listeners engaged.
Free daily newsletter
- ‘I became a journalist aged 31, as a single parent and a woman of colour’
- Weekly journalism news update: education, audience engagement and expert sound design
- How four European publishers experiment with new tools to grow their audience
- Five tips for building an audience for your podcast
- Google rolls out algorithm changes to reward news organisations for original reporting