This week, our prolific city ambassador for Melbourne, Jacqueline Shields, interviews Jeremy Carne – the digital producer and ‘web geezer’ behind Hamish & Andy. Follow him on Twitter via @jezcarne.

Jez-01Web Geezer Jez

Jeremy Carne must take the cake for having the most fun job of all time. He basically makes a living out of having a blast with his friends. For the past five years he has been the digital producer for the much-loved comedy duo Hamish Blake and Andy Lee, hosts of the highest-rated radio series in Australian history, the Hamish & Andy Show on the Today Network. Where they go, he goes. If that’s sailing across Bass Strait in a Tall Ship or driving around in a Caravan of Courage across Britain, he’s there – and ready to share every crazy antic they get up to online. Even if it means getting a custard pie in the face!

You might’ve been on the receiving end of a custard pie in the face thanks to Hamish, but certainly no egg, despite constantly pushing the boundaries with innovation and integrating social media into the show. You’ve grown the show’s Facebook page to one of the biggest in Australia with 1.7 million Likes. Can you give us an insight into your social media strategy?

It’s important to nurture the community and give them pay off within Facebook. I value people’s comments and use that feedback to build and strengthen the relationship. Those 1.7 million people want to engage and interact with the content. Harnessing that desire to connect is what it’s all about.

In my uni days I created an online radio station (4Q Radio purely because I loved punk rock and wanted to be a part of that world.

The byline was: ‘By the fans, for the fans’. That’s an ideal that’s still with me today.

It’s so important to have an authentic love of what you’re doing and find enjoyment in engaging with the people who share that love. It’s certainly true of my work with Hamish & Andy – I’m a massive fan of their work.

There’s a fair amount of intuition there, alongside a good understanding of behavioural patterns and peak traffic times.

I guess the final ingredient is having a great brand. The fact that it’s Hamish & Andy. I’m incredibly lucky.

For the past five years I’ve been analysing our audience data to better understand how people engage with content. Trying to decode Facebook’s algorithm. And in the end I’ve discovered that the News Feed is engineered upon the old phrase ‘content is king’.

On Facebook, your content’s royalty is graded in Shares, Comments and Likes, in that order. No long-term social media strategy will be successful if the content isn’t ultimately there to back it up.

Jez-00Jez wins a metal microphone for digital at the Australian radio industry awards

You’re not an over-night sensation. You were working as a digital producer before the term ‘digital producer’ was even a job title. When you were 16 you were not only the song-writer and guitarist in your punk rock band, the Axedentals, you were the promoter and help build the website. What prompted you to go digital at such a young age?
It was the do-it-yourself nature of the Internet. The punk-rock mantra; I’ll create it my way. I looked at other platforms and quickly saw that you needed to go through a lot of approvals to get anywhere – lots of compromise. With the Internet you just get a Domain name for $10 and learn how to make a website. Back in 1998 we used HTML coding and Yahoo Geocities to create our band’s website, now days it’s much easier; you just get a tumblr account and start making your own content.

When I was at uni I realised how rapidly digital was developing in the entertainment industry – it was exciting! That’s what I wrote my thesis on, not excitement in general, but digital media in the music business. I guess that’s why I gravitated towards radio; I love music, I love comedy, and as with online, it’s a platform where you could come up with an idea and share it with people immediately.

But it was milestone moments when things clicked for me and I realised that I could cut a path for myself in entertainment and digital. Like when Mark Hoppus from Blink-182 gave me his Bass after a show in 2004. I had interviewed their support act (Motion City Soundtrack for 4Q Radio and he was hanging about so I shared with him how their music had inspired me to create – music, my band and a radio show. After their show he pulled me out the crowd (it was a big audience, about 10,000 people) and took me backstage to meet Tom and Travis, then handed me his bass as a token of thanks and appreciation. That was a very special moment for me, not only because they were my favourite band and it’s humbling when things happen out of your control, but because it was a big sign of encouragement to keep on.

There are quality people in entertainment; having fun with genuine intentions, and not bathing by the hype, they’re the ones I’m attracted to. Beginning work with Hamish & Andy was another milestone moment of it all feeling right for me.

At the end of the day I’ve always just loved making things and expressing creativity in a variety of ways. Whether it’s building an online radio station (4Q Radio), producing and hosting shows (showreel), mucking around with Hamish & Andy (Jez on hamishandandy.com), making music in bands (Jack) or working with friends on comedy podcasts (Let them be Bored). I love LIVE, so have developed and produced a bunch of live stream shows that are radio meets homemade variety TV, which allowed the audience to shape the content as the show unravelled. It was fun, so that’s a success in my mind. I first did it in 2010 with This isn’t Radio, then took the show’s location to wherever my mates were with Jez with Friends and then again to a different extent making a reality show in New York, with America’s Next Top Rapper.

At the moment I’m getting back into music, where it all started for me, which is exciting, and that new project will be launching soon.

You’ve produced Hamish & Andy’s incredibly successful digital brand over the past five years. That has resulted in you being nominated 6 times, and winning Best Multimedia Execution at the Radio Industry Awards (ACRAs) for Tall Ship Adventure in 2009. What do you see as essential elements to an effective digital branding strategy?

Being able to pick the big players early, getting on board while they’re growing fast.

Seed your content on the websites that matter, repurpose it accordingly to suit their style. Buzzfeed love lists and gifs, for example.

Innovate. With 4Q Radio we produced video podcasts the same week the video iPod launched. Mainstream competitors like Kerrang and Radio 1 followed suit months later. (Archive website.)

Jez-03Working out of a caravan somewhere in America

Who do you think excels with their social media strategy and/or digital branding?

I used to follow Chris Moyles religiously. He had the biggest breakfast show in the UK on BBC Radio 1, so his Facebook Page was the bar I wanted to hit. He had 10 million radio listeners and a Facebook presence of 1.6 million. So as a personal goal, I chased that. We had about 20% of their audience but I wanted to have the same social media (Facebook) presence as them. We overtook them in 2011, while they were still on air of course. That was a nice personal win.

Radio 1 do digital really well.

Radio is the perfect format to partner with web content because the audio medium naturally beckons visual addition.

Tourism Australia do a great job on Facebook. Russell Brand and Hugh Jackman are smart too. Quality over quantity.

What is a good amount of Likes for a social media manager?

I think we’re moving away from the mentality of a Like count being the main goal. Engagement is way more valuable.

For example, one of my live stream shows, This Isn’t Radio, didn’t have a huge viewership but did have a high level of engagement – 20% of the audience submitted content upon solicit. That level of engagement is considered strong, so that was a big win.

The number of Likes are redundant if people aren’t genuinely engaging with your content. If you focus on engagement then your Likes will come. Having said that, for me the true pay-off is in having fun and creating. If even one person enjoys what I’m doing, that’s enough. And so I’m very lucky that my mum likes my work.

How do you continually grow your digital reach?

Innovate and be savvy with how you use social media. Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark, thinks we do this well. She recently highlighted us with Deloitte Australia and Tourism Australia for ‘making smart use of social media through quick responses and regular updates’.

Enjoy what you do; if it’s authentic then you’re going in the right direction. And if you express something people can relate to, they want to own and share it.

With any project you have to know what you’re about, what it means to you, and what the parameters are within which you define your brand.

Be fluid and evolve; digital will continue to be a super fast developing industry.

The attention span of future generations will continue to get shorter. But that’s not a problem if the content is genuine and interesting; quality engagement is the result of evoking an emotional response.

What skills does a digital producer need to draw on?

You have to be a jack-of-all-trades; photographer, cameraman, editor, producer, copywriter, researcher, social media manager, developer, graphic designer, etc.

Versatility is really important. In my role, I have to constantly adapt to unexpected and ever-changing environments, document crazy antics and produce content in challenging situations. I’m very lucky to be friends with who I work with. And it works well for us – respect and trust is there.

Some highlights have been:

  • Photographing a tall ship adventure during hurricane force winds and 10m waves – and uploading content via helicopter transfer
  • Capturing content at 42 parties nation-wide during 1 weekend – Party Marathon
  • Touring with a misfit gang of Hungry Hungry Heroes around Australia
  • Documenting a Bi Bi Tri Bi-athlon – 24 sports in 1 weekend
  • Producing the digital event of Frank Stallone in concert, including a live stream and 360 degree video
  • Launching our version of Facebook – chumsgroup.com
  • Live streaming a BYO Pool Party under the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Touring Australia for the Thank You Tour, including a TV show level of production live stream of our final date Myer Bowl in Melbourne, where U2 made a surprise performance
  • Driving across Australia and America, around India and Great Britain, and flying all over Europe
  • Living and working out of New York and London

What are the top tips you would give to those in the digital space?

Let the old brain run free and embrace imagination.

Be genuine, do what’s true to you and enjoy doing it – that’s the greatest reward. The pay-off has to be the joy of creating, expressing and sharing – that’s as good as it truly gets for me.

Pop culture has a lot of misleading values, which distract you from the fulfilling and quality things – so keep it real.

The win is not if it gets picked up, the win should be in the creative process itself – the love of it and the fun. I think that’s important.

In the past I’ve let myself to get lost in the cloudy delusions of our culture, to a point of quite severe depression and physical illness. I think men naturally feel like that’s failure as it clashes with their inbuilt sense of power and desire to be “the man”. So I like the idea of disarming that tendency and encouraging people to be real instead of trying to feel they need to put on a front of what they think other people like. Which is pretty liberating.

That’s one of the dangers of social media; it can make you feel bad about yourself through comparing your life to other people’s “highlights reels” on Facebook. So keep it real to what’s true for you. And unplug regularly, do some real life things and share them with the people in front of you, not online; which isn’t the best way to end this interview as a digital producer, but it’s all about a wider perspective right?

About our Ambassador // Jacqueline Shields. Luckily Jacqueline is not a cat. She’d be on her ninth life. Her inquisitive nature sees her say yes to pretty much anything – a  Tough Mudder, an African Safari, sailing down the Nile in a felucca and even a HTML workshop. And each and everything she tries, she takes great joy in writing about. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter @hillrepeats.