Creator Conversations

Goalhanger created a winning game plan to engage listeners.

Gary Lineker, Jack Davenport, and Tony Pastor started Goalhanger Podcasts to share stories on history, politics, sports, and everything in between. Based in the UK, the trio have built a company with listeners all over the world tuning into podcasts like The Rest Is History and The Rest Is Politics.

Apple Podcasts sat down with Tony Pastor to chat about the success of Goalhanger, how they’re growing their fanbase, and some of the things they’ve learned along the way.

Apple Podcasts: Can you introduce yourself and give a little background about Goalhanger?

Tony: Goalhanger started out as a TV production company with just myself and Gary largely making sports-related documentaries. We experimented with podcasting five or six years ago and then the phenomenal success of The Rest Is History, followed closely by The Rest Is Politics, meant that we decided to refocus the business into being predominantly a podcast production company.

Goalhanger gives subscribers bonus episodes and ad-free content.

AP: Why do you think The Rest Is History has been so successful?

Tony: I think the central relationship between the hosts, Tom and Dominic, is warm, intelligent, funny, and accessible. For many people who love history — and perhaps didn’t always find their school experience of history teaching to be perfect — it’s a way of rediscovering their love of history through two enormously engaging people who are as enthusiastic, well-read, and informed as anybody you would find. We know this because we can put out episodes on very unusual subjects — the history of pigeons and all manner of strange and unusual subjects. And yet the audience trusts Tom and Dominic to tell them such an engaging, intelligent, and witty narrative.

AP: How did you decide to launch an Apple Podcasts subscription?

Tony: We know from our fans that there is a sizable group of them who are enormously engaged. We see it on social media, we see it at live shows, and it was really about trying to build a community of people around the show. People who wanted content in advance. And people who couldn’t wait four weeks to get all eight episodes about the Aztecs. This is the kind of box-set approach that many streaming services have adopted.

And so we realized that we needed to provide a place for this very engaged community to come and get the services and additional elements that they wanted. For example, we get a huge amount of questions sent into the show about Tom and Dominic’s interpretation of history or their views on historical events and figures. We realized that if we could do a bonus episode each week in which Tom and Dominic attempted to answer as many of these questions as possible, it would be really popular. And so the natural place to do that really was as part of a membership club.

“We realized that we needed to provide a place for this very engaged community to come and get the services and additional elements that they wanted.”
Goalhanger co-creator Tony Pastor

AP: What do listeners love the most now that you’ve launched the subscription?

Tony: People simply do not want to wait for the later episodes in a miniseries. The number one driver with The Rest Is History Club is people wanting all of it now.

AP: Do you address the audience differently, or do you change the way you produce the show in any way?

Tony: The bonus content is very, very chatty. It’s less narrative storytelling and more responding to the very specific questions that the audience wants answered. They often have passion projects they want us to talk about. They have favorite prime ministers or U.S. presidents. They’ve got periods of history they’re particularly interested in. And so we can be quite niche and focused on what they want and not worry about whether a slightly more casual audience will find it interesting.

AP: How have you managed to grow that club?

Tony: Yeah, annual plans are really useful, and we’ve heavily discounted them and encouraged people to join for longer periods. We don’t do quite as many one-offs anymore. We’re more inclined to do a four-parter or a six-parter because we know that it’s on those deep dives with multiple episodes that more people join our membership club simply because they want to get that content. They want all of it early. They want to listen to it on their own terms, not necessarily when we’re planning to put them out.

Tom Holland (left) and Dominic Sandbrook (right), hosts of The Rest Is History, are part of one of the fastest-growing podcast companies, Goalhanger.

AP: You recently introduced a new subscription for We Have Ways of Making You Talk, a World War II-focused podcast. How is that structured?

Tony: With We Have Ways of Making You Talk, which is nearly 800 episodes old and has been going since 2019, we realized that it’s becoming quite difficult for new listeners to just arrive at that podcast and join it. Do they go back to episode one knowing that they’ve got a long, long journey to get up to date? Do they join in this week, and just accept that they’ve missed out on a lot of content and a lot of back stories and a lot of in-jokes?

And what we realized was that by using Apple Podcasts and turning We Have Ways into a channel, we were able to break down the content into more manageable chunks as separate mini subscriber-only “shows” in the same channel. We Have Ways is all about the Second World War. So if you’re only interested in the war at sea, you can just listen to our episodes about the Second World War on the oceans. If you’re only interested in tanks, you can just listen to those episodes. If you’re interested in the Battle of Arnhem, there are a dozen or more on that. And so, actually, it’s allowed us to curate the collection much better for the audience.

“By using Apple Podcasts and turning
We Have Ways into a channel, we were able to break down the content into more manageable chunks as separate mini subscriber-only ‘shows’ in the same channel.”
Goalhanger co-creator Tony Pastor

AP: What would you say to other creators who are considering launching a premium subscription?

Tony: I would highly recommend they do it, but I would also be clear to them that they need to be thinking about what they’re offering. People will not join a membership club if it’s not compelling or doesn’t add value to what they’re already doing. You need to be thinking about what your audience wants and if you have the time and information to give them. So if you’re not going to be doing bonus content, if you’re not going to be doing special deals on books, or if you’re not going to be creating a beautifully curated collection of your back catalog, then I wouldn’t do it. If you’re happy to put the effort in, you’ll be rewarded for it. And you’ll also build a fabulous, highly engaged community.