Twenty Question Tuesdays #8

Hello there!

Welcome to the latest edition of Twenty Question Tuesdays with TechHub Swansea.

Last week we met Fiona McLaren, owner of Bobadeg. This week, we turn to Tony Dowling, MD at Team Rock.

Don't forget - If you want to get involved just click: I want to Play 20 Questions with TechHub Swansea!

So, over to Tony and his 20 answers...

1. What is your expertise?

I'm a highly experienced media MD with sales and marketing background and a real passion for the social web.

2. Tell us what a normal day for you looks like.

I start around 5.30am to travel from Swansea to London to my office. The three hours on the train are spent with my Mac and Apple mail. catching up on the previous evenings incoming, or prep for meetings for the coming day.

Once I hit the office in London I'm pretty much in face to face meetings all day. Members of my management team at Team Rock, or record company clients, or potential commercial partners for our fast growing media empire!
I usually skip lunch which is a really bad habit, or eat to meet, which is sometimes worse!

I stay over in London during the week so I'm often at a function or dinner meeting and then back to the company flat in Westminster for admin time/email catch ups.

Once or twice a week I speak to a partner or client in LA or somewhere else really exotic that I've never been to!
I work long days so I normally go straight to bed with a book around 10pm.

3. How long have you been involved in Tech?

In some senses for my entire career as I've always had an interest in the processes around the media companies I've worked for. But since around 2008 I've gradually found myself specialising more and more in digital media and especially the social web.

4. What does your company do?

Team Rock is the global home of rock and metal music! At the traditional end of things we have world famous rock and metal magazines Classic Rock and Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine and Blue Magazine as part of the portfolio, but most of my effort involves maximising the worldwide potential of the magazine sites, digital mags, radio station and YouTube channels and the creation of an entirely new, data driven, subscription based online media business called Team Rock!

5. What role do you have now and how long have you been in it?

Im the MD of the London part of the operation. Our head office and the birthplace is actually Glasgow, so there is a strong Celtic connection there in N1!

6. How did you end up in your current role?

After bumping into Billy Anderson - the Team Rock CEO, an old friend and ex colleague, in Paddington station. We had coffee and chatted and realised we had a lot to offer each other!

7. Whats the most rewarding thing about your job, what makes it all worthwhile?

Changing things. Showing people how to get more out of the web as publishers or audio people or commercial people or whatever. And then seeing the pride they take in their achievements. There has never been a more exciting, or in some ways, more frightening time to be in media. And I love the fact its all a little like the wild west. I love seeing people transition from an entirely traditional perspective into people who can corral all the opportunity of the web. You really can achieve almost anything online these days, and I love seeing the hard work come together to grow audience or see targets being achieved.

8. What are your greatest achievements to date?

I'm proud of a lot of what I've achieved I guess, from a family and business perspective. But I think I'll settle on setting up what has become one of the largest social media marketing conferences in the UK. It's called the Oiconf - which stands for The Online Influence conference and I started it 3 or 4 years ago now.I had loads of help from Mark Schaefer, someone who is famous for his social media books and blog, and someone I now count as a close friend. He came over from the US to help me launch it. It was originally aimed at SMEs and designed to help them grasp the opportunity the social web presented to them, but it's gone on to be huge with loads of big companies in attendance.

9. What do you do when you’re not in work?

I spend as much time as I can with my family. I've twin boys aged 10 who I love hanging around with, and my best friend is also my wife of 25 years, so we are pretty self contained. I play golf badly when I can and occasionally remember to get out on my mountain bike to pretend I'm doing something healthy.

I read a LOT. Business books, novels, history, philosophy, psychology - everything really.

10. Which area do you live in and how long have you been living there?

I'm back in Swansea where I originally hail from. We've been back just over a year after moving away to Chepstow for more than 10 years. I live in a lovely place called Y Wern which is just about on the north Gower coast.

11. What would you like to see happen to your Tech Scene immediately and in the future?

If by 'my tech scene' I consider the media in general and news and entertainment sites in particular, then thats a really interesting question! We've wrestled with a problem for sometime: The internet is full of low value and cheap content. Stuff like your typical click bait and 'sidebar of shame' sort of stuff. Obviously these are there to drive ad revenues, but not entirely successfully. On the other hand, businesses like ours are trying to be seriously journalistic in our approach, and that also means not flooding our sites with ads. So the problem is - with ads increasingly problematic as a revenue source for media companies, how do you make enough money to run high value content operations which are really expensive? At Team Rock we are confident in our subscription model (and other options) while numerous other companies are trying other things. Its really exciting, but sometimes I wish it would settle down a bit and we could really move forward with confidence. Lot of media companies with really good people involved have really struggled these last 10 years or so, and it would be great for us all to be able to supply our audiences all over the web with the best experience possible, and pay people great wages to do so.

12. If you had to recommend one book, film or game to me, what would it be and why?

Hmmm... Given I've just started Destiny, The Taken King, it would be that I think, at least on the basis of value for money if nothing else! It's a sci fi fps shooter come MMORPG sort of thing. It's got beautiful art, an amazing score, some dodgy voice acting, and the slickest game play this side of reef! But more importantly, it's got so much to do. Especially now that many of the vanilla destiny shortcomings have been addressed. The weapons systems are nicely balanced, and with so much more story to get your teeth into it feels much less of a grind than it did.
I've played the game almost every day since pre order back last September, so pound for pound and hour for hour, its the best value entertainment product I've ever come across.
Pretty excited for BO3 too...
And Dune is an awesome book, best Ive ever read...
Shall we talk about Star Wars? No? Ok...

13. Name three things you would take with you on a foreign holiday.

First off, my family. Me and my lovely wife used to love trailing round the ancient monuments of Greece and Cyprus and whatnot, and I'd love to take my kids to Athens or Mount Olympus or Knossos in Crete to marvel at the things we used to when we were younger.

A good book is an absolute must have for me, early morning coffee or late night glass of wine with my latest can't put down epic is a complete pleasure.

And last but not least, though my wife wont like it, my phone! I hate being unplugged, and find I can easily relax even while staying in touch with email, Facebook, Twitter, my blog and everything else!

14. Mac, Linux or PC?

I'm an unashamed Apple fanboy, so Mac for me all the way. I bought my first MBP in 2008 and its STILL going, minus several keys and after a few battery replacements anyway. I've found them hugely reliable v. pc (I know, I know!) and now I've supplemented my collection with an iMac, a nice new MBP, iPads, iPhones and stuff for the kids, I can't easily get out of Apple's walled garden, even if I wanted to! Besides, I love great design. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

15. Xbox, PS4, or PC (or other)?

Before that, Xbox 360...
Before that a PC...
Before that PS2!
I don't have time to keep a gaming rig ahead of the curve these days, and I love the convenience of slotting that DVD in and jumping straight into the game.
I wanted a next gen, and I while I can't really see much difference between PS and Xbox these days, I plumped for the PS4. I love hanging out on PSN and linking up with fireteams or taking to mates in a party while playing.
I'm really toying with the idea of an Xbox One now though, as Halo 5 looks awesome!

16. What is your claim to fame?

At the recent Prog magazine awards ceremony in Shakespeare's Under Globe theatre in London, I meet Harry Shearer of the Simpsons fame! He was there to honour his character from Spinal Tap, which was great fun! I was totally geeked out and could barely speak though. I was amazed how little he is, he's like about 4 foot tall?!

17. If they made a film of your life, who would play you?

Well, my mother always said I looked like David Hasselhoff! (I think she was trying to boost my confidence, Baywatch was big at the time) So maybe him? Mind you, I once went into the butchers in Pembroke and the guy behind the counter swore he knew me, much to my consternation as I'd never seen him before and have never lived in Pembroke, so maybe the bloke he had me confused with? My lovely wife reckons Chris Pratt, though I think that says more about her than me!


18. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

I have been fascinated with Apple as an organisation for years, and Steve Jobs as an entrepreneur and tech visionary for just as long, so it would have to be him. I'd love to experience the Steve Jobs reality distortion field myself and see what really made the great man tick! As first reserve I'd have to pick Socrates, the philosopher, not the footballer. I studied physics and philosophy in uni, and have loved the man ever since.

19. Tell us something about yourself that people wouldn’t expect.

I applied to work for NASA when I was 10! They wrote back to me (really) and told me what I needed to do to get a job as an astronaut and thats what got me into science.

20. What's your superpower, or what's your spirit animal?

Hmmm.... I genuinely think, given the people Ive met over the years who Ive seen stay in one place or not progress to their fullest potential, I'd say my super power is my ability to learn from my mistakes. Everyone talks about it, and everyone says they do it, but I don't really see much evidence of that sometimes. I have made, and continue to make, loads of mistakes, but I try to only do so only once. OK, maybe twice! But then I need to learn from that mistake, adjust my approach, and do things better.


How long has your company been operating?

It's a hybrid start up, so in its current form just over 2 years - though the magazine part of the business is closer to 30 years old.

What is your company’s expertise / core product?

We are the global home of rock and metal - music/entertainment sites, magazines and the world famous Team Rock online radio station.

What are your company's greatest achievements to date?

Metal Hammer and Classic Rock have many many achievements over the years, but I think as Team Rock, getting to 1 million registered users was a big deal for us.

What will your company be doing in 5 years time?

Ruling the world! Making amazing rock and metal content on video, audio, web and print products, and earning a fair days pay for the people that do it for us.

Are you looking for investment?


Thanks, Tony! Remember, if you want to get involved just click: I want to Play 20 Questions with TechHub Swansea!

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See you next week!