📜 How Dan Snow re-imagined History for the digital age 👾
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Taking History Back To The Future
Most people first got to know Dan Snow as a brilliant young history presenter, fronting major BBC documentaries and events.
He fast became a household name as one of the top historians on television.
But Dan knew that the world was changing, that history lovers around the world were using new ways to communicate, so he decided to "start a thing".
I was delighted to host Dan Snow on the latest episode of THE BIG SWING PODCAST. You can listen to the full episode on YouTube below:
Here are my five favourite quotes from our fascinating conversation:
Dan was living a great life as a top BBC presenter. But he started to feel like the rise of online content was an existential threat to television:
It felt like everyone was like the last day of the fall of Rome. You know, they're all drinking up a nice time with their togas on and eating grapes, and you're like, I think you guys were all about to be swept away...
Dan felt like his success was reliant on the whims of others:
That's what that's why they get you. It's flattering. You feel good about yourself. You think, Hey, man, I'm famous, I'm on TV, but actually, you've got nothing. And they can turn that light switch off immediately. And I felt very vulnerable.
So, Dan started posting across social under the History Hit handle. And although it was a steep learning curve, he began to see the potential of the digital world:
When you get that glimpse, you think, Oh, this is interesting. And it was really, really exciting. But you couldn't really talk about it with anyone because... it appeared to be much smaller and less relevant than all the other stuff. So it was a very private experience. But it was yeah, it was great.
Dan jumped in, raised some money and turned History Hit into a dedicated platform for History content, complete with a podcast and SVOD service. But running a start-up was a real challenge:
You haven't got the personnel, right? You've got founders, but we didn't have the right people. We didn't know how to do things. It's a terrible chicken egg that all entrepreneurs will feel - you think you know what to do, but you can't do it because you can't get the scale.
Dan had always felt there were enough amazing new discoveries to support fantastic new documentaries - and one day he got the breakthrough call he'd been hoping for:
So I got a phone call from a team of people that were going to look for the Explorer Shackleton shipwreck, which is wrecked in the Weddell Sea off Antarctica in 1950. They said, Oh, you're the chap off the BBC. Can we, can you come and do a documentary on our attempt to go and find this ship? And I was standing on a railway platform and I was on that platform for 45 minutes. I shouted into my phone. I was freezing my nuts off. I was like, this is the moment. This is the call. I knew I'd get that call one day. And this is the moment.
Dan is such a wonderful advocate for history - and his hard work building History Hit has brought joy to so many other history enthusiasts.
His story proves that with tenacity, enthusiasm and hard work, it's possible to build your very own piece of history.
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I'm on my way home from Lapland - can't wait for the relative warmth of the UK!
Thanks for all your support,