RAJAR Q1/2016

This is the first book when we can start to look at Radio X’s figures since the re-brand. But they are somewhat confusing.

Really, there are three Radio X’s. London, Manchester and Rest of the UK. London and Manchester are on FM and have always been the two big markets for the station. All the bits in between have had a variety of coverage and no real marketing. Taken together, they all then form the network.

London’s Radio X figures are a bit of a disaster. Reach is 337k (down from 517k q on q and down from 362k y on y) – I believe that’s 104.9’s lowest reach ever, definitely lowest since Q3/04). The one slight saving grace is its average hours are up to 5.9 (from 5.7 q on q and 3.5 y on y).

Moyles has hit 170k (down from 229k q on q, but up from 117k, a particularly terrible quarter a year ago). Historically, XFM London’s breakfast has hovered about 200k, so this is not a great showing.

Manchester for the station (and Moyles) is pretty flat when looking at the past few years. A station reach of 178k (Q4/15: 182k Q1/15: 194k), for Moyles 113k (Q4/15: 104k Q1/2015: 87k). Again total hours does a bit better, as the average hours are up to 6.5 when historically it’s been around the 5s.

An analysis of the launch of Radio X London & Manchester would make pretty grim reading. Star power and marketing is generating not a lot of good news.

An analysis of the launch of Radio X London & Manchester would make pretty grim reading. Click To Tweet

BUT and there’s always a but with research. If you take the results from Manchester and London from the network total, there’s a bit of a different story. In this whitespace area, Radio X has (when comparing it to XFM a year ago) nearly tripled its reach and quadrupled its hours. Moyles himself has quadrupled the breakfast audience and generates about eight times the hours.

So looking in aggregate at the network as a whole, the new Radio X has year on year grown from 892k to 1.2m reach and hours have nearly doubled from 4,605k to 8,830k which is great for the brand as a whole and for the sales department.

However if London and Manchester had followed the same pattern as the rest of the country, the station would be comfortably over 2million reach and on the way to 3.

I think you would have to say that Moyles/the re-launch has probably churned a high proportion of old XFM listeners so the current figures are a lot of new people. BUT at the same time they don’t seem to have been able, particularly in London, to pull enough of people who previously listened to Moyles on R1.

I think this is probably a combination of things

  1. Moyles was off-air for three years. People had plenty of time to settle with a new breakfast show. If you think of the breakfast show you listen to, what would it take for you to switch to something else? I imagine quite a lot. It’s hard to get people to switch.
  2. Other London/national breakfast shows are good. Most people switch shows because their old one was merely their least worst option until something better comes along. That’s less of a thing for London’s listeners.
  3. Global don’t seem to been able to communicate that Moyles is back and what the show is. I think there’s a lot of warmth and humour in the programme and it suits a 30s/40s audience really well. For many, historically Moyles-rejectors, it could be a pleasant surprise.  I think they need to work out how to market what the show is today to potential listeners.
  4. It needs to be much more noisy. It would really benefit from aggressive PR and stunting. Moyles is a naughty character, even if he’s now ‘older and wiser’, there’s lots you could do with that. The show’s in a much better position than many to generate headlines and grow awareness and trial.

To me, the difficulty of finding and moving audience to a station like Radio X is a particular warning for Wireless Group and their new Talk Radio and Virgin Radio stations. I think the quality of radio is probably the highest it’s ever been and the volume of stations fighting it out for audience shows how difficult it is to establish something new. Success is also much much more than just programming. Of course what comes out of the speakers needs to be good – but strong branding, positioning and marketing is essential to establish something new.

News in London

One station that’s doing better than Radio X in London is LBC. In fact, both of them. Of course, with 1m listeners LBC (the Nick Ferrari one) continues to do well, but so does the ‘rolling news’ AM variant – LBC News, which pulls in 482k listeners a week. I was one of those that tuned in during the quarter and it’s not a bad listen – a station that takes updated news, travel and weather and combines it with interesting speech packages made by the Global News team. All very listenable – especially in short chunks.

But in reach terms, more people are listening to it than listening to the new BBC Radio London, who’s relaunch has seen it crash to its lowest reach ever – 354k. That’s a well-funded BBC service with a lower reach and hours than a news jukebox.

Indeed 6Music has a bigger listenership in London and Absolute 80s isn’t far behind either.

The argument will be that it’s still early days on its new schedule (but oldish format), but I think that belies the core issue. In a truly competitive environment like London it needs a much clearer, cleaner proposition on-air and that then needs to be communicated to audiences.

London Figures

Looking at the other commercial stations in the Capital, it remains razor tight.

In share terms it’s: 1. Heart (4.7%), 2. Capital (4.7%), 3. LBC (4.5%), 4. Magic (4.4%), 5. Kiss 4.4%.

In weekly reach terms it’s: 1. Capital (2.2m), 2. Kiss (2.0m), 3. Magic (1.7m), 4. Heart (1.5m), 5. LBC (1.0m)

At Breakfast, Kiss has recently extended Ricky, Melvin and Charlie’s hours to match Capital’s show – 6 to 10am. Last quarter that would have made them number 1. Unfortunately (for them) in this one, the new Capital Breakfast has had a good book with 1.164m listeners vs Kiss’s 1.042m.

Radio 1

Not a brilliant book for Radio 1. They drop below the “psychologically important” 10m reach figure – down to 9.9m. This includes a loss of around a quarter of a million 15 to 24s this quarter, that’s down around 100k on the year.

Grimmy posts his lowest ever reach for the breakfast show – 5.435m. He’s also got 250k less 15-24s than he started with, back in Sept 2012 and about 500k less than Moyles was delivering in his final year.

Digital Radio

The quality of radio, and new radio stations, particularly in markets that have been starved of choice, has made this another good quarter for digital radio.

Listening on digital radio (that’s DAB, DTV and the Internet) now accounts for 44.1% of all radio listening (up from 41.7% last quarter). If you break down the listening to platforms – 30.9% of all it is to services through DAB, 5.4% from listening on the telly and 7.8% from listening to the internet/apps.

We’ve also seen analogue listening increase – from 50.7% to 55.9%. Huh? How is digital and analogue up? Well, there’s always been an unallocated part of listening – people who for some of their listening, don’t know which platform they’ve been listening on. This is now allocated based on the rest of their attributed listening. There’s no digital bonus – as people who haven’t ticked a digital platform in the rest of their diary will still be seen as an analogue-only listener. RAJAR explain it a bit more here.

But that 44.1% is still yet to included any digital audience boost from the addition of the new D2 stations and Heart Extra – we’ll find out about those in the next quarter. Suddenly that 50% digital listening mark doesn’t seem that far away!

Hitting that target kicks off a load of discussion for the plans to transition off analogue radio. Indeed, in the BBC White Paper the Government have mandated that the BBC will help lead that process.

And finally…

If you want some ideas to help keep your RAJAR’s up, pop in your diary this year’s Next Radio Conference. It’s on the 19th September in London AND we’re giving away 10 tickets. Register to win here!

Check out more RAJAR fun with Adam BowiePaul EastonJohn Rosborough and media.info has all the RAJAR figures in historical graph form – https://media.info/radio/data/rajar for more.

Two Radio Podcasts I’m Enjoying

Two radio podcasts I’m really enjoying listening to at the moment are David Lloyd’s Conversations and Craig Bruce’s Game Changers: Radio.

David‘s the Group PD (in old money) of Orion Media and somewhat of a radio historian. Now, to be honest, radio nostalgia isn’t really my thing. I’ve always been an anorak of now, rather than then.

However, I am interested in radio people. I’m interested in finding out what they did and why they did it. It’s hard to do this for things happening today as people are often worried about letting their guard down or revealing some commercial confidentiality. As you drift back through time, it’s less of an issue, but often the decision making and thought it still very relevant.

I think Conversations as a title is a bit of a misnomer, as David clearly works hard to edit as much as himself out as possible. What’s left is a beautifully produced part-history, part self-analysis of some people who’ve had a significant effect on radio.

Many of the people are ‘famous’ for their roles in later management, it’s lovely to hear the real radio roots.

Craig Bruce was, up until recently, the Content Director for Australia’s largest radio group Southern Cross Austereo. He’s worked with some fascinating people and what I’ve read about him and what I felt when I spent some time with him, is that he’s incredibly focused on delivering great performances – be it from talent or teams.

His podcasts are long-form interviews with some big Australian radio talent from in front of, and behind, the radio mic.

As a Brit, it won’t be a surprise if you don’t really know who these interviewees are. I actually think it makes it more interesting. If you’re fascinated by the craft of radio and how brilliant radio folk think and work, this is a great podcast to give you ideas and to re-think how you approach your radio work.

  • A good place to start is the episode with Hamish and Andy’s producer Sam Cavanagh.

Radio Market Shares

News today that Bauer Media have acquired Orion Media (the people that own Free Radio/Gem etc). It made me have a look at the current market shares of operators in the UK.

  • BBC: 53.5%
  • Global Radio: 19.5%
  • Bauer+Orion: 15.0%
  • Wireless Group: 2.9%
  • Communicorp UK: 2.3%
  • UKRD: 0.7%
  • Lincs FM Group: 0.6%
  • Celador: 0.4%
  • Jazz: 0.2%
  • Nation Group: 0.2%
  • Anglian: 0.2%
  • Q: 0.2%
  • Tindle Radio Group: 0.1%
  • Adventure: 0.1%
  • kmfm Group: 0.1%
  • Quidem: 0.1%
  • CN Radio: 0.1%
  • Cheshire Radio: 0.0%

A couple of things. Firstly the BBC is still a stonkingly strong part of the UK radio market. It continues to dwarf the rest of the sector.

Secondly, we’re pretty much getting to the end of ten years of radio consolidation.  BBC, Global and Bauer account for nearly 88% of all UK radio listening – their dominance is almost, to pardon a pun, absolute.

Bauer have been acquiring UK radio hours over the past couple of years through the purchase of Absolute, Planet Rock and now Orion in an attempt to reach a similar scale to Global. That, alongside their digital successes have increased their share from 10% to 15% in the past ten years. There options now though are somewhat limited.

When you look at further major consolidation possibilities you’re only really left with Communicorp and Wireless. Communicorp is tough for Global or Bauer, to own outright because of market dominance issues (though Global own the national hours for sales), so Wireless is really the last potential operator that would give either Global or Bauer that final boost.

Whether it’s up for sale is, of course, another matter.

 

How Are People Listening and What Happens Next?

You may have gathered that I’m a fan of radio data.

I love it because deep down I’m really a fan of listeners. I think radio’s job is to cater for their tastes, interests and needs, as well as giving them the occasional surprise by providing them something they didn’t know that they wanted.

To a do a good job at this, you have to understand them and their lives.

I am always wary of people who slag of (any form) of radio research. How arrogant to think that you, on your own, know what’s best for other people?

Now, I have a strong idea of what people want because of the experience I’ve built up making radio and radio stations, but I always want to test these ideas from real feedback from the listener.

In this modern multi-media platform world, it’s much harder know what people want, because their world is changing. Tablets, Sonos, Wifi, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook – (for non early adopters) the last five years have been incredibly disruptive. People have formed super-strong new habits with new technology and content.

You would be fucking mental if you didn't think this has had an effect on 'our' listeners. Click To Tweet

Reach and Hours as a measurement has been pretty good for radio. It tracks how many people we’re reaching and how much time they’re spending with us. Where people used radio and how they listened has never been that important – it’s always been a car radio or a home/office radio.

The battle we’ve fought has been against each other. The battle we’re now facing is winning people’s time.

To do that it’s essential that we understand how we’re doing in different places, against other devices. It’s vital to be able to see where you are, to work out where you want to go and then how you’re going to do it.

It’s great that RAJAR have published its MIDAS survey in more detail than they previously have – really looking at how time listening to audio is split amongst radio, streaming, music videos on YouTube etc as well as how that changes with different ages and different devices. There’s quite a bit in there, but what I find interesting is where radio is winning the battle for time and where we’re losing.

And indeed, what we should defend and what areas should we attack?

On the face of it, it’s pretty good news:

shareofaudiotime

Live radio still totally dominates in listening. We’re lucky because we’ve got these industry-specific audio-consumption devices (radios) that people have got and love. We have vendor lock-in! A proprietary device that limits the number of new entrants – APPLE HAVE NOTHING ON US.

 

When we look at how people are listening to ‘live radio’ it’s these devices that continue to rule.

bydevice

This chart is the reason that there are no successful internet radio stations in the UK (my judge of success – actual listeners, run as a business, making money, investing in content).

To have any chance of being successful you need to be on FM/AM, DAB or, at a push DTV. If you’re playing on the other platforms, even if you’re doing AN AMAZING job, there just isn’t the volume of listening to be able to do well.

However there is a tyranny with the success of our platform. Live radio is significantly challenged in other places.

newplatforms

We’re doing okay in the PC world – but streaming services are coming up fast. I think it’s amazing that our PC listening is so strong when, generally, our web products are pretty dreadful. Why aren’t we building on the success of Radioplayer to build out more cross-industry web products? We need to strengthen our lead there, not let it be lost.

Similarly what’s our, and when I say our, I mean YOUR station but also our industry approach to creating something great for tablets – it’s our least successful new platform. When was that last time someone even mentioned it in your station?

On the mobile, I think we face our biggest challenge. There is lots of good stuff on a phone that’s non-audio but it eats into our time with listeners.  Looking at audio specifically – podcasts are doing well, and music video is starting to make an impact – where are our products in those sectors? Not, where is Station FM’s podcasts – but where are we working together to show radio industry content and make our brilliant stuff discoverable?

Today we dominate audio listening, driven by radio devices. We reach 90% of the country and they spend a ridiculous amount of time with us. It’s time to take that lead, reach and impact and start invading other sectors, doing a better job to defend and grow radio’s position.

Chris Moyles – RAJAR Q4/2015

I’m sure they’ll be a load of press coverage around the return of Moyles this quarter. The problem is that we haven’t really got all the data in yet to properly say how he’s doing.

Radio X’s London figures are measured over three months, but Radio X elsewhere – in Manchester and the ‘UK’ – is measured over a six month period. Therefore, this time round we only get half Radio X and half XFM.

So, what do we know?

Well, I think there will be some disappointment about how he, and the new Radio X, has done in London. They’ve gone from a station reach of 507k to 517k. Which is fairly flat. The show itself has had the best reach for about eight years (and hours for about ten), but it’s still perhaps not quite the scale everyone had hoped for. At a push I’d say that it’s likely that they’ve churned a lot of listening – ie they’ve brought in a similar amount to what they’ve lost. What tells me that? Well the proportion of Radio X listeners who listen to breakfast has gone up quite a bit – 42% to 58%. 104.9 is now a radio station with a base of Moyles fans.

I thought it would have been Moyles’ London figures that would have had the strength, with the rest of the country, because of the 3/6 month thing, gradually following further behind in the next few surveys. But, it hasn’t really worked like that. Even with a 6 month survey period, it’s the UK numbers – that look at the station as a whole – that have seen the growth. For the UK station, reach is up from 1.04m to 1.22m and the national breakfast numbers are up around 40%. Looking at the data it seems like he’s also sitting on a strong UK book for next time, when we’ll perhaps see him on the verge of doubling the old XFM UK breakfast audience.

Similar to London, 97.7 in Manchester has been pretty flat too, with the audience even dropping back a little this quarter.

I suppose what’s happened is that for Manchester and London, where X was on FM, this has all been a bit of a shock – these were stations with passionate audiences. Moyles has brought in new listeners and it’s about balanced out the ones who’ve fled. However, where the growth for Radio X is coming from, is outside its two FM cities. To these listeners this is very much a new radio station.

Global are seemingly on the road to a successful launch of their new station – driven by digital listening – outside of the analogue areas. As the national figures get a full book next quarter, I think we’ll start to see it look more like a success.

Listening to Moyles, the shows three months on are perhaps unsurprisingly much stronger than the early few. The team, who were all very uncertain of their roles and what the dynamic would be, have settled into a much more steady rhythm with individual personalities coming to the fore. Pippa’s dating storylines have really helped round her out and Dave, nervous of Moyles in the beginning, is being given much more meaty things to do and sound much more confident and happy taking part.

I think part of the thing they’re aiming for is a much more relaxed feel. Positioning themselves against formatted breakfast shows, using authenticity (of which Chris has buckets) to make the show seem different is not a bad tactic. Whilst I enjoy the show, as a listener the lack of benchmarks, the changing competition mechanics and thus the need to provide quite a bit of explanation and exposition can though make it hard to navigate.

Overall though, the show is clearly a good one and, with the right focus, will only get better. Global themselves have never been shy of spending money on marketing, but just reading the Facebook page and tweets to Moyles, there is still a big job to do to teach people that not only is Moyles on Radio X, but that’s it’s easy to tune into digitally. There is still more old listeners to deliver across.

Moyles: The show is clearly a good one and, with the right focus, will only get better: Click To Tweet

However for Global and Moyles to achieve the promise, they’re going to have to stay focused and keep delivering. They’ve made a more solid start to this battle than it perhaps seems on the surface, but there’s still a good way to go.

There’s normally more RAJAR fun from Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough.

RAJAR Q3/2015

Some things I’ve noticed from this quarter’s RAJAR…

Digital

Another good quarter for digital radio. 41.9% of all radio listening in the UK is on a digital platform (two-thirds of that is through DAB). 63% of the country listen to some form of digital radio each week – that’s 30m listeners. 20m listeners listen to DAB each week, 9m listen online and 7.7m tune in through their telly.

I really feel for you if you’re radio station isn’t on some broadcast digital platforms. The real world effect of that 41.8% means that your available audience is now only 60% of the market, a huge handicap before you’ve even started.

National digital stations are now huge parts of UK radio listening. Absolute 80s has 1.5m, Kisstory 1.3m, Kerrang’s on 820k, Heat’s on 912k, Planet Rock on 1.2m, 6Music on 2.1m, 1Xtra on 1.1m and Radio 4 Extra with a super strong 2.2m.

With hybrid analogue/digital networks – Magic doubles its London FM audience  – now reaching 3.4m and Smooth Extra (the Smooth that fills in the gaps of the FM Smooth’s) has a first book of 930k.

If you’re a stand-alone local station wondering where your audience is going – this is the answer!

Radio 1

  • Radio 1 has had its 2nd lowest 15-24 reach ever.
  • The Radio 1 Breakfast show has its lowest ever 15-24 reach
  • 15-24’s make up the (joint) lowest proportion of its total audience ever.
  • 15-24’s make up the third lowest proportion of the Breakfast Show’s total audience ever.
  • Radio 1’s average age is the second highest it’s been in the last ten years.

I don’t envy Radio 1’s challenge. Getting younger audiences to listen to the radio is hard and it maintains a huge heritage with older audiences. Nick’s breakfast show is sounding better than it has for a long time and it still generates a 22% share of 15-24s – which is impressive.

However, it is Radio 1’s job to fix the problems above. It gets £40m to ensure that it can do an exceptional job of catering for young audiences. Kiss and Capital have as much heritage but manage a younger average age. Capital, with much worse distribution manage nearly 80% of R1’s 15-24 reach and beats it for 10 to 14s. R1’s budget and marketing access give it massive advantages that it should be benefiting from.

In its RAJAR press release Radio 1’s Controller trumpets the YouTube reach (1m views a day and 85% of audience aged 13-34). I think this makes the on air figures all the more disappointing. R1 has built an amazing YouTube platform with loads of great content, however it does virtually nothing to get the people it reaches to listen to the radio. Of the last five videos I can see – Innuendo Bingo, Derulo Live Lounge, Bieber on Grimmy, Pia Surprise Karaoke/Edmondson, Pewdiepie – the only one that has any reference to on-air, sort of, is PewdiePie where the description mentions that you can watch the takeover show on the Radio 1 website on a certain day. Even then it fails to mention that it’s also on the radio.

With the rest there’s no reference to how you can listen to Scott/Clara/Nick/Matt or when you should tune in. Hiding behind ‘teens don’t listen to the radio’ is easier to do when you not using your relationships with them to encourage them to listen to the radio.

Radio 1 is full of great content, so why at the end of Nick’s Bieber vid didn’t they say who’s the next big guest, what day they’re on and how to listen? Same for the Live Lounge. Why isn’t Clara IDing it reminding us to listen in the morning?

If you haven’t watched it, there’s a great clip with Greg James and Vin Diesel (stay with me) where he gets quite emotional about the Live Lounge. These are the sort of connections with audiences we would sell our Mums to get hold of – it’s such a wasted opportunity not to take this passion and use it to generate more value for the station.

There of course is an argument that Radio 1 is not just a radio station, but the BBC’s vessel for reaching young audiences and therefore YouTube, the iPlayer channel, Twitter etc all work as their own unique platforms and they should be creating specific content for those channels. I just don’t buy it. Radio 1 has a service licence that almost entirely concentrates on being a radio station – digital platforms are there to support the radio. Not the other way around.

London

London remains such a competitive place commercially. Capital’s had a bit of a resurgence over the past few quarters, this time winning the city in share, but losing out by around 3,000 listeners to Kiss for the biggest reach.

XFM

It’s the last book for XFM before it becomes Radio X and we see how Moyles is getting on. As is often the case, it’s had a great book! Biggest network figures since 2007 and best London numbers for two years. There’s often a similar peak when presenters are working out their last quarter – does the lack of pressure allow everyone to be a purer version of themselves and become more successful? Discuss.

Manchester

Key 103 still faces quite a bit of trouble. Its figures are similar to last quarter, though Heart North West now has more hours in its TSA – taking Key from commercial number 3 to commercial number 4.

Oxford

Jack (and Jack 2) have been plugging away on their target to being bigger in reach terms than Heart (the old Fox FM) in their TSA. The combined Jack and Jack 2 are now just 4,000 listeners behind Heart – an impressive feat. Whilst being neck and neck isn’t going to worry Global that much, for a local operator it gives them a great angle when talking to local advertisers and pushing up their rates.

Orion

A good result for Orion, quarter on quarter increases for all of their stations and for most, year on year increases too. There’s also a great reach figure for Gem of 476k – up there with its best ever quarters.

More RAJAR:

  • Adam Bowie always gives a good run down of the figures
  • John Rosborough tends to give an update on Northern Ireland’s stations

Moyles and the Clutter Battle

I think it’s impossible to review a new show from the first edition. This morning’s Chris Moyles show was basically a ‘special’. However, there were a few things that I noticed about structure.

The bedrock of commercial music radio is structure. There are a number of things that you have to broadcast in an hour and the flow can be made or broken on how those elements are put together.

Commercial radio is always handicapped by the fact it has to make money. We have to insert interruptions into the programming to pay for it. The trick is to balance how much there is. Not only can you vary how many spot ads there are, you can decide how many sponsored features there are – things like weather, travel, whether there’s paid-for contesting and even if you’re pushing premium rate competitions.

As businesses are generally designed to make money, it can be very tempting to take as much money as you can in the good days. The problem, like a good game of buckaroo, is that if you load too much on, the whole thing collapses and no one wants to listen.

This is connected to the reason that there isn’t much speech on commercial radio, which, generally, is 2-fold:
1. It’s a point of difference to the (relatively) large amount of speech in BBC music radio
2. If we’ve already got 10mins of interruptions an hour from the ads, let’s not add more interruptions in the form of speech

Moyles therefore potentially is a problem as ads+heavy speech on a music station would traditionally generate tune out. Or more accurately, the people who like heavy-speech music radio already listen to the BBC, so heavy speech+ads means we’re on a hiding to nothing from the people who quite like the other type of music radio.

The difference, I think, is about the definition of interruptions. Moyles’ background and heritage means that the audience already knows that he likes to talk. The attraction for Radio X of Moyles is that they’ll be attracting people who understand how he works and what he does.

If you look at fans of the previous XFM Facebook page about how they feel about him, compared to his new show page, you can see the difference in understanding. The old listeners care very much about the amount of music, the new ones, not so much.

Interruptions to a Moyles audience is not about interruptions to the music, it’s interruptions to entertainment. A Moyles listener sees him as a bigger part of the music and speech that make up a show.

Back to structure

Ads aren’t the only interruption to the core being of a show – news, travel, weather, unnecessary sponsored features – these can be interruptions too. Another word for interruptions is clutter. Clutter are the things that get in the way.

What’s great to see with Moyles is how much the clutter’s been minimised.

First no traffic news. Traffic would usually be twice an hour and is likely to run:
Traffic jingle, sponsor credit, traffic bulletin, sponsor credit, traffic network ad. Loads of clutter for a normal breakfast show and here it just doesn’t exist.

Secondly, News. Usually something that’s delivered twice an hour, with Moyles it’s just once an hour. It’s also all delivered by a single voice and one that’s a core part of the team. There didn’t even seem to be an IRN Newslink ad either. Edit: The ‘solus’ Newslink ad, as Sophie Law points out, is actually wrapped into the break with the old “News is next” trick. However, with that and Dom doing it tightly packed and only once an hour it seemed a very clutter-free break.

Ad breaks. In the 7am and 8am hour there were three – 2mins, 1m30sec and 2mins. 5mins30secs an hour is incredibly light. Bauer breakfast shows will be crying on reading how long his run. Sponsor credits run into the breaks – just three times an hour before other commercial messaging.

The only other bit of clutter was a sponsored competition to win tickets to Muse. This was a text when you hear with some premium rate terms (voiced by Toby Anstis) and it was resolved straight after the break. It didn’t overtake the show by being opened and closed quickly.

All that was left was the entertainment – the speech content and the music. There were 4 songs in the 7am hour and 8am hour, 1 in the first half hour and six in the 9am hour. I imagine this is a little lighter than a normal show, but then they did have an exceptional guest in Noel Gallagher.

The entertainment works as it’s high quality, but also because it’s supported by having discarded so much clutter and the show’s fortunate by having shorting ad breaks.

Clearly Moyles is in a privileged position when discussing his show format with his bosses, but to me it really highlights the importance of flow and minimising clutter. If you’re doing breakfast, now really is a perfect time to review clutter and ask if all your show elements are entirely necessary and whether they’re delivered in the most efficient way.

The only structural negatives I felt were:

1. Long comedy production bits. There were a couple of longer than 30sec joke bits of production. I felt if these aren’t REALLY good there’s the danger that these drift into the clutter zone.

2. Talking about ad breaks. Moyles’ listeners are used to there not being ad breaks, when he talks about them, I know they’re coming and therefore feel the content-free discussion is just extending the inevitable. Chris is really lucky his ad breaks are so short, he shouldn’t being adding anything to them by going on about ads.

Overall though, minor quibbles. I’m really happy that Moyles is on commercial radio, I think the show’s going to make a real impact and be a big success. I’m also fascinated to see where the audience comes from.

However, as the show gets popular I imagine it’s inevitable that the demands for greater ad loads will increase as will the desire for more promotions. It’ll be interesting to see how Global balance keeping the existing inventory at a premium versus extending the amount of commercial minutage and whether they can keep doing the excellent job of keeping the clutter at bay.

Simplicity and Confusion

It’s been a busy week. I got back from holiday last weekend, had Next Radio on Monday, started test transmissions for our local multiplex in Lincolnshire and have been trying to catch-up on all the day-to-day stuff I’ve missed. Of course I’m not alone in being busy, we all have busy lives trying to combine work, family and fun.

One of the great things about radio, and one of the reasons I think we’ve done so well for so long, is that it’s brilliantly simple. You turn it on, it plays the last thing you were listening to. Marvellous. If you like a few stations you might use presets, scrolling by name on your digital radio, or remembering those frequency numbers. It’s a bit more complicated, but most people cope. Or at least teach themselves how to get to something that they need.

Changing a channel? But that’s not difficult, is it? No, it’s not difficult, but it’s another level of complexity in people’s busy lives. People, on average, listen to about three stations. That’s it. Radio contrary to our own belief, isn’t that important in people’s lives.

They consume what’s familiar without really thinking. It’s part of the reason that people get SO ANNOYED when we change something. Or someone leaves.

It’s fascinating to look through the tweets and Facebook comments to Chris Moyles and Radio X. There are a multitude of themes, questions and opinions. Lots are positive, some are negative. What I think it reminds me is the value in clarity and providing simple, easy to access information.

Away from X, I was talking to a colleague this week asking how his radio station re-brand went. He sighed and relayed bumping into a successful businessman who loved the old station, but hadn’t listened to the new one. The new name wasn’t familiar, and even though the programming was pretty much the same and it was broadcasting on the same frequency, he’d now gone elsewhere.

If you build it they may not come.

What helps, of course, is throwing lots of money at it. Many of Global’s re-brands have gone well because they’ve been well supported by above-the-line marketing that very clearly tells people what’s happening.

With Radio X we haven’t had that yet – it starts any day now, and in its place we’ve had below-the-line stuff of web and social, the messages on the existing XFM, press reaction and B2B messages.

In the absence of public information, it’s interesting to see how the B2B communications are so readily jumped on.

Radio X talked about being a male-focused station in its release. As an industry-insider I see nothing wrong with this. Radio is a demographically targeted product, it helps sell advertising. It makes it simpler for brands who do want demographically targeted outlets. It obviously doesn’t mean women can’t listen or aren’t wanted by the station, but having a particular skew is a good thing for the business.

However, that, alongside Popbitch talking about internal chats about whether positioning should be all Yorkie Bar Men Only, the hiring of an entire male daytime line-up and the (what I think is an incorrect assumption) of Moyles being a sexist pig, then it’s easy to see why the commeteriat have gone all Sexist FM on it.

Most of the articles and tweets about this are actually based on their being little information about what the station will really be. There are more women on the station than it seems (though of course room for more), the presenters aren’t sexist pigs, they are going to be welcoming to everyone and it’s not going to be some 90s retro throwback.

The trick is how, as a new brand or product, you can communicate what you are. I think it’s key that you do what you can to stop people jumping to conclusions. A vacuum of information, in a social media world, is a danger – as assumptions end up becoming truth. The more information you provide, the more you’ll find that consumers will correct each other. It’s also harder for someone to argue one thing when all the other information points in another direction.

Would 10 videos online, with a 50/50 gender split talking about the radio station have helped X’s coverage? What about someone laughing at the concept of banter? What about a video of the playlist meeting showing it’s not going to be Oasis FM. Positioning is much bigger than branding.

The other big question people have been asking is “How Do I Listen?”. Radio X is on the old XFM FM frequencies, has changed from having around 50% UK digital radio coverage to around 90%, is on Satellite and Cable, but not Freeview and is available through the old XFM apps, until they were updated to the new Radio X apps this week.

How do I listen again? On the Radio X twitter: “Radio X will be available all across the UK on the digital radio platform D1, as well as on 104.9FM in London and 97.7FM in Manchester from 21 September.” What the hell is the ‘digital radio platform D1’? D1 is a B2B brand that never needs mentioning. Is ‘digital radio’ DAB? Is it internet only?

I think we’re often so close to it, we don’t think and simplify enough. Now, the trouble for Radio X and for many of us is that our radio products are on a million different platforms – some are ones people can get, some they can’t. Oh to return to just being able to read out one frequency!

Tweets, and their character limits, don’t really help! You publish an iOS link and people are grumpy there isn’t an Android app. Can I get digital radio where I live? Again, I think more information is better than less. Is there a single page, with a good URL that explains it all? When someone asks ‘How Do I Listen?’ can it always be replied to with the same link?

Make these big questions ones that ANYONE can answer. If someone tweets their mates with ‘How do I listen?’, make it easy enough that their mate can find that one link so they can tweet it back.

I’m picking on Radio X as it’s new, but for your radio station, today, can someone easily find out how to listen? Is it obvious?

On the Radio 1 homepage, other than a listen live button, there isn’t any obvious link that tells you how to tune in. Looking at the last five videos on Radio 1’s YouTube channel none of them mention how to tune in to Radio 1 or give any information – in video, annotations or description – when the shows from Matt Edmondson, Grimmy, the Live Lounge or Scott Mills are on or how to listen to them on the radio. In the 1 day those videos have been up, they’ve lost 110,000 opportunities to tell people about listening to Radio 1 on the radio.

And when they do understand how to listen to something new, that they’re interested in, real change happens. Look at these tweets!

I think Radio X is going to be a big success, it’s position at the moment, is the ultimate in simplicity – it’s the radio station with Chris Moyles at Breakfast. If you want that, Radio X is the only place to find it. Most stations don’t have such a strong place to start.

So much of radio’s success has come from the platform’s simplicity. We’ve historically had a single device that everyone has access to. But radio’s becoming a multi-platform beast, 60% of UK listeners listen to radio on a device that isn’t a regular AM/FM set. Competition is stronger than it’s ever been before.

If someone shows a bit of interest in what your station is doing, are you making it simple for them to understand you, sample you and keep listening?

Radio X – Moyles, Johnny Vaughan and Vernon Kay – The New XFM

One of the things that I admire about Global is that they’re not afraid to make big decisions. Whilst the control the three key executives have over the business is sometimes unfortunate for those underneath, it does mean that they’re able to do dramatic things. The XFM change to Radio X is a great example of this.

XFM has been troubled since the beginning. Launching on the day Princess Diana died was unfortunate. Whilst they had an enthusiastic fan base created through RSLs and their pirate days, a combination of a dead princess and launch marketing with the ridiculous “9 out of 10 listeners prefer Capital” strap-line – thank you Saachi and Saachi – didn’t really help it get going. If you ever want to hear an entertaining story, XFM founder Sammy Jacob on the launch’s first weeks is a great one.

It took the Capital Radio Group a little while to work out that doing their own version of Virgin was going to be troublesome before it found its feet with Christian O’Connell, Adam and Joe, Ricky Gervais et al. Whilst critically acclaimed, it still didn’t really generate the audiences everyone felt it should deserve.

Into the GCap days, XFM had too many bosses, most of which lacked the clarity to understand what to do with the radio station, resulting in the ridiculous attempt to do XU. XU – a kind of Jack-esque production and callers plus music mix wasn’t designed to save money. It was a genuine attempt to respond to the changing ways people were consuming music. The thinking was flawed and it didn’t last long.

Interestingly, the recently launched XFM Manchester, did XU too where it was better received (and produced). Partly this was because it lacked the heritage/baggage (delete as appropriate) that 104.9 had.

Indeed, over the years XFM has been caught between a rock and a hard place. Poor marketing and an alternative name – XFM – scared off people who would like a guitar/new-ish music station and those who would revel in the alternative would tune in and be mortally offended by Kings of Leon.

The trouble has often been around being ‘cool’.

I’d spent my time at GWR trying to bid for FM licences with our rock radio station The Storm. It was an early DAB station and whilst it shared quite a bit of musical overlap with XFM it wasn’t positioned as cool. It was pop and modern rock guitar-based music and presenters having a laugh. We spent a ridiculous amount of money bidding for licences and often coming close but achieving nothing. It was worse as we’d lost out to XFM in Manchester and Kerrang! in the West Midlands. In different ways, they were cooler and the regulator probably thought they had a better chance of success.

Then, as is the way, just as I lost the Manchester licence I was merged into GCap and now responsible for growing XFM’s footprint. We’d decided that XFM was the stronger brand when compared to The Storm, and we didn’t need two rock stations, sadly The Storm was despatched to the radio graveyard.

In the rubbish way evil conglomerates work, the Capital people were responsible for much of the planning of the licence bids, but it was my budget. As an ex-GWR person I was unknown and untrusted by their team who thought I was a parochial tosser and I thought they were all posh-o spend-heavy idiots. Neither, of course, was true. I remember however thinking, as I was given the responsibility, that I had to make my mark fast. A request came through to agree for the Newcastle RSL team to stay at Malmaison. I made them all share a student house. We weren’t really all on the same page.

It did get better though. Working on XFM you really did understand the power of the brand. It made everything much easier. It was cool and credible, it had an instant perception. The problem was that it scared off lots of people who’d like what it did on the air. Any other companies who wanted to work with us were obsessed with the cool-end – it’s why pretty much all of XFM’s ad campaigns have been crap – the ad agencies fell in love working on a cool brand without understanding the people who (should) be listening to the radio station.

Oddly, I did then win a FM licence for XFM in South Wales (now Nation Radio). Part of the reason I think we won was that I’d stripped back most of the bullshit elements. It was sold as a rock radio station that would be different to (then) Real and Red Dragon in the market and would share a lot of the back-office resource of Red Dragon, where it would be based.

I’d left by the time it had been won. By then mad Fru Hazlitt appeared, did a load of mental things to ‘save’ the company, including off-loading XFM South Wales, and then what was left was acquired by Global.

Out of all the brands, XFM hasn’t seemed to have had much love from Global. I don’t think this is particularly out of malice, but more that there were better places to spend the money.

Indeed, it’s always suffered a sort of third child syndrome. I remember when Johnny Vaughan was getting a multi-million pound ad campaign singing and dancing around London for Capital, Christian on XFM meanwhile got a couple of grand for some branded beermats.

Product-wise there’s always been a few options with what you do with XFM. Do you go very new, very pop rock, or something in between. Going very new would please the die-hards, but would be unlikely to be successful. New music fans are miserable bastards at the best of times – it’s almost impossible to satisfy them, there aren’t that many of them and you’re now sharing their listening with blogs, Spotify etc.

If you go the pop-rock end then you’re competing with Virgin/Absolute and the people who like guitars who listen to Radio 1.

Musically the middle position isn’t that bad – but without heavy marketing to define it or an anchor breakfast show, the incorrect perceptions, not helped by the name, are always going to hurt you.

What works well overseas is a slightly heavier more rock alternative. Kerrang! has a bit of that position, and a brand which supports it (even if it, too, over the years has been a bit all over the place musically).

The other issue that XFM has faced is 6Music. 6Music is really the evolution of the original XFM concept, a decent budget many times that of what X could afford, and with many of the presenters that X made famous. No ads also helps too. With 6Music creaming off the 20-40 AB web-designer crowd it was only a matter of time before XFM had to change.

Looking at the new Radio X that’s been announced they’re tackling many of the problems that XFM faced with some aggressive changes. The new Radio X is not really that connected to the old XFM. Of course it will aim to scoop up some of the old listeners but its main aim is to aggressively bring in new ones. Doing a 6Music-lite was never going to be sustainable.

Changing perceptions about a brand is hard. Marketing is essential to educate/re-educate people about what something is. This generally takes money. X I’m sure will have some cash to do this, but its DJ hires will also help it break through to non-listeners and, probably since launch, be the fire power needed to give new brand values to the name.

I imagine Radio X is going to be a male rock station – Absolute Radio with some newer records, but it’s not the music format, or music passion, that’s going to make Radio X a success or not. It’s Moyles, Vernon and Vaughan.

These are big, popular, mainstream personalities who will have no trouble being passionate about modern, accessible rock music, appealing primarily to men, but will be eminently listenable by women too.

As a radio fan, I’m excited that Global are building a radio station around personalities. I regard Moyles as one of the most talented radio presenters in the country, with a strong following, who I hope will be incredibly hungry to take a small station much larger. JV is a very funny, very intelligent guy – who, with the right team, will be able to do something very special.

I am surprised JV’s turned up at XFM. As a talkSPORT presenter, I thought he’d be an easy pick to put on the new Virgin Radio which talkSPORT’s parent company will launch in April. Indeed the new Radio X is seemingly doing very much what was planned with Virgin but with a more stellar line-up and doing it first. It’s also going to prove to be a tough challenge for Absolute. If Radio X is a slightly younger sounding, more personality packed station it could cause them some trouble.

With Radio X taking up a national berth on Digital One and launching before the 2nd national multiplex next year, Global are out of the blocks faster to build a national station that will grow from a decent proportion of its existing audience, as well as attracting new people from Absolute and Radio 1.

Digital Radio works well when strong, focused programming is delivered well, nationwide. We’ve seen it with 6Music, Absolute 80s, 4 Extra etc – XFM backed by real talent has a great opportunity too. It’s also much closer to our idea for The Storm – I knew we deserved those licences!

WHY CAN’T IT ALL JUST STAY THE SAME

There’s an interesting column on the Evening Standard’s website today about radio. The column is where someone anonymously gets something off their chest. The piece is from an in-house BBC Radio producer (apparently) and they rail against the BBC’s planned compete and compare (which will open more BBC programmes to competition from independent production companies) and that they’re forced to do social media when they should be making radio.

I don’t for one minute, think this is a view shared by all BBC radio producers, but it did make me think a bit about independent production generally as well as social media’s role in radio.

In the piece there’s a view that opening BBC Radio up to more competition will destroy many good things about BBC radio whilst lining the pockets of the independent sector.

At Folder, we’ve been involved in a bit of independent production over the past few years, so have some experience of how bits of it work.

Firstly, most independent production companies don’t make a fortune from BBC radio work. Indeed many don’t make any money from it at all. For simplicity I’ll break down commissions into two – one off documentaries or short series and then regular strands (weekly or daily shows).

It’s pretty hard to make much money from the former but you can make good money from the latter. Most people hope that the work that they put into the former will hold them in good stead to win the latter.

Folder’s involvement with productions is predicated on that – start small creating docs or small series, build up a reputation, and hope that you’re in a better position to win bigger things. This is hard. Competition is tough. Big boys like Somethin’ Else, 7digital or Wise Buddah have already done this hard work and are also annoyingly good at making programmes, so they’re difficult to unseat.

Strands are great for indies because they generate extra resource that can be shared on other shows. So, for example if I win Bob’s Indie Experience on 6Music the production fee may cover an AP, a Producer and time from an Exec – but it’ll probably be quite tight. As soon as you also win Geoff’s Soul Experience you can share resource among the two shows – and start to make some money. For large operations there’s benefit back to the BBC too – they get access to graphic designers, video people and social media bods from the indie too.

Docs though are quite a different story. To get these one off’s is also hard as the networks are inundated with pitches. I think Radio 4 get 10x as many submissions as they have spaces available. This means 9 out of 10 ideas get rejected. I think this means that the ones that get through turn out to be truly excellent ideas. If in your job you had 90% ideas vetoed by the boss, what’s left would likely be the best of the best and make you work harder to get your ideas accepted. That’s what Radio 4 and the other networks get.

I would love Radio 4 to commission Matt talks to his mates in his office. Profitability would be quite high. Unfortunately they don’t seem to like this. What they do like is a documentary about Hip Hop in the Middle East. Where we have to go to the Middle East. Flights, insurance, fixers, travel etc.

Radio 4 gets great ideas, the scope of which, ensures that the vast majority of the money from the commission goes on the programme. Indeed the profit margins of these shows are often wiped out when you take into account the research to pitch the 9 ideas that didn’t make it and then the unbudgeted management time to cope with any issues.

In our organisation we’re lucky that as we do a few things, we have resources that are paid for by something else, these can then be used by these docs for free. If anything we’re subsidising the BBC’s radio docs, not the other way around.

Now, we’re not martyrs. We don’t have to make these things. We’re doing it because we’re hoping to do more later and can make some more money. It can also bring in revenue and use people that we’re employing anyway. Plus it helps build staff experience which is valuable to the company,

But the combination of the 9 out of 10 failure rate and the ability to draw on other companies resources is why I think independent production wins the vast majority of awards.

We have to work so hard to get things commissioned, that when they do, they end up being premium ideas as chosen by the commissioning bosses. I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen in-house, but where there’s production quotas to fill there can be less pressure to come up with stunning ideas when good ones will do.

That’s why I think Compete and Compare is a good thing. It does bring more jeopardy, it does change the way people have to work, but what it also does, for both ends, is focus the mind on delivering great, interesting ideas for the budget that’s available. Surely that’s a great thing for licence fee payers?

What it does mean is that you’re not going to be left alone to get on doing what you’ve always done. Sorry. Whether it’s public money or shareholders money – it’s your job to deliver value – creative, monetary, whatever. If someone else can do that better they should be given the chance to do it.

Where does the line get drawn? Well, the network decides, the bosses decide. Balancing budgets and creativity has always been a thing and it will continue to be. The system will just change.

Social Media

The other bit of the article is the audible sigh about having to do social media to support a radio show. It sort of fits the head in the sand narrative of the piece, but I know it’s something that many in both BBC and Commercial Radio agree with.

Unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all answer to the question. But it can be useful to go back to first principals – why bother with social media?

Using social media helps increase your hours from existing listeners (giving them another reason to tune in) and provides a reach building opportunity (if that piece of social content is shared with others) so new people tune in.

Personally I think if you care about what you’re making, then you should want people to sample it.

Whether you’re a commercial broadcaster that needs ratings for revenue, or you’re a public broadcaster that wants to demonstrate value by your content reaching audiences that could love it, social helps you do that at little or no cost.

As modern media folk we decide how we spend our time. 10mins on improving some audio vs 10mins promoting that audio – what’s the best use of that time? Each individual has to decide that themselves.

I also don’t think the argument ‘someone else should do that’ necessarily washes. You could say the same thing about everything. I need someone to do that interview, I need someone to answer my phones, I need someone to do social media. Well, just like whether you get an assistant, someone decides whether your output justifies extra resources. If they don’t (rightly or wrongly) then you’ve just got to get on with it. So, yeah, open up Photoshop and get drawing. That is your job too.