BBC Asian Network Changes

Asian Network Website

Tagged on the end of this BBC press release about the new Controller of BBC Radio Five Live, it’s been added that the Asian Network has moved over to Andy Parfitt‘s control. Andy is very much the teen tsar with responsibility for Radio 1, 1Xtra, BBC Switch, indeed the announcement says:

From audience perspective it makes sense that the Asian Network, which provides so much for young British Asians, sits with our other youth stations, Radio 1 and 1Xtra

Which made me think. I didn’t realise the Asian Network was supposed to be a ‘young asian’ station. I always thought it was a broad service for a range of listeners. However looking at the new ad campaign and the website, it’s definitely the ‘young’ bit that seems in evidence.

I therefore wanted to know whether it was supposed to be young Asian when it started. This meant digging through the DCMS archives (thank you Google) to try and find out how the BBC described the services in the firs place. The best I could find (and please correct me readers if you find something better) was a letter from Caroline Thomson, then Director of Public Policy. It’s not very long – 23 pages – and that includes all the information about BBC Three, BBC Four, X, Y, Z (what would become 1Xtra, 6Music and BBC7), Five Live Sports Plus (later Extra) and the upgrade of the Asian Network from a local AM network to a properly national one. Caroline describes the services thus:

BBC Asian Network: a range of programmes specially focused on Asian audiences currently available only regionally.

and

The Asian Network
• The Asian Network will be a new service nationally but is already available in the Midlands, parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.
• The Network will be the only national network focused entirely on the interest of Asian audiences in the UK, giving a full and fair view of the various Asian communities throughout the UK, reflecting back to themselves and the wider community.
• The service offers a wide range of programmes, from new and current affairs to entertainment and music.
• The service is primarily in English but includes three to five hours of language programming every day, rotating between Hindustani, Hindu/Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi and Mirpuri.

Nothing about ‘young’ Asians there. The Government then later allowed the creation of the new Asian Network with some service commitments, as follows:

1. The service will offer, nationally, programmes both in English and a range of Asian languages, covering news, sport, current affairs, audience participation and a wide choice of music.
2. The service must deliver to the format set out in the BBC’s application, in particular with speech content of around 50% including a strong focus on news and current affairs.
3. As a national service, this must address the needs and interests of a wide range of Asian communities within the UK.
4. The BBC should consider carefully the use of spectrum and, in particular, the desirability of making available any spare capacity when a national service for Asian listeners commences.

Again, somewhat demographic free.

A little while later, in 2004, Tim Gardham is instructed to review all of the BBC’s digital radio stations, which he does in a very well written report. And this is the first mention of younger audience.

“The Asian Network offers a general mix of music, speech, sport and latterly drama to Britain’s Asian community. The programmes are aimed at Asians under 35 but also first, second and third generation Asians and all communities whose origins are the Indian subcontinent.”

At this point, through data Tim’s report publishes, the audience was pretty much 50/50 older and younger than 35. I’ve just had a look again at figures from Q4/07 and it hasn’t changed much – reach is 55% for under 35s and share about 52%.

The ‘under 35′ target was however crystalised though in the BBC Trust’s service licence for the network in late 2006, when this was added:

The remit of BBC Asian Network is to provide speech and music output appealing to British Asians, with a strong focus on news and current affairs. It should be primarily in English, but some programming should be provided in a range of South Asian languages.

The primary target audience is British Asians under 35 but the station should also appeal to anyone with an interest in British Asian issues, music and culture.

Now, I don’t have any particular problem with Asian Network targeting younger audiences, indeed, it’s a station that isn’t in my presets. It does seem a bit disappointing for the Asian community over 35 who seem to be losing their radio station to a different audience. Indeed, probably much of the audience who used to listen to it on AM. It’s also probably another example of BBC radio’s format creep where pre-Service Licences they were able to change the format of their services at a whim (the Radio 2 move from Soft MOR to AC being the biggest example).

As it’s locked into a BBC Trust licence there isn’t much scope for change now though, it will however be interesting to see if there is an ongoing push to make more of the programming on the station appeal to a younger audience. Or will it continue to “appeal to anyone with an interest in British Asian issues, music and culture” – or maybe that will be “Young British Asian issues, music and culture”.

If I was running the BBC radio networks as a commercial entity it makes perfect sense to align Radio’s 1, 1Xtra and Asian Network together with a cross-platform entity – BBC Switch – woven throughout it. Together they can do a great job of cross-promoting each other and keeping as many 15 to 24s within the BBC’s walls. Whether that’s the point of the BBC’s public-service networks, i’m not so sure.

Radio Nova – Doing Things Differently

Reading about radio, i’m always surprised how negative it is. Now whilst that maybe rich bearing in mind some of my posts, I find it odd that people seemingly have such a downer on the medium. It’s always ‘doomed’ or in apparent decline or destined to be replaced by the internet. In addition all you ever hear is what stations are doing is wrong.

When people slag a station off to me, especially something that has a significant amount of listeners, I always say that there isn’t one right way of doing things. Both Radio 1 and Radio 4 have a great breakfast shows, but there’s no need for either to adopt each other’s style.

It was interesting, therefore, to see a post about radio content in alt.radio.digital. It’s a vicious newsgroup where nothing ever positive seems to be said. In the post it linked to an interview given by the head of Radio Nova, a French commercial radio station with a broader outlook than the bottom line. The best quote in the article is this:

As head of broadcasting, I have two objectives: not to lose money, and to ensure that Radio Nova’s image is long-lasting. Of course, we can make a profit, but this is not my priority. I simply have to make sure that we still exist next year and that we are in good financial shape.

Since publicity [advertising] receipts are indexed according to the audience, my role is to make sure that we do not drop below one-and-a-half audience points. Conversely, exceeding two-and-a-half points might also put the radio station’s image in danger: if Nova were to have too many listeners, this would signify that we have lost the distinctive character which attracts our listeners. This distinctive character allows us to sell our advertising time more expensively than our commercial rivals because our station has a public of so-called ‘early adopters’ which is very unusual. These listeners are really at the forefront of new trends. We value the uniqueness and the curiosity of our audience and my work consists of keeping a balance between these two factors.

Whilst sounding, er, very French, I thought it was a great attitude to have. And a very different way to look at the business of radio. Now, whilst I don’t neccessarily intend on following their example, it was refreshing to hear about it.

You can read the whole speech (in English) here.

Pirate Radio Stations Busted

Pirate Radio
Photo from Interrobang

Some more pirate radio shut down news from Ofcom today as they announce three arrests and twenty pirate station transmitters confiscated across four London boroughs. The reasons, they say, they do this are that:

Illegal broadcasters can cause serious interference to safety-of-life services such as the fire brigade and air traffic control, as well as legitimate radio stations.

I always think with pirate radio there is a dewey eyed feeling and that they’re just providing a service that those evil commercial broadcasters don’t fill. Whilst I think they may have had a point ten years ago, nowadays I don’t think pirates have a leg to stand on. Community FM licences, RSLs, internet broadcasting, other digital platforms – there’s never been a more legal and accessible way to get on the radio.

The reason pirates hijack FM bands is that they want to make the most money possible by stealing FM spectrum (and not being bothered about potentially interfering with emergency services or legal stations). If it was about the music (licensing costs they don’t pay, by the way) or giving presenters a chance (who they fleece by making them pay for presenting fees) then they would go down the largely available legal route.

Sadly most of these stations will be up and running again by the weekend. Why, well when your business is interrupted you need to get back on as soon as possible. They need to keep making that money.

Positioning Statements and Odd Emails

I get quite a lot of ‘member club’ emails from radio stations, as one of the things we do at Folder Media is help stations decide what their stategy is for sending them – so i’m definitely not an impartial observer. However the one I got from Choice FM this morning was really very odd:

Choice Email News Letter

I think its the use of the phrase ‘straplines’ that seems slightly strange. Firstly i’m not sure that listeners really equate the fact the station often says the phrase “Number 1 for hip hop and RnB” with the reason they tune in – the presenters, the content and the music. Straplines like ‘Today’s Best Mix’ and “London’s Hit Music Station’ are there to bury into listeners minds something that a station does or is. However it is rarely the reason that listeners would cite about why they tune into a particular station.

There’s obviously nothing wrong with asking listeners what they think about something – indeed much of the successful bits of commercial radio comes from the radio stations’ understanding of listeners tastes. However i’m not sure asking listeners to come up with a phrase they’ll be repeating over and over again really says much about what the radio station thinks is important. Indeed if it’s the only thing that Choice wants to email me about this week/month then that really is a bit of a worry.

If Choice is desperate to get listener’s views on this topic surely there are better ways to bring it closer to the programming. Why not have one of the breakfast show presenters bring up the topic, maybe in response to the co-host saying the current phrase and suggesting other thing that they could say. This banter could then be turned into a request for listeners to get involved and then the email could come from that presenter saying “All this week on the Breakfast show we’ve been arguing about what we should say about the radio station. Tim from Southwark says x, Janie from Beckton says y, what do you think – prove me right that we need a new one and win some iTunes downloads…”

Mark Ramsay has some interesting stuff to say on positioning statements here.

GCap’s New Strategy

XFM Buttons

GCap’s Chief Executive Fru Hazlitt announced today GCap’s new strategy. You can read the full document here.

There’s been lots of discussion about it and as with all of these things there’s lots of uncertainty about what’s been actually said. I’m going to run through what I see as the salient points and some things that might happen, however just like anyone else these are just my thoughts.

Firstly the saddest thing is that as there’s been some business closures it means that some people will lose their jobs. The people who work on the digital operations are some of the hardest working people. The nature of the stations mean that there’s never been huge amounts of resources to support what they do and I think the high quality nature of both Planet Rock and theJazz are a testament to their hard work.

Oddly, out of all of commercial radio, these people are used to multi-platform and multi-skilling and are definitely the kinds of people that the industry needs to grow.

The other thing it’s important to realise is that the most of the announcements are predicated on happening at the end of the financial year – ie 31st March. The elephant in the room is that Global Radio are likely to launch a second bid to buy GCap. If they are successful most of what’s been proposed (except perhaps the D1 sale) could still be reversed.

DAB Digital Radio

As predicted some of the biggest announcements concern DAB Digital Radio. Firstly Digital One is being sold (for a nominal sum) to the other partner, the transmitter operator Arqiva and the second, shuttering digital stations theJazz and Planet Rock. The two issues are really inter-connected. D1 make’s money as a landlord, selling space to other people. At the moment, other than Virgin Radio and talkSPORT they’re only selling space to themselves. If they then take themselves out of the equation then the cupboard looks pretty bare. As most of the costs go to Arqiva for the transmission network – then you might as well sell and leave it all with Arqiva.

However, the big question is whether GCap/Digital One could have done a better job at selling the space. In Frus announcement she says:

Whilst last summer it may have been assumed that this capacity could be filled, there is now little demand and with the launch of D2, a surfeit of supply, so we do not believe that this is possible.

I’m aware of a number of people that would like to go on Digital One who are very well funded. However, the system that D1 have in place is punative from the start and does not encourage or reward successful digital radio stations. D2 (and the spare capacity they have) definitley effects D1, however the proof will be in what new owner Arqiva does. If they can fill the space then it raises more questions for GCap.

By the way, this year, with the stations it had on/Movio made Digital One £5.1m – £3.2m of which would of flowed back to GCap.

Planet Rock has some quite high talent costs. It felt that it needed well-placed ‘big names’ alongisde more typical fare to ensure that it did well. Even when you then add in it’s transmission costs, the station still costs signficiantly less than any of the new BBC national digital radio networks. It’s also had a good showing in RAJAR with 563k listeners and 3.14m hours (which makes it a similar size to something like Key 103). Unfortunately, at the moment, you really need a 1m listeners to make a big enough bang in the advertising markets. Within a couple of years I think Planet Rock might well have reached these heights, but once again there’s a lot of cash needed to be spent to get them there.

theJazz had a bit of a different structure. By being embeded within Classic FM the operational model is more robust and having a strong figurehead like Darren Henley has helped drive it forward. Launching with an audience in the mid 300k is a great result. Once again though it doesn’t have the bulk to be able to argue for more revenue.

It is important to recognise that neither of these stations has had any money spent on them in marketing. Just turning them on and hoping for the best is not the way to get people to listen. These were both new brands that needed their stories telling. It is not DAB or DTV’s fault the station’s aren’t successful – it is GCap management’s fault they haven’t been able to sell them to enough listeners. Now why they haven’t done that – that’s a whole different story with recourse to Ofcom, the BBC, shareholders, mergers and much more.

With regards other DAB stuff – they’ve committed that their analogue stations will still simulcast on DAB. They suggest that it’s only because of transmission contracts and licence roll-overs. It’s of course nothing to do with the fact that their local multiplexes generate profits and that signficant numbers of listeners consume the stations over DAB. 2CR in Bournemouth, for example, has nearly 30% of listeners tuning into the station on DAB and nearly 20% of its hours coming from DAB listening.

I think they are very much hedging their bets. It is useful to make some big DAB announcements but keep their fingers in some pies too. As Nick Piggott their Head of Creative Technology says:

No DAB transmitters are being switched off, nobody will lose any coverage they have now. DigitalOne is still on-air, and wholly owned by Arqiva, who provide the transmission infrastructure. Local DAB licences continue to be advertised and won, and Channel 4 are still committed to launching a second national multiplex. GCap’s local radio services (under the “One Network” brand) continue to be simulcast on FM and DAB. GCap will be lobbying for AM radio to be turned off.
The justification for pulling back on DAB is “we do not believe that – with its current cost structure and infrastructure – [it] is an economically viable platform.” (my emphasis). The issue with DAB in the UK is the cost of the unique way in which infrastructure has been built, licenced and funded (which I have commented on in the past), not the principle of the technology.

FM and Broadband

GCap Media will become a leaner and more dynamic company focused on maximising the revenue and profit potential of five key brands on FM and broadband, the platforms that we believe consumers want and which offer the greatest growth opportunities.

FM, obviously, works very nicely and lots of people listen on it. It would also be mad to say ‘this internet thing has no chance’. So therefore Fru is surely right? Personally, I think it’s all about timing. The digital platforms (and I use that in the broadest sense) complement FM because FM can’t really grow and provide the choice that listeners now demand. Unfortunately there are a number of digital platforms that you can broadcast on – DAB (national, regional and local), Cable, Satellite, Freeview and the Internet. All of these cost money to broadcast on – so you have to pick the right platforms. The internet is relatively inexpensive whilst DAB is more expensive (£1m for national £120k for regional, £70k for local (ish)). Satellite will probably cost you about 70K plus the price of an EPG number. On these economics it’s easy to dismiss DAB as too expensive. The problem is when you look at the hours each of these generate. Hours listened to is what turns into cash for commercial radio, so you need to look to the platforms that will generate these hours. Additionally you have to look at possible growth as well, so you’re on the right platform at the right time.

Digital Television and the Internet have phenomenal market penetration with broadband especially massively dominating internet take-up – triple the takeup of DAB. In some ways it’s amazing that internet/DTV stations aren’t doing better than they are. They should be streets ahead of DAB, but for whatever reason they’re not. This is not to say that they won’t grow the amount of listening they generate – but at the moment it’s looking quite low and RAJAR’s showing that isn’t changing.

As a GCap example, lets take XFM. It’s a younger brand and slightly more upmarket than normal ILR. It should have high internet listening and respectable DTV as well. It’s also one of the brands that Fru’s highlighted as being a broadband opportunity. So lets look at its current listening:

FM: Reach – 848k, Hours – 4,332: That’s 71% of XFM’s Hours
DAB: Reach – 165k, Hours – 639: That’s 10% of XFM’s Hours
DTV: Reach – 52k, Hours – 79: That’s 1% of XFM’s Hours
Internet: Reach – 53k, Hours – 192: That’s 3% of XFM’s Hours
Don’t Know: Reach – 152k, Hours – 865: That’s 14% of XFM’s Hours

Now the first thing that strikes me is how high ‘don’t know’ is. There are lots of theories about how to attribute those hours (I forsee an FM/DAb split), but lets ignore them for the moment. The second thing I see is how small DTV is – I thought that would be higher. The third thing I see is that DAB is delivering for XFM 10% of it’s hours – matching the national average. What’s then noticeable is how small the internet figures are.

If you think broadband listening is going to increase I think (based on the fact broadband penetration is so high) that it’s a bit of a gamble to think that’s where your listening is going to come from. If I was to launch a ‘digital’ station, I think pinning hope on the net alone, today, wouldn’t be what I wanted to do.

There are some other upsides to operating on the internet though, you can do more listener transactions and imagery around players and such. Perhaps their strategy is going to be less about the numbers and how mich you can get per listener. Still seems a bit shaky to me.

XFM

Even though XFM is a potenital broadband opportunity they’ve decided that they don’t need the FM stations in Wales, Scotland and South Wales declaring that they lose £800k. I’d be interested to see how much of that £800k stems from the launch of South Wales. The first year costs for any station – building, marketing etc – are going to be very high, a new station also means the income will be very low, so it’s likely that all that loss (and maybe more) could be attributable to one station. Let alone the fact that Manchester’s barely hit three years of operation.

XFM, out of everything, probably does have the most broadband potential, it seems very odd therfore to get rid of stations that are in growth and speak to the audience you want to convert. And actually £800k isn’t really that much in the grand scheme of things. In fact having three FM stations purely as ‘marketing’ for the broadband service will seem sensible.

One Network

I found the references to the One Network quite interesting:

We propose to continue moves to harmonise our stations into a coherent national buy for advertisers. At the same time we will change the business model of The One Network to reduce stations’ dependency on central services… We are now further reorganising our regional structure to concentrate resources on the eight stations that so far this year have accounted for over 50% of the aggregate profits and audiences on The One Network.

To me this means that the Bristol ‘network’ centre is probably under threat, but at the same time it makes the networked shows that save a lot of money. Whilst the ‘top 8′ stations will probably be given more freedom to do their own thing, it also suggests that the other 30-odd stations will find themselves facing more cuts (which makes it hard to reconcile the ‘reducing dependency on central services’ line). I hope that the solution isn’t that One Net stations will have to fend for themselves for things like production/contesting and reduce their head count. I can’t physically see how that’s possible at many of the sites.

According to the numbers provided they’re going to save £1.3m from non-plc ‘central services’ personnel costs and a further 1.8m of operational costs. They’re also wanting to save £1.3m from the One Network’s personnel costs and a further 200k ops costs – probably not a great sign.

Gold is also going to see about £600k of personnel costs and another £200k of operating costs cut. That’s quite a signficant scaling back.

All in all it’s a strange announcement and one that’s sort of ‘on hold’ until Global make their offer. It’s not positive news for DAB but it’s not really that negative. At the end of the day GCap accounts for 12.8% of radio listening (huh – DAB on its own nearly beats that!) so does not really affect that many listeners.

I also think with 4DG, MuxCo, Bauer and BBC DAB’s actually going to go into a new, more positive direction. When ITV Digital decided that DTV wasn’t for them, the Freeview DTT2.0 replacement built on the momentum and sets that were already in the market. I think we’re about to see something similar for DAB. If GCap continue to exist will they rue the 11th of Feb?

What Fru Does Next

On Monday morning, GCap Chief Exec Fru Hazlitt is going to announce to the City her strategic plans for the company. She’s somewhat under pressure as she’s got Global Radio knocking on the door looking to take over the company. So, what’s going to happen?

I think one of the key things that she’s got to demonstrate is that she’s different to the last boss – Ralph Bernard – and that the company needs to move in a very different direction. She’ll also have to play the crowd somewhat, the crowd being the City, and tell them things that they want to hear. These things might not be completely sensible or things that the company would ideally do. However, it’s in a tight spot, so needs to make a positive splash. So, what will Fru do?

DAB Digital Radio

Firstly she has to make some big DAB announcements. DAB was a Ralph thing and it costs quite a bit of money, money the City would like returned to them in profits. It’s a very short sighted view, especially as DAB now accounts for 10% of all radio listening and pretty much every other radio firm is behind it. However, needs must. Therefore I think we’ll see her sell GCap’s 63% share of Digital One. The key thing this does is remove the pressure of having to fill the capacity on the multiplex. It will also allow her to shut down either Planet Rock or theJazz or maybe even both of them. Whilst both these stations are building decent audiences they probably cost the firm £3m to £4m in total to operate.

Selling D1 and shutting down services will end up being earnings enhancing and it’ll bring in a nice pot of cash for the group.

The local multiplex network isn’t such a cash drain for the group, but it’s likely that Chill will be sacrificed in places where they can being in some more money from third party service providers. This will leave GCap with FM, Gold and XFM in most local areas and (probably still) Choice on the regional multiplexes.

Cost Savings

With Dirk, Steve and Ralph off to pastures new, she’ll have already made a saving of around £1.5m, however I think we’ll end up seeing more management cuts around the group. This coupled with rising revenues will improve profitability. I don’t think we’ll hear any firm announcements of any daytime networking due to the new Ofcom rules, but we will probably hear her allude to synergies which will be able to made in the near future.

Sell-Offs

I’m not sure what news of station sell-offs we’l hear. If she was brave she’d sell off something like Classic FM. It’s a very mature product as is its audience. It might be better off with GMG sitting alongside Smooth. However, with the markets the way there are at the moment I don’t think you would be able to get the money it’s probably worth. So it will stay. Probably similar for XFM.

We might see some announcements of the periphery of the One Network being flogged off, but again i’m not sure if the market can support that many stations being ‘up for sale’ so even if it does the price won’t be that high.

New Directions

By slimming down digital (and perhaps a bit of analogue) the main message will be that GCap doesn’t see that much growth in ‘radio’. It therefore will have to re-focus back to the internet. They’ll probably announce, again, that they’re putting more money into things like XFM and Choice online and they might even buy some internet sites, perhaps music ones, but definitely something that sits nicely alongside the remaining businesses.

Money-wise they’ll probably split the cash they make from savings and sales between investment (as above) and an extra shareholder dividend. This will be an attempt to undermine the cash offer from Global and will hopefully suggest to shareholders that in the medium term they’ll make more money sticking with GCap than selling out.

Repercussions

* Who’ll buy Digital One? I think in the frame could be the current other shareholder – Arqiva, newly rejuvenated and big brand owner Bauer or maybe even Channel 4 – that way perhaps they don’t need to launch a 2nd national multiplex.
* If it’s Bauer – maybe there’s some swaps for Kerrang West Mids too.
* More stories about DAB Digital Radio being doomed – once more ignoring all the facts about take-up and listening
* What will Global do? I think they’ll plough on by offering a £2.30ish bid for shares. It’ll be interesting to see whether GCap shareholders want to go on another new journey with another new GCap boss.
* Staff morale will not be very good – telling a load of radio people that the future’s the internet won’t be very motivating.

Good News for Radio, Bad News for Weekend Jocks

Crazy DJs

Ofcom have been consulting on the Future of Radio for what seems like a million years now. Part of the reason it’s been such a long process is that the environment for the radio industry’s been changing quite a lot. Whether that’s new technology, corporate shenanigans or a weakening advertising market, it all affects the job radio can afford to do. Indeed, according to Ofcom, 40% of smaller local radio stations lose money. Something therefore has to change.

Today, Ofcom issued its new localness guidance to local radio stations – in other words a list of things that they can or cannot do with regards to the local elements of the service they provide to listeners. The main headlines are that most stations will have to broadcast 10 hours of local content between 6am and 7pm and that breakfast time must remain local on weekdays. On the weekends each stations must broadcast at least four hours of local content. For many stations this is quite a change as they currently have commitments for at least 13 hours of local programming on the weekdays and around 8 hours on weekends.

These changes allow lots of flexibility for stations and could mean many more syndicated programmes on the weekends and potentially a big name networked drivetime.

This will no doubt cause a bit of a stir from some listeners, the anorak radio community and especially weekend jocks. Of course if asked the question “would you like your local radio station to be ‘local’ only ten hours a day and four on weekends” the answer would of course be no. Just in the same way as you’d get a ‘no’ if you asked a question “should the local library be closed on Wednesdays” from people whether they use the library or not.

To be honest, i’m a believer in the less regulation the better. The market will determine whether there is value in local content.

There is, however, a strong argument that says this spectrum is a scarce public resource and the trade-off in running a business off it is that you have to do some public good – which includes localness and other bits and pieces enshrined in your format. I do think this was the case, but I think every day that passes shows that ‘scarce public resource’ has less and less value and therefore it is harder to justify large public-service commitments.

The response to this (i’m trying to second guess the comments…) is “well if the stations can’t make money they should hand their licences back and let someone else have a go”. I genuinely believe the market is such that if one operator is losing cash (and can’t find anyone to buy the station) the chances of some white knight re-applying for it slim. I think the fact that no one wanted to buy Diamond FM (the Classic Rock station in Plymouth) with its heavy format commitments off of Macquarie, pre-launch, says a lot. As too will be the number of people who apply for the licence (and can recommend their own format commitments). I’m sure we’ll end up seeing one or two bidders, instead of the five there were first time round. Two years on the radio world is very different and the business enthusiasm for launching stations will have somewhat diminished. Indeed, you only have to look at the relatively poor performance of most new radio launches to see why people are worrying.

So, will we see a wholesale networking of drive and weekends? I don’t know. I think the big question is “what’s the strategy?”. Is it to maximise profits or is it to increase ratings? Now, increasing ratings can generate more profit, but also at the same time you can tolerate lower ratings (and advertising income) if you’ve reduced your costs. I think existing networked shows in evenings are more the latter – they take a time of the day where radio listening (even to an amazing local show) massively drops when compared to daytimes. The difference between the income lost from advertising (to a slightly reduced audience) is much smaller than the cost of funding a local programme.

Whilst there are these synergies in replacing local jocks with networked programming off-peak, doing it at drivetime is a very different proposition with any drops in revenue potentially outweighing any savings you make from staff costs. In addition the cost of acquiring a Scott Mills and associated production team is not going to come cheap. You’ve got to be pretty sure it’s going to put on listeners to choose to go down that route.

I think there is a danger that smaller groups will network drive with someone who is good but not outstanding and they might find their synergy savings disappearing pretty quickly. I think there’s a great example of this with the Touch Radio stations who took average performing stations audience-wise (though probably deeply unprofitable) and replaced it with a new brand, automation and networking and saw their audience fall off a cliff.

So, I think it’s good there’s the flexibility for stations to be able to make the decisions, but they should be aware of doing anything they see as a quick win.

Ooh, and in the picture above (without using the key) can you spot a Radio 1 favourite and another radio/new media blogger…

Johnny and Denise – Good Show, Poor Site.

Jonny and Denise

I’ve just been sent an email from Denise Van Outen, oh she’s always emailing me. However, even though it’s from Denise it says her name is ‘Capital VIP’ in the email header. Anyway, otherwise she seems very proficient at emails as she’s got a picture of herself, she’s put the Capital logo on it and has included lots of mini adverts for other things going on the radio station! Go Denise2.0!

With all this web know-how it’s surpirsing that the section on the Capital website about the new Johnny and Denise Breakfast Show is a bit disappointing. You see, Denise joining Johnny on Breakfast is a big deal for Capital, they’ve spent a lot of money on her, posters around town and on some shiny new jingles for the show too. Since she started on Monday I don’t think i’ve heard a bad word to say about the show, everyone seems to be really enjoying it. Why then, is its web presence so poor?

On the site you get 12 links:
1. Bog standard biogs of the presenters (the amazingly dull, never-updated staple of seemingly every radio station website) (static)
2. Feature – call for responses – Blame Gareth (static)
3. Feature – call for responses – The Uprising (static)
4. Feature – call for responses – Your Brits predictions (static)
5. Podcast – Best of the Breakfast Show
6. Podcast – Welshy’s Windups (hasn’t been recently updated/feed doesn’t work)
7. Join Capital on Facebook link (static)
8. Breakfast Gallery – good, up to date, pictures from the show you’ve just heard (though little text explaining if you missed it)
9. The Photoshoot – good video (though first half annoying) when Johnny and Densie had their pics taken – but no interview or commentary, so it’s a bit odd (static)
10. A YouTube embed when Denise and Johnny were on the Big Breakfast (static)
11. Listen again link to the first show
12. Johnny’s interviews – good archive to the show’s best interviews (though could probably do with a re-brand to Johnny and Denise’s Interviews.

At first glance that’s quite a lot of content. Except most of its static pages that won’t be updated. Video content from the photoshoot and youtube emebed are great to have, it’s a shame there isn’t a structure that can encourage and contextualise this much more. Highlighting a site function (listen again) with a sign-post to relevant content (the first show) is good, as is having a few snaps from the day and audio from the interviews.

However, all of this doesn’t bring across to web visitors the main ‘sell’ of the new show – ie Johnny and Denise. Other than the Q&A’s there isn’t really anything that brings across their personality to the web. Denise joining the show is a big thing, but there’s nothing about how it went from her point of view – key things that wouldn’t necessarily work on the radio, but would be really good for P1s to hear about on the website. A decent blog would help contextualise the daily pictures and audio interviews and give a real sense of behind the scenes to the show. Pre-launch some of the pages allowed listeners to comment and these were all very positive, a pre-moderated list of good luck messages, hints for Denise, things she should know etc would be a really great way to bring in listener invovlement to the website and re-affirm the “isn’t it great Denise and Johnny are back together” message.

I’ve said positive things about the direction the Capital website’s been going in, in the past. I just think it’s a shame that they’ve missed the biggest opportunity for great online content from a show in which the recent investment has probably topped half a million quid.

The Radio Industry and DAB

There’s an interesting post from Ashley Highfield, Divisional Director of BBC Future Media and Technology about DAB and it’s relationship with IP delivered radio and services. He brings up an excellent point that there’s a need to drive forward DAB’s product development. And luckily all the things he suggests are relatively easy to do, we just need to get onto doing them. It’s also great to hear that the BBC wants to be at the centre of that.

Ashley’s not the only one who’s spoken up recently about DAB, there’s been some other good quotes knocking about.

Scott Taunton, chief executive of UTV:
“As a multiplex operator, and a new member of the DRDB board, UTV is pleased to see the growth in digital radio listening. talkSPORT’s numbers are up year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter, and digital is playing its part in helping us to grow our audience. For a national AM service, the benefits of listening via DAB are significant, and we will continue to support the DAB platform going forward.”

The BBC’s director of audio and music, Jenny Abramsky:
“The BBC is delighted to see the latest Rajar figures showing DAB digital radio listening and reach is growing . With nearly 6.5 million DAB radios sold, the digital platform is winning converts at a steady rate. DAB is now contributing significant reach and share for radio. Our digital only stations 6 Music, 1Xtra and BBC7, have all done particularly well this quarter.”

Bauer Radio’s group managing director, Dee Ford:
“Bauer Radio continues to deliver significant, valuable and growing audiences on DAB. As we launch new stations such as heat Radio and the forthcoming Closer Radio we believe that DAB will continue to grow. By combining strong brands, quality content & programming and ground breaking commercial initiatives, DAB will continue its emergence as an ever more compelling proposition for both listeners and advertisers alike.”

Channel 4′s Natalie Schwarz:
“We are confident about the future of DAB radio as the linchpin for radio’s digital future and plan to meet the diverse tastes and interests of its growing audience by offering more choice and exploiting its full potential with fresh and imaginative programmes and services. If there’s a better alternative to making DAB the cornerstone of radio’s digital future, we are yet to hear about it.”

That Phrase

“Please consider the environment before printing this email”

I just wish to say that my thoughts on the environment cannot be affected by an automatically generated line on an email. I think that this would still be the case if I had a very complex filing system where I printed every email off to be stored in about 500 metal cabinets scattered around my office. Environment or not, I tend to print off emails that I need. So take that automated messages!