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.

4 thoughts on “Radio Nova – Doing Things Differently”

  1. Wish heads of UK radio stations would think along the same lines. The reason newsgroups and messageboards slate UK radio is because it deserves slating. In the 70’s when commercial radio came onto the scene, it was fresh, exciting, they featured local talent, ensured many genres (such as dance mix) got their airplay, had presenters who had intelligence and/or humour…..look now. the whole scene’s turgid, dull, bland, depressing….when do you want me to stop?
    At least we have the web now to compensate, where you can listen to what you want, when you want from where you want.

  2. Yeah – well, surpise, surprise, things have changed a bit in 30 years. Mixed genre radio stations in competitive markets would die on their arse as specialist services launched providing a whole range of that programming.

    Indeed, your point that web provides you the opportunity to listen “to what you want, when you want” is another great reason why mixed genre stations would be unlikely to succeed today.

  3. Cheers for posting this, Matt; a really enlightening read about a station that’s one of my favourites. Since I discovered Radio Nova, it’s become the channel I listen to most at home. Two things I’ve noticed about it:

    – the rotation of tracks in daytime is just as heavy as the likes of Heart or Magic. However, if a track is on Nova it tends not to be on other stations; they played 1234 by Feist months before it got used on that iPod advert and broke into the mainstream. It’s certainly not the mixed-up 70s ILR station Howard is referring to; its output does cross genres, but it maintains an extremely consistent, quite urban “sound”.
    – they do attract sponsorship from big-name brands. Orange, Levi’s and the Intermarché supermarket are all regularly heard, with Levi’s sponsoring station events. I get the impression that while Nova’s not a particularly popular station, it’s become a “cool” brand that these others want to be associated with.

    I’m not entirely sure why a station such as Nova seems to thrive in Paris (and a few other French cities where it has transmitters) when I imagine it would flop if the same format launched in London or Manchester. Cultural differences could play a key part; for some (technical?) reason Paris has around 60 FM frequencies available with all sorts of programmes on them so choice and plurality are the norm there.

    PS. Could you possibly make your comment box a bit bigger? It could just be my computer, but it only seems to accommodate five lines.

  4. Thanks for flagging this up – I find Radio Nova absolutely fascinating. I started listening to it when I was beginning to try to learn French last year, and have stuck with it because it’s so refreshingly different from anything in the UK. It’s depressing that there’s nothing that comes even remotely close here – and, indeed, even more depressing that there really never could be.

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