Radio 1 Does Okay on Web Traffic

From Hitwise (and a gloating Sam):

Recent research from Hitwise UK shows that one in seven visits to online radio websites last week were to BBC Radio One. Searches for the station’s annual music festival, ‘radio 1 big weekend’ were almost triple the number of searches in 2007, as registrations for tickets opened last week. Searches for ‘maidstone kent’, the venue for this year’s festival, also spiked last week.

However 518,000 people did drop by to register for the Big Weekend.

Anti-Social Networking

So the news finally broke that GCap is going to network something, somewhere in daytime across their One Network of radio stations. Which, I imagine, isn’t particularly good news if you’re a daytime jock.

Indeed I hear the information flow wasn’t exactly as smooth as at Global, where their ‘under threat’ DJs all got a personal briefing/help finding a new job before it was announced publicly.

Now I actually don’t have anything, per se, against networking (you can take the boy out of GWR, but… etc etc), but the recent spate of daytime networking changes creates an interesting quandary, specifically around sales and making money.

You see, if you’re a Finance Director you have a little spreadsheet which shows your costs in lots of different categories and then you have another spreadsheet that lists all your income. The problem lies in the inter-relationship between these two spreadsheets and the fact it’s hard to show the real-world connections between the two.

Taking a top-down approach you add up the cost savings of networking a show and you’ll probably come up with a saving at the One Network of £800k to £1m a year. That’s a big number. Then, when you ask the question “Will it materially reduce audience by networking it?” I think it’s hard to say that it will.

What hasn’t been picked up is that it won’t be all the One Network stations taking this networked show, well at least from day one. I imagine the ‘big 8′ are unlikely to initially take part. Why’s that? Well, according to recent financial statements GCap say they account for around 50% of the hours and money made by the network. Therefore should the worst happen and they see a five percent reduction in the hours of those stations there could be quite a material affect on the business, whereas 5% off of Lantern probably won’t make such a difference to GCap’s bottom line. Indeed you can look at the cost saving and work our how much audience you would be ‘happy’ to lose before you start making less money.

However, assuming that an hours reduction is the only threat to enhanced profitability would be a naive thing to do. To me, the most interesting thing about the networked show is what else you lose locally.  With my business hat on, to me the biggest potential threat is the loss of local S&P or indeed any money that having a local programme specifically generates. The simple calculation to make is whether statement 2 would outweigh 1.

1.  Money generated locally for show – cost of making local show = show profitability

2.  (Money generated because of national show – cost of network show) / number of stations taking the show = station’s allocated profit.

There’s lots of talk about network shows being able to bring in national sponsorship opportunities, which is undoubtedly true. However, will the total revenue from this new national opportunity outweigh what was previously able to be generated locally? If it doesn’t the  £1m saving will start to shrink. Very quickly.

To underestimate local sales is very dangerous, especially as spot for spot, local can generate more than three times the national equivalent. Already many sales teams across the UK have suffered when their sales houses oversell airtime (or have to provide more spots because available impacts have gone down since the ads were sold). This result is less inventory available for local sales teams and often that’s when you hear everything on the station suddenly has a local sponsor. Those local sales teams need to hit their targets after all.

The other type of sales that a station loses is the ability for local jocks to sell what’s coming up on the station (as well as ther station’s other S&P activity). Now, whilst some of this can be replaced by a DCS command and a split break, there is not the same emotional sell that a jock can do. Being excited about the breakfast show or other activity on the station helps drive hours and keep the stations performing well. In commercial radio the presenter’s role does not stop at segueing a song well or delivering a funny ‘bit’, they’re there to re-enforce all aspects of the individual radio station to drive hours and, ultimately, profit.

The easy post to write about networking is how it’s all ‘hell in a hand cart’ and the end of civilisation as we know it. Well, to be honest, I can’t guess how the One Network’s audience is likely to react. I imagine some stations will be up and some will be down and it’s going to take a good 18 months to see what the real result of this policy change is.

What is a shame is that 100+ presenters, suddenly having found out about their future on DigitalSpy and RadioToday are going to be concentrating on getting a demo together and finding a ‘safe’ shift rather than delivering compelling audio and serving their current audiences.

Radiopaq – Streaming Radio Portal

I saw on Brand Republic that Beam have been hired to ‘excite’ people about new radio streaming startup Radiopaq. I hadn’t heard of Radiopaq so I thought i’d stop by. It’s not a particularly new idea, but the site’s quite nicely done and AJAX-style allows you to navigate through the content without interrupting your listening.

However, they are basically making money form nicking other people’s content [edit - potentially, as they haven't got any ads at the moment], and actually worse than that, their inhibiting the way these stations make money online, whilst stealing their content.

Radio streaming economics means that for each additional listener you add, you have to spend more money on bandwidth/infrastructure to serve them. That’s why the online radio players are so important as the banners and pre-roll adverts help the station cover these costs. The players also provide more information about the programmes and the music that’s being played, which is a nice listener benefit.

Radiopaq chooses to ignore these pop-up players and link directly to the streams. Looking at some of the GCap stations on their site (Capital for example) it also links to the pure streams rather than the links that will play a pre-roll advert. It also looks like they’ve nicked the station logos off the websites (though according to their terms and conditions these have all been licensed to them. hmmm).

Now ‘broadband portals’ can be a good way of letting people sample these radio stations and potentially bring them more listeners. However, the difference between this and say something like iTunes, is that organisations choose to put their content into iTunes, they don’t for something like Radiopaq.

Perhaps i’m being naive and Radiopaq has negotiated with all of the radio groups access to pure ad-free streams in exchange for a cut of the site’s revenue. If anyone can confirm that please, of course, leave a comment and i’ll edit this post accordingly.

[Edit: Lots of interesting comments from the RadioPaq team below]

Radio 1 Terms and Conditions

Chris Moyles has brought back his previously long-running quiz show, Car Park Catchphrase, to his Radio 1 Breakfast Show this morning. It’s been off-air whilst the BBC has reviewed its competitions after all that premium rate/pre-recorded show palaver.

As part of that review, the BBC are insisting there’s specific terms and conditions for contests. Something Moyles has done here. I actually think it’s a good idea for all stations to have something like this as I think actually explaining what will happen is good for station-listener relationships. Indeed, two of the lines in the Moyles T&Cs are:

5. Each contestant will then be asked 3 questions to test their knowledge of the Chris Moyles show and may be asked about their interests and hobbies. Contestants will be selected on how many questions they answer correctly and how lively and interesting they will sound on air. Less than two correct answers will mean a contestant is ineligible to take part in the on air competition. If you are chosen to take part, but you are unable to appear, you may have to forfeit your place. One contestant will be chosen to take part in each edition of the quiz. On Monday 14 April 2008 two contestants will be chosen to begin the quiz, using the same entry method as described.

(my emphasis)

and:

7. Given the nature of the quiz, which is solely for entertainment purposes, and the style of the presenter, contestants should be aware that Chris Moyles might influence the outcome by helping one or other of the contestants.

I think explaining this sort of thing is positive and something stations shouldn’t shy away from.

Not Backing Boris

I’m not a big fan of Boris Johnson and would rather he wasn’t Mayor of London. Indeed, I don’t really think he’s good enough to be Mayor of Trumpton. He’s recently jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, following Brian Paddick’s lead no doubt, amusingly he’s only got ten followers. However, even with only ten followers could he at least spell Croydon right? He is, after all, trying to be the Mayor of London.

Networking Frenzy

Touch FM

There’s been a bit of a networking frenzy this week as group after group have been reducing their local progamming. First up Heart’s networking everything except breakfast, mid-morning and drive and Galaxy’s chopped everything except Breakfast and Drive.

Today, the CN Group have announced that they’re networking all of the Touch Radio stations with single programming except for Breakfast. The one exception was that it’s new launch Warwick has to abide by it’s application proposals and not take any networked shows until two years time.

There is however a brilliant way to get round this. All they need to do is broadcast all the networked progamming from Warwick itself. That way it’s local on Touch Radio Warwick and networked on all of the others. Easy.

Radio 1 Using Facebook Events

Radio 1 have been using Facebook in lots of interesting ways recently and I wanted to flag up something they did to promote Zane Lowe’s Masterpieces – a show where they play an album in full with interviews and things afterwards.

Now, most stations use Facebook to start a group about a show or station or they create a fan page for a station or presenter. This is okay, but quite often they miss the value in the FB community. The reason people join groups is to ‘endorse’ something, they’re saying “I agree”. The value of someone joining a group is that it’s often flagged up in their friends mini-feeds and might result in more people joining the group and thus spreading virally to more people. I really think stations miss a trick in how they brand their groups, they call them “Station FM’s Breakfast Show” rather than “I listen to Station FM’s breakfast show”, that’s a much better psychological endorsement than just a show name.

Anyway, Radio 1′s been bright about FB activity by trying to use the tools on offer to replicate how friends use the service to communicate. So, for Zane’s Masterpieces firstly they created a ‘fan page‘ for this element and then they got that page to create ‘events’ for each of the day’s playbacks. This is a great piece of specific activity that brings people closer to the programme and promotes the programme to other people. So, for the Public Enemy playback the event was “Let’s all listen to Public Enemy at exactly the same time!” . Now it only had 190 ‘attendees’ but that would have spread virally to all those friends in the attendee’s news feeds. Hey, even Chuck D joined the event off his own back – now that’s proper artist integration! A great use of Facebook.

XFM News

More from the ever changing strategy at GCap as they announce that they’re not going to be selling XFM Manchester and XFM Scotland after all. Apparently they’ve decided that they’re decent assets to hold after all. I’m sure it’s also nothing to do with the fact that they couldn’t get decent price for those stations.

They may of course have got a decent price had they not announced that they’d be ‘giving back’ the licence to Ofcom if they couldn’t find a bidder. Valuing the stations yourself at zero is never very good to encourage high cash bids.

The odd thing is they still plan to sell XFM South Wales. This must mean that there’s a decent price on offer for it. I think it’s another crazy decision. The station is new and relatively inexpensive to run, especially as it’s co-located with Red Dragon. If they can’t make money out of it, then it raises more questions about their national/local sales skills than the viability of the licence. Especially with Ofcom’s recent relaxation of programming rules they’d only have to wait 18 months to do a ‘Global’ and network everything except Breakfast and Drive. It seems the GCap craziness hasn’t stopped yet!

Radio Station Marketing

I post things like the post below because they’re good ideas that other people can reinvent and use for their own brands. Radio, as an industry, has had a bit of a kick in recently partly due to the “radio recession” (more on that later) and partly because it rarely shouts about the good things it’s doing.

I think what’s important to recognise is that it doesn’t have to be all new ideas, there are some classic things that will continue to do the same job they’ve always done. Radio stations can be very easy to be substituted as there are few barriers to switching. It’s just a press of a button (or preset). Keeping front of mind is therefore very important as you need to be in the game, with people sampling you, so that you can try and convert them to listening longer and spending more time with you. This is partly why the old stand by of ‘car stickers’ does a certain job – it reminds you a station is around and lots of people like it so much they’ve stuck a sticker in their car.

Encouraging sampling is also important if you’ve changed what you’ve done and want people to have a listen. At Capital, for example, the addition of Denise to the breakfast show was a great reason for people to have another listen to see if they might like the show. Indeed, selling a new version of yourself is something that GCap’s One Network has embarked upon with its recent ‘revitalisation’ programme. A more modern logo, on air branding, new network shows and new websites have been an attempt to modernise the feel of the stations and re-engage with some of their lost audiences.

It was therefore good to see Trent FM’s new partnership with the Nottingham Arena which takes the ‘front of mind’ idea forward to the next stage. Now, sponsoring an arena isn’t anything new (hello Metro Radio Arena), but it’s a good way to build on your music proposition, remind non-listeners you exist and also get some free PR as people start to call the “Trent FM Arena”. No doubt other media will resist a bit to start with, but you’ll get there eventually.

The other thing that the Arena partnership does for Trent at this time, is that it’s a great way to demonstrate its newer, funkier image. I was quite surprised when I saw the level of branding Trent has across the Arena, see it here.

What other marketing have you seen recently that’s stood out for you?

p.s. Oh – and is this the classiest April Fool and great marketing to boot?