Give It Some Heart

As has been discussed elsewhere, Global Radio is about to begin the Heartification process to convert Radio Broadland, SGR Ipswich, SGR Colchester, Hereward, Chiltern Bedford, Chiltern Dunstable and Northants 96 to Heart (insert frequency).

It’s an interesting challenge. Dumping 20 years of heritage is brave, but the hope is that a unified brand will help get more listeners and make more money. The new Hearts will have local Breakfast, Drivetime shows and Weekend mid-morning and the rest will be networked with Heart 106.2 in London, which means the stations get new presenters like Toby Anstis (mid-morning), Matt Wilkinson (evenings) and Simon Beale (late nights).

The re-brand is getting some heavyweight TV support. Indeed, the first stations have been chosen because they’re in a TV region – Anglia. The ad is this one…

I think it’s interesting that the main two stars are Jason Donavan (the Sunday evening show presenter) and Jamie Theakston (who I don’t think will even be on any of the new stations). I imagine the people on the sofa are the local presenters from each station – which I guess is one way to get around that delicate problem of who to show. I note that the liner is ‘your brand new radio station’ and that the end credit is ‘new to Anglia’.

I think one of the difficulties with the new campaign is that it never mentions the frequencies of the stations that are becoming Heart. I think it’s actually easy to dismiss the ad as thinking it’s for that, there Heart radio station in London rather than my local station that used to be Northants.

TV’s one aspect of the rebrand, i’ll try and write another post on some of the other aspects soon.

My Little Radio Station

Fun Kids Logo

I haven’t written much about my little radio station. If you didn’t know, a few months ago, my company bought Fun Radio – a children’s radio station – from Global Radio/Hit Entertainment and some smaller shareholders. We’d been quite heavily involved with Fun Radio when we were at GCap and always felt it was a great radio format. Other than a little bit of programming on BBC7 there’s no kids content on mainstream UK radio and it targets a very large, supposedly niche, audience.

The programming on Fun Radio is solid. There’s a great mix of music and some brilliant stories from big stars like Thomas and Friends and Horrid Henry and it’s presenter-led at breakfast, hometime and on the weekends. Its listening figures are okay with about 100,000 kids and adults listening every week .

Buying a radio station in these credit crunch times might seem a little crazy. And it probably is a little bit. However, what we felt with Fun was that it had been relatively successful with no marketing and little thought of medium term strategy. If we could give it a little of both and put some effort into sales then we could change it from the small loss it makes to generating a small profit. A great start to then grow the business further.

The station’s now run in an interesting way. Folder provides sales, marketing, distribution, online, strategy and direction whilst production is handled by Global Radio’s Content and Podcast Team. They ensure that the station is scheduled, audio is loaded, presenters are briefed, production is made and content is sourced. They, in effect, deliver a product that we design.

Dividing the production end from the business end works surprisingly well. The danger with all radio stations (and especially digital ones) is that everyone gets drawn into production and you forget the other things like money, marketing and strategy, the thing that if you mess up means that the station won’t exist for very long. Anyway, since we bought it, there hasn’t noticeably been much of a change as we’ve been concentrating on building towards the post-Christmas period. However’s that’s now starting to change.

The first thing that’s become visible is a tweak to the station’s name as we’re changing it from Fun Radio to Fun Kids. The main reason we’re changing is that having the word ‘kids’ in the title allows us to ronseal up the station a bit, and as people flip through the channels on their DAB radio, TV EPG or wi-fi channel list they’ll be able to realise that we’re a children’s radio station, rather than just one that might be a bit fun!

It’s an interesting change for the listeners as we’re keeping the ‘Fun’ and providing the addition of a new on-air word – ‘Kids’. We’re transitioning (or is the approved technical term now cross-fading? ) by calling the station Fun Radio Kids for a little while and by promoting the new web address – www.funkidslive.com – this will hopefully mean there’s less of surprise when it’s only called Fun Kids when we switch properly at the end of the year.

The new website is also an important transition for the radio station. Internally I refer to this as the ‘interim’ website. Fun Radio had a very ‘fun’ old website with lots of Flash and cartoon graphics, unfortunately it was very difficult to get new content into it and the navigation did not encourage people to look at multiple pages at all. Our new site is designed to be easy to update and navigate and probably more importantly, has three advertising slots (a leaderboard, MPU and banner). It’s not as flash-y and ‘designed’ as we’d like at the moment, but the current structure allows us to expand to develop that over time (and when there’s more cash to pay for it). We’ve also highlighted the ‘listen live’ player with a floating button on every page. I’m not sure whether this is a brilliant innovation or deeply annoying and i’d be interested in your views.

Around Christmas, when we’ve got lots of new listeners with their new DAB radios, we’ll be changing the programming a little to make the music a little more consistent and we’ll be strengthening some of the programme segments to give them a stronger voice.

We’re also supporting the station with some targeted marketing in kids magazines from characters like Thomas and Friends and Fireman, the parent targeted Jump magazine from Bounty and some online bits and pieces too.

I’ll try and post some more updates about our little children’s radio station over the coming months.

One Radio Industry

Here’s a statement in response to the publication of the Digital Radio Working Group’s report by the DRDB. My emphasis in bold.

The DRDB (Digital Radio Development Bureau), the BBC, RadioCentre (the industry body for commercial radio), and manufacturers’ trade body Intellect, have welcomed today’s report from the Digital Radio Working Group (DRWG) on the future of digital radio in the UK.

The report presents a set of measures which will drive radio towards a switch-over trigger point. The radio industry will work together to meet the report’s targets through an increased commitment to marketing, content and coverage. This will result in a stronger consumer proposition for digital radio.

DRDB Chief Executive, Tony Moretta, says: “Consumers, retailers and manufacturers continue to enjoy the benefits of DAB radio. Sales this year remain strong and we anticipate nearly a million radios will be bought this Christmas period. The report does much to confirm the radio industry’s confidence in digital radio and lays the groundwork for the move towards digital switch-over in the coming years.”

BBC Director of Audio & Music, Tim Davie, says: “We welcome the DRWG’s report. The BBC is committed to supporting DAB through distinctive digital services and extensive coverage, and will continue to work with the rest of the radio industry in driving digital listening.”

Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive of RadioCentre says: “Clarity about digital radio is critical for Commercial Radio’s future. We’re delighted now to have an aligned plan along with other DRWG stakeholders. RadioCentre is fully committed to working with the industry to make that plan happen. The DRWG has done excellent work over the last 12 months in finding the best way to achieve this. We hope the recommendations in the report will be accepted by Government and will be reflected in their Digital Britain report next year.”

Intellect, the electronics manufacturers’ trade body, joins the DRDB and its stakeholders in welcoming the report. Director of Consumer Electronics Laurence Harrison says: “We believe the future of radio is digital and fully support the recommendations in the report. We think the collaborative approach that the government has taken in the Digital Radio Working Group is the right one. With nearly nine million DAB sets expected to be in homes by the end of 2008, increasing listening figures and a variety of exciting new products coming to market, digital radio is set to go from strength to strength.”

Journalism Fail

Newspapers are mental. After two years (yes, it’s been that long) of media-related ‘scandals’ about vote rigging or Manuel-gate, I think we’ve reached a new low. No, not of broadcast media’s decline in standards but in the barrel-scraping of our print friends.

In the last 24 hours, The Telegraph, The Metro, The Mail, The Sun, and the Birmingham Post amongst others have all reported on the ‘story’ of some DJs on Burn FM in Birmingham having a joke and stating, incorrectly of course, during some, no doubt, hilarious DJ banter, that Des O’Connor’s daughter has acted in pornographic films.

Burn FM, of course, isn’t really on FM and is actually an internet streaming station. My spies tell me that there were only 28 people tuned in on the internet listening at the time of the incident.

So, a load of newspapers, combined circulation of millions have highlighted a silly prank that virtually no one listened to and brought it to a much wider audience, causing, I imagine,  much more distress to the daughter and the national treasure.

The mock shock of the papers (and their gleeful desire to repeat the details) is much worse than the behaviour of some over-excited student DJs.

Commenting on Facebook Ads

Endorsements from your friends is a great way to increase the cut-through of advertising. It’s something Facebook lets you do and something that gives them a good unique selling point. One of the nicest ways it does it is by allowing you to associate friend activity with adverts. So, if I was promoting a radio station with Facebook ads I could connect it to members of that radio station’s fan page or group. That would mean when someone (who’s friend was in that group) saw the ad, they’d see a little pic of them above it and a note about their connection. This is a great way to draw the eye to the commercial messasge, and something we’ve successfully done for Folder clients.

However, the new Facebook ad unit on the middle right of the page has gone one step further and allowed comments, and it just shows you ones from your friends. Now, as the example below shows, that friend recommendation can work in reverse too….

Also as the ad unit is in such a good position, i’m sure we’ll start seeing people use the comments as high impact message boards for their mates!