The True Cost of Twitter’s Deal with Vodafone UK

When Twitter first started you could get your updates for free on your mobile phone through SMS. This is great, until you get more than ten friends and it starts to get annoying. What was good was that you could get DMs (direct messages) texted or just choose which followers you wanted to get SMSs from.

In the US the SMS model works a little better for Twitter as some users have to pay for the texts they receive – therefore Twitter SMS is good news for telcos! In the UK its free to receive SMS so Twitter was finding itself coughing up a load of dough for sending SMS’s to users, therefore it promptly turned them off.

Until this week. It’s announced a deal with mobile operator Vodafone to re-start it, with free texts to and from Twitter. It’s likely that Twitter will gradually roll this out to other UK mobile operators over the coming months. A deal with a telco doesn’t change the poor economics for Twitter, so there’s got to be something in it for Vodafone if Twitter aren’t paying for the texts, and there certainly is if you look at the T&Cs on Voda’s website:

By linking your twitter account & number, you’re agreeing to receive adverts related to Vodafone services in Twitter updates. If you want to stop receiving adverts, you will need to switch off the Twitter updates by sending STOP to 86444.

It makes sense for Vodafone – it’s a good way for them to speak to their customers.  However, this is the first time ads have appeared appended to messages – is it a sign of Twitter’s future business model?

Strength Through Collaboration

Great news from the Absolute Radio guys this morning, with the announcement that Absolute is going to sell Planet Rock’s airtime. This is definitely going to be the first of many similar deals.

It’s a great combination. Absolute have a sales team that understands ‘digital’ in its widest form and Planet Rock is a solid radio station, with a good and growing audience.

The biggest waste of money for digital-only stations are any costs that arise from them being a stand alone operation. For these stations to grow the only sensible thing to spend money on is distribution, programming and marketing. Anything else just gets in the way.

For Planet Rock to have a big brother to do the airtime sales and to look after S&P themselves is eminently sensible. Airtime is hard for little guys to sell, but easy for big guys to manage. The station itself knows the brand best so having them looking after sponsorship, promotions and branded-content is a nice combination – and one that’s been done successfully by many other stations in the past.

In the coming weeks it would be great to hear the deal go further and have Planet Rock to move into Golden Square too.

Commercial Radio to Join iPlayer?

News in the MediaGuardian today about the BBC’s olive-branch to commercial radio with the potential creation of Listen Again for all of UK radio (commercial and BBC).

At first glance this seems a good thing. Listeners do love the BBC’s Listen Again/iPlayer for Radio services and are keen for commercial radio to provide the same (yes, I know some stations already do). However it does raise some interesting questions, and i’d counsel both sides to think about some of the issues this will create.

Consumers love on-demand listening, it suits them, and is absolutely something all radio stations should do. At the moment consumers come through radio station websites to do this. For commercial stations this generates lots of banner impressions and allows the showcasing of other content, both commercial and non-commercial to listeners. Indeed, it’s this premium content that pulls in listeners so they see some of the the er, less premium content, that we put online.

If however you create a new space where they go to consume this content, they no loner need to come to your station’s website – they’ll go directly to the portal. My hunch would be the BBC’s radio station websites have seen their usage drop since the emergence of iPlayer.

If there is a portal, will it be co-branded with the BBC? Will the BBC want to limit the commercial messaging within it, they are paying for it after all. Maybe you’ll get a pre-roll ad away, but what about integrations? Will you be able to brand the whole player? Will you be able to run a video-pre-roll instead? Will there be room for data capture? Can you run an MPU or an expandable?

For me the interesting things about the BBC being invovled is that they get to donate:

  • Bandwidth
  • Underlying Technology
  • Cross-Promotion

Personally I wouldn’t want to make the de facto place you consume my content on someone elses website. Whatever the good intentions.

What I would like is the UK radio industry to operate something (on their own sites) that has similar functionality and design values so that UK consumers could easily find and use it. How it’s dressed and integrated should be left to the broadcasters.

I’d also like integration for opt-in cross-promotion.

I’d like anywhere that the BBC suggests other content to include commercial radio, if relevant, as well. A funk show on Radio 2 should cross-promote a funk show on Jazz FM – if there’s value to licence fee payers. I’d also hope that commercial radio station could use it to cross-promote other inter-brand content, so Global could promote Galaxy programming next to Capital’s Dance Anthems.

I think some commercial stations would even cross-refer back to the BBC. I know for us at Fun Kids, we’d like our station to be the tap you turn for when you want children’s radio content. To that degree i’d probably be happy to link to the BBC’s excellent children’s content as well – especially if they were linking back.

There’s a great opportunity to work together for the good of UK radio, lets just not lose sight of how both sides’ organisations operate.

Being Compliant

I thought i’d have a quick look at what GWR Bristol, sorry, thisisheart in Bristol was playing to see if they’d become compliant after Ofcom’s yellow card. In other words, were two thirds of their songs from the last two years? This was the 10am hour:

GWR Bristol

That’s seven out of eleven songs from the last two years, a 64% hit rate. To me that would seem pretty much compliant! And only one Take That song as well.

Bof! Digital Radio in France

Uncharacteristically (!), France has been somewhat late to the digital radio party, but now that they’re in, they’re really going for it.

News today from WorldDMB that the French Government are mandating that all radios must be digital ones:

The law sets out a three step programme to integrate digital radio into all radio receivers:
– 1st September 2010 – radio receiver which can display multimedia content will have digital
radio reception enabled with the exception of in-car terminals
– 1st September 2012 – all new terminals will be dedicated to the reception of digital radio and
multimedia with the exception of in-car terminals
– 1st September 2013 – all radio receivers will be digital

It’s quite a rapid roll-out and something that will ceratinly help generate a more speedy appearance of digital radios in UK cars too.

Not Being Contemporary Enough

Earlier today Ofcom issued a yellow card to GWR Bristol for having drifted out of its format musically. In case you haven’t heard, the majority of Global Radio’s local stations are being turned into Heart. This is being carried out in three phases, with the second phase due to kick in a week Monday (and which will see GWR Bristol itself become a Heart).

Whilst the name change is the big thing, all of the stations actually started taking the Heart music log at the end of last year. Having had a listen, the daytimes basically follow London with a couple of extra contemporary tunes thrown in. And this is where all the trouble’s started. Global (GWR’s owners) are trying to keep all of the Heart’s roughly similar, so they’re keen not to deviate too much from the London log.

The problem is that Heart was originally licensed to be a complimentary station to the CHRs that existed (in the West Mids and London) and therefore trying to Heartify a load of CHRs isn’t really in the spirit of the format. This GWR yellow-card is the first time that Global have been called on it. Interestingly in the judgement Ofcom make specific reference to the fact there’s a similar problem across the rest of the Heart and soon-to-be-Heart network. In other words GWR Bristol is not an isolated case.

To keep Ofcom happy Global has to up the contemporary factor (that’s songs released in the last two years) to about 2/3rds of the output in non-specialist programming – which is basically 6am to 7pm (less a time tunnel) in weekdays. This is quite a significant change from the ‘Heart format’  and will neccessiate a little more investment into ‘Heart network 2’ – something Global are not very keen on doing.

What is odd is Global’s response where they’ve made this weird statement:
“GWR Bristol was asked to supply music logs to Ofcom by today, Friday 13 March. The requested information was supplied by yesterday, 12 March. Ofcom’s decision was made without reference to either the station, or by talking to its owners, Global Radio,”

On the music logs front, well, you don’t actually need to look at the logs if you just listen to the radio station, do you? Ofcom’s got Radiomonitor just like everyone else. And if I was Ofcom issuing quite a group-wide statement, I think i’d rather trust what was on-air rather than a list faxed through from Mark in London.

And, to be honest, Ofcom don’t need to talk to Global. Much of this thinking was explained when Ocean FM got it’s musical wrap over the knuckles. Plus its something that pretty much everyone in the industry’s been talking about. The main danger, which happens when you’re in a big company, is arrogance. A ‘we can do what we want attitude’.

What Global fail to understand is that if Ofcom’s gone through relaxing significantly it’s rules – then it’s going to defend what it has left. The biggest failing is whoever thought they could get away with 47% rercurrents – if they’d had 60% they probably would have got away with it – and that would of been probably one (maybe two) extra songs an hour. Now they’re stuck with having to increase their contemporary output from 47% to 66%, making Heart a much less focused proposition and having Ofcom on their backs. As a yellow-card’s been issued it’s much easier for Ofcom to keep monitoring the situation rather than have to wait for complaints.

The most interesting thing, however, is Ofcom’s date that GWR Bristol (and the other network stations) must comply by – March 23rd. The date in which phase two of the Heartification starts, if that doesn’t shown Ofcom’s intent, I don’t know what would.


Apologies to Clive and the team, but the One Golden Square blog has become a bit dull recently. I think it had fallen into the trap of becoming just PR written in an authentic voice. You can see from the declining number of comments that there hasn’t really anything for people to get their teeth into.

However, today an excellent post has appeared from the Head of Music, James Curran, defending the appearance of Broken Strings by James Morrison, on the playlist. These are normally the sorts of things that stations hide – things that are unpopular with a small number of listeners and partly anti-brand, but at the same time are popular with a large number of listeners and actually the ‘right thing to do’.

I think it’s really good for a radio station to grapple with this in public, if not just to explain why stations do seemingly counter-intuitive things. It’s likely to make listeners a little more accepting and understanding when they tune into the station and will probably stop (a few of them) from switching in the future.