Radioplayer Goes On-Air

The official launch of Radioplayer is tomorrow morning, but the initial round of stations went live earlier this afternoon. Over 150 stations from Global Radio, GMG, Absolute Radio and the BBC have launched new players with common functionality that lets you easily flick between stations and, for the first time, has enabled the UK-wide search of stations, programmes and on-demand content.

This is really only the start though, with lots more stations starting to roll out in the next week or so (including Fun Kids, of course!)

The key reason behind the launch of Radioplayer is to provide a better environment for UK listeners, so it’s been great to see their response already today. I’ve Storified them below…

Tweeknotes – 21st to 28th March

Looking through my tweets this week, here’s the stuff that’s interested me and some other half-thoughts.

  • First, some news from Australia about their DAB+ roll-out, which has celebrated 18months on-air. 400k radios have been sold and it’s now accounting for 5.6% of all Australian radio listening. It’s a great result. Here’s the full PDF.
  • Over in Switzerland they’ve just announced four new nationwide stations (though logo-wise they seem to have a bit of an 80s vibe).
  • Also on DAB, quite a large Asian manufacturer has brought out a tablet with DAB/DAB+/DMB inside.
  • An interesting interview with Simon Cowell from the Huffington Post, where he reveals that all the rumours that surface about the judges for the new series of X Factor come from his own company – as they leak them! Ceratinly Certainly a positive way to control the news flow.
  • Aaron Sorkin (he who created the West Wing, amongst others) has a brilliant cameo in the new episode of 30 Rock.
  • Today, I filled in the online Census, something I thought was a really easy process. Though I wonder if they could have made it even quicker by using Facebook Connect! Half joke. Matt Wells off of the Guardian flagged up their alternative Census questionnaire.
  • I don’t mind an episode of Glee, but I think even the students of William McKinley High would have had trouble devising a song and dance routine for the Newcastle Metro. The BBC hasn’t had the same trouble.
  • It was Budget day this week, here’s an article from the Twitter Media guys about what the BBC did to help them focus the conversation within the BBC brand. Simple, but very effective. How do you manage your social media messages?
  • A couple of my blogposts this week, one on Five Live’s new ‘recorded on the day’ TV trails and another on how to cut costs at BBC Local.

We’re on the countdown now to the release of Radioplayer. At Folder we’ve been finishing off some players and sorting out the data-flow to make it all work properly for our clients. We’ve also been taking station staff through the new player and the likely affect it will have on their stations. Best moment of the week was after a meeting when the staff started talking unprompted about metadata (we’d talked about the importance of the search function). They came up with a genius idea – re-branding the jocks so their names worked better as keywords!

BBC Local Radio/Five Live – Delivering Quality First

News leaked a little while ago that the BBC’s DQF (Delivering Quality First) team were thinking about ‘networking’ BBC Local Radio with Five Live – that’s local radio at peak time and Five Live for the rest.

All of DQF has been a bit odd, the main aim seemingly floating multiple ideas simultaneously so it makes it difficult for the press to pick up on any one particular. Also it gives the BBC management some plausible deniability as they can argue these ideas have bubbled up from the staff and have been ‘out there’ for a while, so it won’t seem like a surprise when they make their final decisions. I think that is, perhaps, wishful thinking.

The bottom line is that with the licence fee frozen and the BBC forced on taking on more operations (World Service and the like) they’ve got to significantly cut costs. It’s also the kind of money that’s difficult to achieve through salami slicing. The BBC needs to think differently and instigate significant change to make these savings.

Ideas like merging local with Five Live do tick the box of thinking big, but I think it’s fundamentally flawed. The idea is that there’s about £30m of savings – getting rid of Five Live’s AM network and cutting staff locally. To give some background, BBC Local (not including Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland) costs £137m a year and Five Live costs 72m a year.

The licence-fee payer reason that it won’t work is that it causes major upheavals with two successful networks, both have very different audiences and they both do different jobs. An internal positive is that it will enhance Five Live as it will bring it to an FM audience who don’t currently use it. I think that’s a big gamble.

What isn’t acceptable though is just saying no to something. There needs to be money-saving changes, so if I disagree with something, it’s only fair that I come up with my own suggestions.

My main caveat is that I’m not an expert on BBC Local Radio. I’ve some experience at looking how stations can be run and i’ve got friends at a variety of local radio stations, so hopefully these aren’t shots in the dark. Also, of course, it would be nice not to do these things, but there needs to be some financial savings.

The tone of this is going to be quite brusque and I know this is of little comfort to the people who do a great job every day working for these stations. However, I still think it’s better than the Five Live option.

Understanding audiences

The concept of networking the BBC Locals isn’t a terrible idea (it already happens regionally and Five Live overnight), but in today’s world shoving on another network isn’t the solution. If we’re going to share programmes lets at least make ones that are specific to the local radio network.

Modern network

First, let’s do some research across the network and identify the tastes and interests of the audiences and whether different competitive make-ups affect the kinds of programming that people want from a local service. Let’s say there might even be one or two different feeds. Either way, we’re going to put those network shows into one building, say Birmingham.

This will be the beginning the network team – who’ll take significant responsibilities from the local stations. National news and sports audio cuts, all music scheduling, all audio production, promo scheduling – in fact anything that doesn’t have to be done by a local team falls to network. At the moment, there’s massive role duplication across the network that needs to stop.

Local programmes

We need to make some decisions about how many of the shows are locally orientated. Let’s aim for 6am to 7pm weekdays and enough on the weekends to cover sport. However, out of breakfast let’s dispense with the need to be all-speech. The exact mix should be based on the talent at each site and the competitive set of each market.

Building locations

One of the biggest ways to save costs is to cut the number of physical locations the stations come from. So, for brevity, some speedy rules. If you have any field offices, they close. Sorry Radio 4 – your contributors can use Skype or a phone. If you’re co-located with telly you keep your building. If you’re (relatively) near somewhere else you’re moving in with your neighbours. Lets punt that half the stations will lose all their buildings. Local newsgathering will predominantly tele-work out in the field with regional teams helping set up.


FM is relatively inexpensive for the number of people who can hear it. AM on the other hand is in massive decline. Unless there’s a sizable area that can’t get FM, all AM transmitters are off.

Get it out of News

BBC Local isn’t about news. At their core they’re personality radio stations with lots of content around local topics. It doesn’t belong in the ‘News’ division, it belongs with the radio people. So, from now on local radio is under Audio and Music – with any sensible back-office functions – research, technology etc, moved to the A&M teams.

At the least it’ll mean that local stations actually get some websites.

Local integration

At the moment there’s the worst of both worlds – TV rarely integrates with radio, but management compete on salaries – making radio overly expensive. There needs to be a decision. Either proper integration, especially newsgathering, or keep it completely separate. It can work either way but it has to be 100% focused.


Management will need to be significantly restructured, firstly there’s lots of management – Editors, Assistant Editors, SBJs etc at the 40 stations. Our co-location and networking means that they’ll be less senior people needed plus they’ll be a headcount reduction to match the number of new locations.

Secondly, what these significant changes will mean is that they’ll really be a need for excellent leadership. The network needs a strong central operation and Controller and charismatic leaders in the field to deliver one vision.

Content creation

Strong leadership is necessary as the structure of programming will have to change dramatically. Many of these stations have evolved with similar staff doing similar jobs for a long time- they share more with 80s ILR than they do more modern radio stations.

A significant structural change in these stations will provide an opportunity to re-imagine the way local content can be created and deployed – whether that’s live, as inserts or on the web and mobile.

I think it’s important that changes to ‘local’ aren’t just about cuts or Five Live mergers. There is an opportunity to save more than £30m and build a great local service that’s fit for tomorrow.

Five Live’s ‘A Day In The Live’ Campaign

Five Live’s running a TV marketing campaign at the moment, but with a very different creative. They’ve been filming what’s been happening during the day in the studio and then turning that around into an ad for broadcast later that evening.

It’s a brilliant way to contextualise the station as one that covers what’s happening today. It’s also a great way to say “we’re not just a sports station”. Something I know that has always been an (incorrect) perception that many listeners have.

The other thing I like about it is people are dressed down and there’s a mix of serious and fun. Even though the ads are short it really communicates a down-to-earth personality, something i’m sure they were intending to do.

The fist clip below, shows them on Budget day, the second one a more general day at the station.

Graham on the Five Live blog talks more about the campaign.

Tweeknotes – 14th March to 20th March

Some fun things that have popped up on Twitter this week:

  • A piece about Private Eye’s digital strategy
  • The BBC are doing a trial of RadioVIS for their radio services. We already provide these for our clients – it’s a great way to visualise a radio station and harmonise the pictures delivered to mobile, web as well as RadioDNS-enabled radios like the Pure Sensia. It’s great to see a big broadcaster supporting it.
  • Ford have been doing some research that’s led them to bring forward the date that they’re line-fitting digital radio in their cars. Their new announcement means that all of their new cars will have DAB as standard by the end of next year.
  • There’s some more new programmes planned for Radio 4 Extra.
  • A great viral video to promote new film Limitless. Here’s the resolution.
  • A nice write up in The Guardian about the Moyles record attempt.

Tweeknotes – 7th March to 13th March

This week, a date was announced (31st March) for the launch of the UK Radio Player, or Radioplayer as it’s now known. On that date the core partners (BBC, Global, GMG and Absolute) will go live, with the next wave, hopefully, coming a couple of weeks later. We’ve been developing player consoles for our clients and it’s been fun to see everyone’s involvement evolve over the last few weeks.

Talking to radio people outside the project, there seems to be a bit of a shrug about Radioplayer’s launch. Stations have online consoles right now, after all. It’s definitely something that only really hits you when you play with it and use search and presets, flipping between stations. It’s the most normal thing in the world to use, and crazy to think it’s taken us in radio so long to get there.

Other things that i’ve seen this week:

I’ll leave you with a brilliant perfectly on brand tweet from E4:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/E4Announcer/status/46311459604533249″]


Tweeknotes – 28th February to 6th March

This week’s notes from my twitter…

James Cridland’s written about an odd thing that the BBC Trust have said. They remarked when approving more radio series-stacking that:

1. There is a “limited amount of on-demand content offered by commercial radio”

Really? Absoloute provide thousands of hours of material and most of the big groups all do listen again.

2. “There are no known commercial radio stations that create factual or drama productions”

Except of course, the ones that do. At Fun Kids we definitely do the first and with some of the readings, arguably the second too! A bit of a poor show by the Trust.

Angelique tweeted about Pitchify, which grabs top reviews from sites like Pitchfork and then checks to see if the music’s available on Spotify. It’s something that begins to help fix one of Spotify’s few downsides – how to navigate the vast amount of material in its collection.

The BBC, this week, announced some details about Radio 4 Extra (the re-branded BBC Radio 7). I was hoping there would be more integration and counter-scheduling, but perhaps we’ll see more of that as further information is released.

Australian radio boss Duncan Campbell pointed to a great piece on talent management, there’s lots of parallels with the radio business.

One of the things that the new app stores have allowed is self-publishing content. This article talks about one young indie publisher’s success with her ebooks.

I spent five minutes fixing my Radio-Job-O-Tron this week – it’s just a simple thing that pulls radio jobs from Media UK, BBC and the Guardian and them emails them out to anyone that wants it. You can subscribe using the box on the lower right hand side of the blog.

I really enjoyed 24 Hour Panel People. It was a Comic Relief challenge for David Walliams to take part in 24hours worth of TV panel shows. They broadcast it live on the internet, with highlights to follow on BBC Three. It was a fantasitc watch, showing up many of the techniques TV uses to ‘fix’ pre-records.

If you missed it on Saturday, I also posted a link to some great Moyles audio.