Tweeknotes 18th – 24th April

Here’s this week’s Tweekntotes:

And finally an old aircheck of Steve Wright on the day Radio 1 launched on FM. It’s scary:

You can follow me on Twitter, i’m @matt – and you can get the blog via RSS or Email.


Nature of Retweets

One of the great things about Twitter is it’s asynchronous. You don’t have to follow all the people who follow you. Indeed, you seek out people you want to follow – be it for entertainment, information, your friends, people smarter than you, people you want to spy on – it’s all opt in.

The downside of this is often you concentrate more on who you’re following than who are following you.

People use Twitter in lots of different ways, some use it as an honest stream of consciousness, some to talk to celebrities, some to position themselves.

In the media world, I think the latter is usually the most used. I know it’s how I use it. Whether it’s talking about things that (I think) make me look bright, highlighting things I think are interesting or important or just showing, hey, that i’m funny guy!

Retweets are a good way to achieve these aims as well, letting you bask in someone else’s skill and humour. It’s also a great way to provide evidence reinforcing your own views from third parties. It helps your opinion become more trusted amongst your followers.

It’s important to remember though, that it is just your followers. They are a self-selecting group of people who choose to hear from you because of what you say.

There’s lots of tweets in my timeline at the moment from radio people re-tweeting messages from listeners about their station or particular station events. I generally don’t mind this. It often helps me learn about what station’s are up to. However, repeating similar messages over and over again just become spam.

I know, often, that they’re proud of what their stations are achieving, but personal twitter accounts especially with small (sub 1k) follower numbers isn’t the place to do it.

I know I can opt-out of a user’s retweets, or stop following, but it’s such a shame, when their messages or other retweets are good to read.

I’m still in two minds whether some of these tweets could actually be valuable on main station accounts. Generally it’s P1’s who become followers of main accounts, but even then if these listeners are tuning in for a few hours a day they might not be as across your programming as you would think.

I think if you’re plugging brand extensions, using the right number of retweets of listener appreciation is probably a great way to help build awareness and perception. For big station events it shows that people like you are enjoying the same thing and helps amplify your activity. It’s also more likely to help you with your hours.

However, if you keep telling me, over and over again, it’s unlikely to materially affect your hours and the only brand value it’s going to reinforce is that you care little about your followers.

Bauer’s New Radioplayer Players

I wrote a little piece about Bauer’s pop-up players a little while ago. It wasn’t very positive. They’ve since addressed a few of my issues, but it’s still not great.

However, they’ve just put live the Radioplayer version of all their station players – and they’re really good! You may remember that Bauer are in the strange position of keeping their own players for their websites whilst having separate ones that live in Radioplayer. James has explained why this is a shame.

What’s now even more odd is the Radioplayer version is head and shoulders above of their stand-alone version.

If we have a look at Magic 105.4’s player, the good features are:

  1. The stream starts automatically (unlike their counterparts)
  2. A Well-designed ‘skin’ (ditto)
  3. A good, clear presenter picture and description (there is none on the others)
  4. Good commercial integration – these are always tough to do, but I think taking the MPU format and extending it to better integrate with the player, is a good look (and unlike it’s big brother – it actually opens in a new window). The Kiss one, also does this very well.
  5. The ‘now playing’ section changes within a few seconds of a new song being played. This also updates in the ‘playing’ drop down too.
  6. There’s a good sharing function to show you’re listening to Magic through Twitter and Facebook.
  7. The sharing function adds a #ukradioplayer hashtag
  8. When a song isn’t playing – ie during a link or ad break – it carousel’s some information about their station’s website – a great piece of  sensible functionality.

Overall – it’s a great implementation that’s great for listeners. So, come on Bauer – give the decent version of your players to your listeners! Don’t leave them with this!


Tweeknotes 11th – 17th April

Some more links and things extracted from my tweets this week:

  • Alan Greenspun explains, in clear terms, America’s budget deficit
  • I thought it was slightly odd that Radio Aire, who must be facing unprecedented competition in their market, would choose to celebrate their 30th birthday with loads of early 90s pop stars like Chesney Hawkes and Right Said Fred.
  • I like Bob Shennan a lot, but his interview raised my shackles a little bit. Why benchmark against commercial radio and knock it? He runs a £50m radio station with no ads and completely national coverage and still feels the need to have a moan at Heart?
  • A nice picture from Dan Cocker showing a good snapshot from BBC Manchester.
  • Maria Williams, one of my co-committee members on the Sony’s has written a good post on how to (or not) win a Sony award.
  • I like how Bauer have re-structured their stations into two groups for agencies to buy. What’s good is that they’ve brought their digital stations into the mix – a great way to properly value those hours.

Exciting Side Project

Today we put live a new side project – The Music Machine.

It’s not my idea though. I’ve worked with Sammy Jacob (XFM and NME Radio founder) on a few projects over the last few years and recently he raised the idea of trying out a pay-radio service. Working with Chris Gould (at All in Media) and David Madelin we’ve created a subscription radio service for indie music fans.

It’s free for 30 days and works on your iPhone/iPod/iPad as well as on the web. It gives you three indie music radio streams, one of which – New & Upfront – is made up of tunes not serviced to radio or available on Spotify etc – it’s the stuff you’s normally find on music blogs.  Theres also an Indie Classics and a Best of Past and Present channel. After your free trial it’s £2.39 a month.

What interested me about the project is that it’s a subscription radio service.

In the radio industry we talk about new platforms, but so often it’s just a similar thing broadcast a different way. Will people pay (albeit a small amount) to listen to some new and curated indie music? Are three channels enough? Is it distinctive enough? Is it at the right price point? We don’t know yet. But thought it was definitely worth a try.

It’s also interesting because it’s mobile focused. Yes, there’s a website – but my hunch is that it’s really an on-the-move product. It adapts its bitrate from 3G and Wi-Fi and I think the killer feature is flicking between the stations. If there’s something that you don’t like, you’ll be able to see the tracks playing on the other two stations, and it’s super-fast flicking between them all.

I think it’s a simple, fun product and the app’s really easy to use. Have a play, tell me what you think. You can download the app, free for 30 days here. And you can have a look at the type of music played on the website here.


Tweeknotes 4th – 10th April

Busy week, this week. Lots of Radioplayer stuff, popping Fun Kids and 6 x Traffic Radio’s on there as well as prepping some more stations too. I’ve also been working on a fun side-project that I can talk about tomorrow!

Anyway, here’s some good links from the week:


Bauer’s Local Radio Players

The easiest things to do on blogs are moan. I genuinely try to concentrate on good stuff to talk about here because relentless negativity doesn’t really help anyone. However, occasionally I come across something that I feel if I don’t talk about, I would be underserving you, the dear reader.

So, Radio Today caught up with Iain Clasper who runs Bauer’s local websites to ask him why they were in Radioplayer but weren’t popping the Radioplayer from their websites, instead sticking to their existing player.

I think it’s disappointing that they’re not doing Radioplayer ‘properly’. It’s basically saying “we want all the benefits but don’t want to give anything”. Or as I mentioned in a tweet, they’ve got in bed but they’re not willing to fu…

Anyway. At the end of the day it’s their decision and the thing they have to concentrate on is looking after their listeners and their customers and if that’s not doing it through Radioplayer, then so be it.

The interview did prompt me to have a look at some of their players to see what they were keen to protect. Especially as in the Radio Today interview Iain says: “Ours is a lot bigger, more dynamic and has more rich content – so we didn’t want to lose that functionality.”

Here’s Hallam FM‘s

Here’s my thoughts:

  1. It’s certainly bigger – it opens in the whole page
  2. The station logo (top left) is tiny
  3. Though the clickable area for the logo (to Hallam’s homepage)  stretches from the beginning of the logo to above the K in Yorkshire (and over part of the commercial message)
  4. The commercial takeover background isn’t clickable at all
  5. There’s a remnant banner ad for Ebay on the page (odd for a takeover)
  6. There is an MPU for the takeover, though it opens in the same page as the player, thus interrupting your listening of the station
  7. You have to click to start it streaming
  8. There’s no information about who’s on-air
  9. When you click to play it goes to run a pre-roll, but there isn’t one, so there’s a 10 second delay in starting the stream.
  10. When the stream starts there’s a nice large picture of the song playing – which is nice. Though when there isn’t (during links, ads or mis-matched tunes) it’s a big grey CD symbol.
  11. When there is one, there’s the option to rate, share or buy the music. This is good.
  12. There is however a massive whitespace above it. And when there’s the grey CD symbol, the whole thing is a massive white space.
  13. This does mean that when you click ‘Recent’ a nice slider appears with recent songs, fitting snugly in the white space. That is unless you use Chrome, in which case it covers the MPU.
  14. Whilst the slider does look good – it also shows up the song ratings – which means that if you’re listeners don’t like a song, it basically shows that you play unpopular music.
  15. The page has vertical scrollbars, which scroll down to empty space.

Bigger definitely isn’t better. A skinned version of their Radioplayer could deliver a lovely experience for their takeover partner and be accessible to more listeners. At the moment, there’s two experiences delivering two lots of content (and different commercial messages).

This post isn’t about shilling for Radioplayer. What we do have to do as industry is to improve all of our digital experiences and make it even better for our listeners and customers. Bauer have already started this process with an excellent refreshed local radio station design. It’s a shame that they’re not there with their players and that they haven’t grasped the opportunity that the majority of other stations have seen with their streaming product.


Tweeknotes 28th March – 3rd April

A couple of things that caught my attention this week:

Radioplayer was a busy part of my week. There was a great launch event in London with a real positive feeling in the room. It’s generally gone down well with listeners and it’ll be interesting when around 60 more stations go live over Tuesday.

Also, thank you to everyone who’s said nice things after Fun Kids was put up for two Sony Radio Academy Awards. We’re all very pleased!

And finally… Matt Edmondson’s tweet made me think, are your presenters so keen to make multimedia content?…

[blackbirdpie url=”!/MattEdmondson/status/53405152492785664″]


Keep Thinking Differently

I’ve had a really good response to my blog post about BBC Local Radio. Lots of people have sent me their own submissions to DQF and many of them positively engaged with trying to re-think the work that they do.

Some of the responses I got to the post were questioning why BBC Local Radio should be hit when there are other areas that should bear the brunts of cuts? Usually this is thrown at things that they personally doesn’t like – BBC Three is usually a good example.

One of the issues that the BBC faces is that the scale of the cuts means that pretty much everything will see budget reductions. So, in the spirit of that, here’s another suggestion.

Put out to tender all of BBC Radio’s music networks.

What would that mean? It means the BBC could set a budget, some stringent content and operational requirements and then commission a third party to operate each of the networks.

It doesn’t mean they have ads or anything like that, it just means they’re operated by someone other than the BBC directly. At the moment the BBC networks commission third parties to make programmes, why not the whole network?

At the moment Radio 1 spends £31m a year on content, why not open the network to competitive tendering? The BBC would specify types of programmes, audiences, scale of events etc and it would be up to the bidders to compete on the cost of providing that. The BBC would then judge the quality of the providers and the value of the bid.

The arguments often stated against doing this is that quality would drop, that it would become too commercial and that third parties don’t have the skill to carry it off.

I think most of the reasons are a little unfounded. Already the BBC independently commissions hundreds of radio and television programmes, some of which are the most popular shows on the networks and often they do disproportionately well at awards and Audience Appreciation too. These shows aren’t overtly commercial, they’re designed to the specs the networks come up with. In fact, often because you’re working under the network means you deliver even more to ensure that relationship continues.

Indeed, because the station is non-commercial it would make it an incredibly attractive opportunity for consortia. A guaranteed budget and the ability to be creatively-led would bring out some excellent radio practitioners to bid for the project.

Maybe provision for news on the networks stays in house, but is there any particular need for the rest of the music output to stay in fortress Beeb?

With a tendering process there’s an opportunity to maintain service levels, significantly reduce costs and bring in some new thinking. With regards to the current teams, why not let them bid to operate the networks as well? They would probably have a good chance of winning, but potentially at a lower overall cost for licence fee payers.

One of the BBC’s central problems is that, like many large companies, there are significant structural inefficiencies because group functions have grown at pace. By contracting-out parts of the business (like 1, 1x, 2 and 6m) it also makes it easier to re-think back office functions as well – as there’s less internal operations to support.

So, if DQF is about there being no sacred cows, how about putting those music stations out to tender?