New Radio Presenting Skills

It’s clear that the radio industry is changing and evolving. It’s not only about how radio groups are altering their structures, but also how consumer behaviour is changing and how that means we need to do things in different ways. This affects everyone, including presenters.

I think sometimes there’s an assumption that formatted radio means all a jock has to do is talk for 20seconds every fifteen minutes. That’s hardly the case – whether it’s keeping social media updated, doing other roles in the radio station or creating different versions of what they do, for different audiences.

In our office we were listening to Capital Scotland (don’t ask…) and I heard this link:

What I thought was interesting is that it demonstrates how a presenter’s role has changed. If you listen to the link, it seems like a paid live read for an event in London. That’s a tough sell if you’re a presenter doing a networked show across the UK. Rich Clarke, the mid morning presenter (and disclosure: an old friend) manages to execute the sell, but with good local references for Capital Scotland.

So, that was the Scottish execution, I was interested to hear how the same link was dealt with elsewhere:

Capital Yorkshire:

Capital South Wales:

Capital Manchester:

Capital South Coast:

and here’s how it went out in London:

I don’t really want to get into the rights and wrongs of networking. What I do think is interesting is how the presenter’s role is changing and evolving. Whilst connecting with an audience has always been important, these changes mean presenters have to evolve their skills to execute those connections in lots of different ways. Keeping up with what’s happening on one station can be difficult enough, working to ensure that you know what’s happening on ten so you can make your show on their station fit in is a new type of skill.

Networking can often be accused of being lazy, this kind of effort doesn’t seem lazy to me.

 

The New Radio 1 Breakfast Show

The day has finally come. Chris Moyles has announced his departure from the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. After two hours of fierce twitter discussion, the white smoke finally rose out of Newsbeat (or Broadcast’s website ten minutes earlier) to reveal that Nick Grimshaw has been appointed Radio 1 Breakfast Show Number 15.

I think he’s an excellent choice.

He’s been on the network for a decent amount of time (6 and a half years) and whilst he’s got a late evening show now, he’s been a regular dep on daytime and helmed more mainstream shows like Switch and events coverage too. He’s also someone who’s familar with 15-24s as a T4 host. He’s young, cool, funny and good on the radio – a great position to take over breakfast.

There were some discussions about whether Greg James would get this. I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t. He’s made excellent progress and has only just settled into drivetime, they would be mad to make another change this soon. He’s also someone that’s clearly on the BBC promotion train – with TV roles on BBC Three and music events coverage – all gradually making him a more recognisable chap. A couple more years of all of that, will bring him to the place Grimmy’s at now.

For Nick though, this isn’t going to be an easy time. Moyles was a big ratings success on the Breakfast show. With 7million tuning in each week. Much has been made of Moyles’ appeal to older audiences and whether he’s too old for Radio 1. Really, looking at the numbers he does pretty well with key demos. 58.9% of his audience are 15 to 34, just a smidge higher than the station average at 58.1%.

Looking at it more closely, i’ve taken the reach Moyles gets and compared it to the reach the station gets across all of the demos. What’s a bit more obvious is that his appeal is broad, particularly as a perecentage of the station, with his strongest demo 25s to 54s. Only after those demos comes the core 15 to 24. Now it’s not exactly measuring like for like but if you grouped 35 to 54s together, he’s got more listeners there than in the 15 to 24s or the 25 to 34 groups.

However, all successful stations do suffer from a similar problem – if you’re popular in whatever demo – you’re always going to attract lots of people who you’re not particularly targeting. 2million 15 to 24s still tune into the show each week, representing over 60% of Radio 1′s total 15 to 24 cume.

Radio 1 have clearly spent some time trying to reduce the average age of the audience – the earlier in the year daytime rejig and the alteration of the specialist schedule are all designed to discourage the older end from tuning in. All of this though is a double edge sword for Grimmy. If he does his job and makes the show and the station younger his audience will drop from that headline 7million figure. There’s 1.5million 35 to 44s and 1.3million 45 plusses tuning in at the moment – if half of those disappeared – the show could drop to 5.5m. Of course, he may bring in more 15 to 34s – there are 2.3m who listen to Radio 1 and who don’t listen to the breakfast show at the moment.

In the commercial world though, a change of this scale would be hard to do. Stations make their money based on the amount of hours they can deliver – on demo ones are great – but broader audiences are often good enough too. The monetary pressures are sometimes too great to even make the best strategic decision. By the time that Capital let Tarrant go, they had ended up with two stations in one – the older listeners who only listened at Breakfast – and the on-target ones who listened the rest of the day. The belated swapping with Johnny Vaughan meant short term they made money, but when the swapped, JV dropped significantly, taking three to four years to get back to a market leadership position. They lost the double whammy of the Tarrant premium and the more regular money generated from total hours. When they finally ripped the plaster off, it hurt!

It never got this bad with Chris Moyles. I think one of the excellent things about his show, is that whilst his team may have got older – he rarely did. He continued to reflect a younger lifestyle (single, gamer, mainstream pop fan) whilst still appealing to a wider audience that have grown with him. Plus, when he’s on fire, there’s no better presenter in the UK.

Now, whilst the BBC don’t have the same commercial pressures, they sometimes  have even worse ones – the Daily Mail!

So, when the first figures come out for Grimmy, don’t be distracted by the big number – the smaller ones are much more interesting. All you need to ask is whether he’s helping the station lose older listeners and whether more 15 to 24s are tuning in – not that he’s got less than Moyles’ 7 million.

Guardian Rebuttal

This is a boring post. I’m sorry.

John Plunkett at The Guardian’s written an article that’s calling out for some rebuttal. Having been forced to sit through the MoU meetings I at least want something on record that reflects what actually happened. I also find it slightly odd that a newspaper that loses a million pounds a week, and sells less copies than Absolute Radio 90s, a digital-only radio station, has listeners – wants to lecture our industry about misplanning ‘the future’.

Anyway, basically the vast majority of commercial radio, the BBC and the Government are working together to ensure that digital coverage matches FM coverage. Everyone has different views, business strategies and objectives – but we’re all sitting down to work through them. The meetings were not particularly fun and they took too long, but the net result is that we’re all on the same page – for the benefit of radio listeners. Which I think’s a good thing.

So… some rebuttal.

A £21m BBC, government and commercial radio plan to pave the way for the switch-off of FM radio immediately ran into criticism from the industry today, with one insider describing the scheme as a “total waste of time and energy”.

One person’s disagreed.

A “memorandum of understanding” announced by communications minister Ed Vaizey on Monday said that ministers had reached an “agreement in principle” with the BBC and commercial operators to extend the reach of local digital radio, starting with five new rural services.

Oxford and Northampton’s not particularly rural, but we’ll let that one go.

However, those close to the talks pointed out that the memo is not legally binding and the extra investment is ultimately dependent on ministers committing to turn off popular FM radio services.

The point of an MoU is that it takes people with diverging views and brings them all together. Across the three elements there’s bits where we (BBC, commercial radio and the Government) need to do things that ordinarily we might not do on our own. Therefore by tying us together in stages it’ll mean that it builds the trust to get everything to happen. As happens in pretty much every MoU there’s ever been.

Proposals to switch off analogue radio to force listeners to buy to digital receivers have failed to take off amid controversy over the axing FM – and the reluctance on the part of ministers to insist on the change as a result.

Despite more than a decade of investment and industry promotion, digital radio, including DAB, online and digital TV, currently accounts for 29.2% of all radio listening – although that is up 11% year on year.

First of all – analogue radio isn’t being ‘turned off’. There will continue to be small commercial and community radio stations on FM.

Secondly – ‘we’ (whoever that is) aren’t, haven’t and won’t be forcing people to buy digital radios. As we haven’t been doing that, it can’t have failed.

Thirdly – the despite promotion it’s all a failure thing. Sigh. Half the country listen to digital radio every week. A third of ALL RADIO LISTENING is digital – as an example that’s more than all of the listening to Radio 2 and Radio 4 combined – ie it’s not particularly small.

Fourthly – the bit at the end that say, “oh, though it is up 11%  year on year”. FFS.

William Rogers, the chief executive of local radio group UKRD and a long-time digital radio sceptic, said the memorandum was a “total waste of time and energy” which was “tantamount to kicking the can down the road”.

So the long-time sceptic says a digital radio-related thing is rubbish. Er, and that’s a surprise?

He added: “We have been waiting for this for months and months and all we get is a meaningless piece of paper devoid of any serious commitment to the necessary funding required or any sensible strategy to deliver certainty to this whole local digital shambles.”

Except for the £21m commitment, with money from the BBC, Government and Commercial Radio to bring digital radio coverage to 90% and then on to FM equivalence?

Vaizey said that government was committed to making a decision on digital radio switchover in 2013, expected towards the end of the year.

No. 2013 is when the decision about switchover will happen. The decision and not that the actual switchover is going to happen in 2013. Nothing’s happening towards the end of this year.

In the interim, the first part of the £21m plan will see five new local DAB multiplexes launch in Gloucestershire, Hereford and Worcester, Northamptonshire, north-east Wales and west Cheshire, and Oxfordshire in the next 18 months.

Not really, but i’m getting bored of correcting the errors. But yes, they’ll be five multiplexes on air quite soon.

Industry insiders said the commercial sector was reluctant to commit millions of pounds to extending their digital services until the government was fully committed to switchover. Under-pressure local stations are unwilling to be caught permanently with the costs of broadcasting on analogue and digital without any end in sight.

Sort of wrong again and it’ll be more obvious when the MoU’s published. However, as is stated there are three phases –  each needing investment from all sides. This includes everyone putting in more money before there’s a government announced switchover – as well as after – so this isn’t really true.

They said the agreement between the various parties involved, including Global Radio, Bauer Radio and TalkSport parent UTV Media, was only possible because it was not legally binding. “It’s a case of not wanting to throw good money after bad,” said one source.

Except that Phase 2 makes the MoU legally binding. And it’s actually something that everyone has been very enthusiastic about happening.

The industry tensions – and public scepticsm about the benefits of digital – meant that it proved impossible to get a binding agreement to invest in digital, meaning that Vaizey was only able to announce a non-binding memorandum of understanding.

Yeah, public sceptisism – what with 50% of the public listening to digital each week and all. And the fact everyone’s on-board with wanting to sign a binding agreement.

In particular, the BBC was understood to be reluctant to commit to funding commitments beyond the start of the next licence fee settlement in 2017.

If they’re so reluctant, why have the signed the agreement which commits them to funding requirements beyond the next licence fee settlement?

Nevertheless, Vaizey said it was a “positive and significant step forward for the future of digital radio in the UK”.

The minister added: “As more and more listeners make the switch to digital, it’s vital that we keep on increasing the areas able to receive a digital signal. Government, the BBC and the commercial operators are working together to ensure this happens.”

Media regulator Ofcom will also set up a Joint Planning for Radio Group to oversee the technical aspects of local DAB rollout and come up with a “technical switchover plan”.

Further investment will be subject to a “positive in principle” decision on switchover by the government and a further legally binding agreement on funding being in place.

Yes.

A switchover date can only be set in place by the government when 50% of all radio listening is digital and when national DAB coverage is comparable to FM and local DAB reaches 90% of the population and all major roads.

Which, sigh, is the point of the MoU.