Next Radio Review

In our spare time James and I created a radio ideas conference called Next Radio. There’s been two of them. The last one was last month. It was designed to fix all of the things we didn’t like about other radio conferences. It’s evolved into something that:

  1. Has its own personality
  2. Is relentless (this year there were 24 sessions in one day)
  3. Is quirky (we’ve had the first two at the Magic Circle)
  4. Is reasonable (it costs £99 to go)
  5. Not exactly an entrepreneur’s dream (of the £99 about £90 goes on our hard costs)
  6. Helps people who like radio and want it do well, learn about new ideas and thinking.

We work really hard to make it as inexpensive as possible. We want people to come who love radio and want to make it better. About a third of people who come pay for themselves with the balance mainly being paid by employers.

Some may see conferences as an unnecessary business expense, which I think, again, is disappointing. I’m just writing this after a Learning Lunch the BBC held for its radio staff. It’s a voluntary session where A&M staff can come along and hear a review of recent conferences there colleagues have spoken at. In the case it was Multi-Media Meets Radio in Turin, Next Radio and a European Digital Conference. It meant that the learning the few got, was shared with, maybe 40, other people. We know something else similar happens at Tindle and other radio groups too.

The BBC session was a great one, Sam Bailey and Brett Spencer recapped the things that really struck them as well as the things they thought it was important for BBC staff to know about. We helped them out with some slides from our brilliant presenters and are always happy to help other people do similar things too.

In the spirit of this sharing the knowledge, James and I have just put live, for free, all the videos from this year’s Next Radio. We urge you to watch them (they’re great!) and also share them with your colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and email too.

Hopefully you’ll be as inspired as we were and come along to the next Next Radio too. If you can’t wait till then, you’ve got a day left to register at the current prices for the excellent Radio Festival, as I think the prices increase tomorrow.

RAJAR Q3/2012

Another RAJAR and some more figures to look at. Regular readers of the blog will know that what I’m particularly interested in is examples of a change of user behaviour. Little ups and downs for stations are one thing – but really what’s interesting is whether bigger changes are afoot.

I’m also interested in correcting mis-informed perceptions about radio. We can only evolve, change and develop if we understand where we are and where we’ve been.

And… I like to see where we are on digital developments. Everyone, of course, has some sort of vested interest, but i’m always disappointed that the people who shout the loudest about radio are newspaper journalists (little experience and their own digital problems) and people who own analogue radio stations. Which, I don’t think is necessarily the best position to start at.

So, some things that stick out for me….

Internet vs DAB

A pair of ears is a pair of ears. I don’t really mind HOW people listen to my station, just that they do! However, all platforms have a cost to stations and a cost to listeners. Some platforms are more equal than others.

There tends to be a perception that internet listening is bigger and growing faster than DAB. This is incorrect.

The chart below shows ‘reach’ of each of the platforms. DAB has just under three times the listeners that internet radio has. The difference between the two is growing exponentially as well. In Q3/2007 the difference was 5.1m people, in Q3/2010 7.9m people and this quarter 9.4m people.

Including all the digital platforms (DAB, DTV and Net) – some form of digital radio is now used by 51.2% of the population and it accounts for 31.3% (nearly a third) of the whole country’s radio listening.

This is down marginally this quarter because internet radio and digital television lost significant reach and hours (whilst DAB added both).

6Music vs XFM

XFM invented UK indie radio in 1997. Whilst 6Music is an excellent radio station in its own right, it owes a huge amount to XFM’s heritage. And to its choice of presenters! Shaun Keavney, Lauren Laverne, Steve Lamaq, Guy Garvey… are all ex-XFM.

XFM meanwhile has had to deal with a number of corporate owners, the vagries of the advertising market and a lack of marketing firepower. All of which has a knock-on effect to the variety, popularity and quality of shows. 6Music also gets to spend £7.8m a year on content. Which is handy.

However, the nature of 6Music means that it’s very attractive to old XFM listeners. Have a look at this chart of XFM and 6Music’s share in London….

I’m not really sure how XFM can make much of a comeback against 6.

6 is already a digital-only station (albeit with an audience that’s more likely to be digital than not) so it will also naturally grow further as take-up increases. XFM is suffering from the double whammy of 6’s growth and its own product having been under-invested in across pretty much every metric – content, marketing, online, mobile.

6Music vs Radio 3

Okay, so 6Music and Radio 3 aren’t exactly competitors (though they do share 150,000 listeners) but in the pantheon of BBC services it’s interesting to compare them.

Here’s the hours listened from both stations:

6 has had two quarters in a row where it’s bigger than Radio 3. From a reach perspective it’s not too far behind either…

Changing Behaviour

The rise of 6 is the results of a two things – platform availability in their core demo and a radio station with the right content that’s had a key awareness drive.

Its growth has pretty much destroyed one radio station and its bulk now means that others will have to develop new stories to justify their cost and reach.

It’s also a harbinger for other radio stations that the new world is changing the old one right now. Standing still (or even worse harking back to the past) with programming, a lack of marketing or new product/platform development will result in steady decline whilst new entrants take your market.

What are you doing to stop your station becoming the next XFM?