Video on the Radio? Let It Go?

Every year I get a load of emails from students asking for interviews for their dissertations.  It’s usually quite a good barometer about what younger media types think are the core radio issues. This year all of the requests were about radio and visualisation.

Much of the kick of from this concerned Radio 1 – who’ve done a big push into the space with their own material as well as co-opting talent from YouTube to become more mainstream broadcasters on the network.

With a strong push from the BBC, it’s meant commercial stations, particularly Capital and Kiss, have had to catch-up and provide a high quality video-offering.

However all of radio (and we definitely see this at our own Fun Kids) is still somewhat finding its way with what it should produce.

Generally my take on most things is that it needs objectives. You need to know why you’re doing something – what’s its job – and then you can measure whether you’re managing to achieve that.

I think stations are particularly troubled by the new grammar that’s developing, particularly around YouTube. This is both in style – jump cuts, post-video shouts etc – as well as YouTube -specific terminology – subscribes, thumbs up, shares etc. There’s creating good video but there’s also creating good video that works on the particular platforms.

Personally I see YouTube Video as driving awareness to encourage an owned-media action. I want someone to learn about my radio station, be encouraged to sample it, visit my website, find out more about my presenters.

I’m happy for them to consume more videos and even subscribe to my channel, but mainly as a way that could later generate an action that happens on my media.

Another objective many people have is to make money on YouTube’s own platform. A noble aim, but to be honest, if you’re not generating 500k views a video you’re not really going to be making anything worth the effort.

The people who play YouTube well are the YouTubers. They’re the people who’ve developed an act that caters for the YouTube audience and is delivered in a way that generates more subscriptions and more views.

They have learned to do on video what we have learned to do on the radio.

What’s that? Identify a target audience and create content for them. It’s about being consistent, believable, relatable and high quality. It’s also about using the tools within the platform to best position yourself and better support the chance of being successful.

Radio 1 (quite rightly) leads the pack with 1.2m subscribers to its channel. They often generate multiple videos per day but with view counts ranging from a few thousand for a movie review, to 50k for an innuendo bingo, through to 200k for a live lounge on to 500k+ for an executed bit of content like a Greg James parody video.

It’s similar for Capital and their 35k subscribers. A couple of thousand views for their entertainment news in The Crunch, 5-10k for an interview and then 100k+ counts for videos about artists with a strong 13-19 year old following. The success of those aren’t driven by subscription or by being from Capital but through popular acts that YouTube SEO lets your surface easily to fans.

On the other hand, if you look at a native YouTuber like Zoella – an English girl in her early 20s – she has 4.5m subscribers and each of her videos consistently gets 1.5m views, with occasional peaks to 2.5m for collaborations.

This continual success is about consistency and a focused product and being of the platform rather than just putting some ‘content’ on it.

I point at Capital and Radio 1 – but at least they’re learning by developing different types of stuff and putting it out there. I could pick lots of stations – particularly large local and regional stations with woeful video – in volume and quality.

I think for radio to conquer video it needs to know what its trying to do with it and how to balance what they do with the platform their putting it on.

Radio should also look to see what it has that’s unique and how it can best use that.

I think one of my favourite bits of recent video content is Matt Edmondson’s video with Arthur Darvill off of Doctor Who doing a song parody of the Let It Go song from Frozen.

I think it’s something that plays to radio’s strengths by combing two things – Access and Talent.

Access, is the fact that Arthur is in their building. The might of broadcast Radio 1 makes that happen. Talent is the talent to write the parody song, to give Arthur something that’s special that makes the video not just watchable but something that generates delight when watched.

That is not something that’s easy to do. It’s not something that can easily be replicated. It is however something that suits the skills we and our medium have.

I think there’s also an attempt to be more ‘of YouTube’ at the end with traditional YouTuber calls to action of sampling other videos or subscribing, though perhaps there could be a call to teach people when the show’s on the radio etc, especially as it contains a Doctor Who actor it’s likely to get some viral growth in that community.

From a serving subscribers point of view this content (460k views) sits between a 1xtra Fire in the Booth (6k views) and Dan & Phil’s Internet News (10k views). It would be interesting to know if the channel would grow its subscribers further if it just had content like Matt’s rather than being a part of a varied catalogue of all the (albeit great) video content that Radio 1 produces?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter if you don’t think ‘subscribers’ matter. The vast majority of YouTube users don’t really understand the subscribe button and just browse videos – if your objective is to drive brand awareness you’re much better off just optimising the content you make for SEO (resulting in the peaks and troughs you can see with Capital).

Like I say, I think it all comes down to objectives. Why are you doing what you’re doing. And can you measure whether its working or not.