Funding Radio

I like radio. You may have noticed.

I like it because a small number of people can put effort into something that a lot of people can then hear.

Clearly the content has to be good, it needs to be relevant to a group of people and they then all need to know about it, but still… it’s something that’s very achievable.

I also like ‘digital’. You may have noticed.

Digital has democratised most things that it’s touched. A great deal of old media’s success came from big barriers to entry. You couldn’t be on television unless they agreed. Or newspapers. Or radio.

With digital, distribution becomes much easier. Yes, you’re now competing with the world, but digital’s also democratised marketing. Twitter, blogs, email has allowed a new generation of media (both amateur and professional) to flourish.

Fun Kids, our digital radio station, can only exist because a digital platform, for us mainly DAB (but also the internet) allows us to reach a large number of people. Also, handily, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to acquire digital space than it would an FM licence. To be honest, if I had and FM licence I wouldn’t put a kids format on it, I’d probably so something more mainstream.

Digital has also meant that content creation is quicker, cheaper and faster and allows us to make audio, video and web content as well as market it, all at a fraction of the traditional cost. In other words we need less money to be able to create something brilliant that about 300k kids consume. Plus we get to pay people (some) money too.


Similar to digital radio, podcasting has grown steadily over the past ten years. It’s definitely democratised the production, for want of a better word, radio shows.

A good idea, some skill, some marketing and some luck means that there’s been a flood of new entrants. Many of which have created new types of radio format (see Serial).

The funding of these is as variable as the content. Podcasting is generally free at the point of use. So people have to be more creative. There’s been tip jars, pay-for specials, attempts at subscription as well as advertising and sponsorship.

In the US quite a few podcasts have been crowdfunded using Kickstarter. In the UK, er, not so much.

I think fundamentally we’re less used to paying for audio content than they are in the States. The concept of pledging is also deeply lodged in the up-market psyche of NPR listeners who hear the regular pledge drives. Here, we pay for the BBC and then forget about it, and then they make excellent speech radio programmes. We’re not used to paying for quality radio, we just get it for free. Therefore when a podcast, even one we really like, pops up, as we get it for free I think we’re more reluctant to put our hands in our pockets.

This is why its so pleasing to see one of our own home-grown podcasters – Helen Zaltzman – be part of a successful crowdfunding drive.

Radiotopia is a podcast network that has great, unique podcasts. It’s a bit of a collective of podcasters and they’ve just raised $250k to support the shows for another year. Their Kickstarter is still going and if they hit a stretch goal of $400k it will allow them to fund some new shows, including one from Helen.

Helen writes about the process here.

I think if you’re a fan of radio it’s worth supporting. Even if you’re not, at the moment, a consumer of those shows.

I think radio is far more than just what’s on Capital or Radio 4. It’s about being a medium that has an amazing relationship with listeners. And there should always be more of it. Whether that’s commercial FM, community radio, DAB stations, podcasts or something else. The more radio there is and the more it’s enjoyed the better it is for all of us.

I also think it’s important that there are lots of different ways for people to get paid to do it.  After all, people who aren’t hungry make better radio programmes!

YouTube, Moyles and Radio

Peter Robinson picked up on Chris Moyles’ YouTube channel last week, giving it a not entirely positive review. However, it was definitely more positive than the ripped off versions that the Mail and Mirror then followed up with.

The crux of the feedback is “Oh the mighty have fallen, he used to have 8million listeners and now he’s only got 10,000 subscribers”. I think fundamentally they have all missed the point and we should be celebrating what Moyles is doing rather than slagging it off.

Views & Subscribers

A lot of people’s understanding of YouTube is watching viral content, slip ups, cute animals or rips of performances/TV show segments. These, because they are viral hits, tend to have large numbers of views. What you’re watching is the hits.  But that is very much just one side of YouTube.

To me, the interesting part of YouTube is the material that’s being created specifically for the platform. Rather than just using it to host some videos that you want to point to.

YouTube’s core aim is to make people consume more minutes of video content on the site. It wants people to keep returning to consume regular material rather than just the latest 1D video or see that lion jump into the arms of that man.

To get there, it’s funded quite a lot of channels from a variety of sources, to see what ends up being popular. That’s ranged from Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube to ITN’s Truth Loader and All3Media’s Daily Mix. At the same time, more naturally, kids with cameras have put themselves and their lives on the internet and become ‘YouTubers’.

Both types of content work for YouTube, the branded content working for slightly older audiences whilst YouTubers are providing a reach of 13 to 19 year old bigger than any traditional media platform.

YouTube’s focus on ‘subscribing’ to these channels encourages the content to more easily flow to fans and thus drives up the minutes consumed. You may have seen YouTube’s outdoor advertising currently pushing Zoella, Slow Mo Guys and Vice News. All native YouTube content.


The YouTubers phenomenon, in particular, is fascinating. Fresh faced attractive youngsters in their teens/early 20s create light, fun videos that have massive resonance with teenagers. The number of subscribers people like Zoella, Alfie and Marcus have are in the millions with videos getting 1m plus views.

What was telling at Radio 1’s Teen Awards last weekend was that the YouTubers on show – Dan/Phil, Zoella, Alfie, Tyler – were getting much bigger cheers than many of the popstars and pretty much all of the Radio 1 presenters.

To be honest, this isn’t really surprising. Teens have pretty much no traditional media targeting at them any more. Kiss/Capital/R1 is broader and needs people in their 20s to listen, CBBC doesn’t appeal to 13+, there’s no T4 any more and E4/BBC Three/MTV again need to be broader propositions. For a mobile generation with laptops in their bedrooms, YouTubers are people like them. Funnier, more attractive people, granted. But they’re much more representative of a desirable teenage life than anything traditional media gives them.

Radio 1 has dipped its toe in the water with Dan and Phil on Sunday and now its weekly one-hour YouTuber show, which is more than anyone else has bothered with. However I think we’ll start to see that ghettoising them in a 1 hour show is like early 90s Radio 1 just playing a few hours of dance a week, at a time when it was a huge part of young people’s lives.

Mass Media and YouTube

Anyway, as the people who write the Moyles knocking articles use YouTube for viral hits rather than subscribing to content themselves, they misunderstand what it takes to make native YouTube content really work.

Indeed, you can tell the media organisations that are driven by one-offs vs regular subscribers by looking at the stats.

If we take Key 103 in Manchester, they have around 3,000 subscribers, which is alright for something that clearly not a huge amount of effort is put into. Their YouTube homepage is, er, a little bare. If we nip into the video section, view counts range from 30 to 30,000. It, like many radio stations, give an incredibly confusing ‘subscriber-led’ experience. It veers from news, to breakfast show bits, to Esther Rantzen, to auditions for their girl band and from The Vamps to vandalised graves!

YouTube subscriptions and the ability to grow views for channels comes from consistency. Pretty much every radio station fails at delivering it and it’s no surprise that view and subscriber counts for the majority of radio stations are low.

One of their successes is an interview with The Vamps with over 10,000 views. I’d wager that pretty much all of that came from Vamps fans unconnected with the radio station.

YouTube should not be a dumping ground for station video of massively variable quality, with uploaders hoping that something will be a viral hit. For Key (and stations like it) just do the celebrity stuff and brilliant things like their Surprisal video – just be consistent. AND LESS VANDALISED GRAVES!

At the other end of the spectrum, Radio 1 are very proud of their 1.6m subscribers. They almost suffer a problem at the other end of the spectrum. The content they make is great and there’s lots of it. Amazing live lounge performances, viral stunts, interviews, features like Fire in the Booth and Innuendo Bingo. But I think they suffer from a consistency problem too.

They’ve worked hard to make sure that 1.6m people see their new videos in users’ feeds, but there seems to be very few views generated from this massive advantage. Of course not everyone’s going to like everything, but 6-7k views for film reviews or even 40k for a decent guest on Innuendo Bingo seems a low engagement rate when you think about the number of subscribers.

Live Lounges look and sound great with amazing stars, but like Key 103’s Vamps video how many of Taylor Swift’s 150k views for a performance of Love Story and 1.5m for her Vance Joy cover come from R1 fans rather Taylor’s own searching out that video on whoever’s channel it happens to be.

Now don’t get me wrong, viral reach is great. For radio it’s got the potential to be a great reach builder for a station, but it has very little to do with that ‘subscriber’ number – or what that subscriber number has the potential to deliver. Also – if you know a video has good viral potential because it’s with a celeb with a strong fan base – PLEASE remember to use it to plug your radio station. When’s the Live Lounge on? What station is it on? Who’s up next?

On this Taylor Swift video the branding in the performance is all Live Lounge – there’s no BBC or Radio 1 mentions. No one in the video says it’s part of Fearne’s show or how to tune in. There’s top and tail R1 branding, but with no radio call to action – the only CTA is to subscribe. BUT WHY? Surely one of the central purposes of growing subscribers has to be so that more teens then listen to the radio station?

To me, if I was trying to prove that my videos were working I would be looking at the view counts of non-viral videos. What is the content that people are coming to me for? How can I make them return regularly. It should be the same thing you think about with your radio content.

I’d also see success as the percentage of subscribers who go on to watch a video.


I wish I could point to my radio station, Fun Kids, as having the answer. We definitely don’t. We need to be better at growing our subscribers and recently we’re trying to be better at focusing content on music-based entertainment (that is after all what we do on the radio). We’re also experimenting with additional channels that do different types of content – so we can maintain a core experience but still have the room to try new things. However, sometimes we still forget to plug the radio station properly.

Presenters’ Own Media

I’m always stunned how little of their own media radio presenters have. DJs build a relationship with their audiences on-air. If I wanted people to listen to me on that radio station more,  I’d be doing all I could to continue that relationship on other media, so I could cross-promote back. Twitter is a good start of that, but it isn’t the be all and end all. Where are their YouTube channels, their blogs, their newsletters? If they owned more of a relationship with their audience they would become more employable and get a better deal come contract renewal time.

I’m particularly surprised why no DJs really do YouTube. Especially the younger end. If I was on Kiss, Capital, Radio 1 or The Hits I’d be spending significant time on weekly videos growing my relationship with a core part of the audience.

[update: A commenter points out the success of Westwood with WestwoodTV on YouTube]

YouTuber Zoella has 6million subscribers and each of her videos get around 1.5-2m views. They are also mainly watching for her. She doesn’t have, or need, a viral video collaboration with The Vamps or Taylor Swift to drag their audience in. She is consistent, entertaining and audience-focused. She delivers what they like and expect and she does it once a week so as not to overload their feeds.

Back to Moyles

This is why I’m a fan of what Moyles is doing.

He does not need to do YouTube videos. If he wanted to be back on the radio he could be there right away. If he wanted to wait a while for something perfect to come up he could easily do that, quietly. If he wanted to be in the public eye, he’d be on Strictly!

I hope what he’s trying to do is to turn some of his large, passive broadcast audience into fans.

Our relationships with listeners is a funnel. So for Moyles he had 8million listeners. They consumed him through a passive device – the radio. Super low effort. Lower down the funnel are his Twitter followers – 3m of them. A little more effort – pressing follow – and not all of his audience will be on Twitter, so of course it’s smaller. Of those Twitter followers, how many see his tweets in a week? Maybe 300k or 400k? You would need to be a regular Twitter to see them pop up occasionally. How many of the follower accounts are bots or dormant? Probably quite a few.

Then you take the ones who see it and count how many then click through to something. 20% perhaps? How many then do the next action – donate, read something, watch a video? How many links do you flick through in Twitter each day and ignore? Even from people you really like?

However, each person who does click through and watch? Well that’s engagement.

I care much more about people at the bottom of the funnel than I do at the top. They’re the valuable ones.

In radio it’s your biggest fans who give you the bulk of your hours. As a station your job should be to create fans, to take them through radio’s funnel – awareness, sample, light listener, regular listener, fan.

Moyles’ YouTube

Moyles is getting 15 to 20k views per video from a percentage of his 10k subscribers and tweets/Facebook etc. I think this is great. His job is to entice people to watch videos for the first time and then get them to subscribe. Those subscribers should then be the base for a larger number of views of future videos.

He’s also encouraging subscription for an audience – 25+ – who aren’t native subscribers like the teens are. They’re the viral consumers rather than today’s subscribing ones.

It is not an easy task to do. But can you name any other radio presenters who have bothered to try?

The other thing I like is that he’s clearly making and editing it himself. One of the reason Moyles was so good on the radio was that he was a brilliant producer. He understood the theory, he was a brilliant technical practitioner and he was funny and  creative – a perfect combination. I think he’ll have a much better chance of success with his videos as he better understands what works and how to put it together.

So far, he’s nine videos in, he’s experimenting with form and content and that’s going to keep evolving. The hardest part is keeping up the enthusiasm to keep going.

14,000 people watched last week’s Innuendo Bingo on the R1 Channel, something supported by a broadcast radio station and 1.6m subscribers. 15,600 watched this week’s Moyles vlog on a channel with 10k subscribers and just some Twitter for promotion. I think he’s doing alright.






RAJAR Q3/2014

Where most radio programmers go wrong is that they forget they have different types of listeners who listen to their station in different ways.

If you want to increase your RAJAR figures, I’m sorry, but one size does not fit all.

If you don’t have any light listeners it probably means they don’t know about  you, so you’ll probably need some reach-building mechanics and some external marketing wouldn’t go a miss. You also probably need to be explaining what you do better and (light) listeners need to know when to sample. Fixed benchmarks, travel every 20 minutes, 30 minutes non-stop – whatever – anything you can do to give them reasons to stop by. Light listeners are unlikely to be attracted by changing elements in a programme – they’re not even there in the first place!

But these tactics won’t support growing hours for existing listeners. For that you’ll need to give opportunities to listen in other day-parts, have an hours-building promotion and perhaps change how often your currents come around.

For many stations they’ll need to do both those sets of things. At the same time. Your listeners are subsets of different groups and they need to be looked after in different ways.

The other mistake is the assumption that they’re ‘your’ listeners. They’re not. You share them with other people. You are in a war for their attention.

As stations’ figures fluctuate ever more, it’s easy to refer to RAJAR blips, I’d also argue whilst of course that happens, you’re also programming in the most competitive radio market ever. Your figures may be going down because what you’re doing on the air just isn’t as good as what else is on the dial.

But if you combine fluctuation, competition and detail about different groups of listeners you get Heart London.

Heart London

Top line for Heart London is pretty grim. Reach down to 1.4m (Q2 was 1.8m, Q3/13 1.7m). Hours down to 7.9m (Q2 was 11.5m and Q3/13 8.7m).

But when you dig in it’s harder to lay the blame entirely at Heart’s door. The chart below takes all of Heart London’s Reach and then looks at ALL of their hours – both their listening to Heart and to other stations.

It shows that listening to Heart accounts for a quarter of its listeners’ listening (down from 30% in the previous quarter). But the real thing is that Heart listeners have consumed a fifth less radio in total. Now, Heart’s borne the brunt of that (seeing a 31.1% drop) but their listening to Magic, Kiss and R1 is pretty down too.

What’s changed? Listening to Capital’s grown a bit and Radio 2 and LBC are pretty solid.

Q3 includes July, August and September – a key holiday period with loads of changes in behaviour – not going to work, no school run etc. Now this will affect many stations, but perhaps Heart’s market has become an audience  who’s radio habits really do shift around in Q3.

Q2 2014

Q3 2014

Change – ‘000s

Change – %

Heart Listeners’ All Radio





Heart London





Magic 105.4 (London)





Capital London





Kiss 100 FM





BBC Radio 2





BBC Radio 4





LBC 97.3





BBC Radio 1





Smooth Radio London





BBC Radio 5 live





Classic FM










BBC London 94.9





BBC 6 Music





Gold London





Sunrise Radio





Absolute Radio London





Premier Christian Radio










1Xtra from the BBC





Absolute 80s





Planet Rock UK





Jazz FM





Capital XTRA (London)





XFM London





BBC World Service










LBC News 1152










BBC Asian Network UK





BBC Radio 4 Extra





Kiss Fresh (Was Smash Hits)





BBC Radio 5 live sports extra





Absolute Radio Classic Rock





The Hits





BBC Radio 3





Absolute Radio 90s





Absolute Radio 70s





Radio 1035 AM





Absolute Radio 00s





Radio 1458 AM





Absolute Radio 60s





Other Radio







Commercial audience share in London is always a hot button. Everyone’s very keen to fight over being Number 1. This quarter it’s: 1. Capital, 2. Magic, 3. Kiss, 4. Heart, 5. Absolute, 6. Smooth.

But when looking at the full list of stations below (below) you can also see the power of the national and specialist stations. Indeed, Sunrise and Premier Christian Radio are doing better than Capital Xtra and digital stations like Jazz FM and Kisstory have the same market share as XFM.

Share %
BBC Radio 4


BBC Radio 2


Capital London


LBC 97.3


Magic 105.4 (London)


BBC Radio 1


Kiss 100 FM


Classic FM


Heart London


BBC Radio 5 Live


BBC 6 Music




Absolute Radio


Smooth Radio


BBC Radio 3


Sunrise Radio


Gold London


Absolute Radio London


BBC London 94.9


Premier Christian Radio


BBC Radio 4 Extra


BBC World Service


LBC News 1152


Capital XTRA (London)


Jazz FM




XFM London


Absolute 80s


BBC Radio 5 live sports extra


Planet Rock UK


1Xtra from the BBC






Radio 1458 AM


Absolute Radio 60s


Absolute Radio 70s


Absolute Radio 90s


Absolute Radio Classic Rock


BBC Asian Network UK


Absolute Radio 00s


Kiss Fresh (Was Smash Hits)


Radio 1035 AM


The Hits


London is a market with lots of digital choice and a high degree of digital consumption – what’s happening here will eventually happen everywhere else.

If Jazz and Kisstory can get the same share as XFM, then what real value does its FM licence have?


There’s actually lots of good digital stories in this book.

  • Digital’s share of listening is at a record high of 38%
  • DAB now accounts for a quarter of all radio’s hours
  • Over half the country (51.2%) listen to some form of digital radio each week.
  • 6 Music’s had a reach increase to 1.99m
  • Absolute 80s is at a record reach of 1.4m

Absolute 80s also has record breakfast figures with 462k tuning into the 80s version of the OC. I think its first figures since ‘Project Banana’ allowed Christian’s Absolute Radio Breakfast show to be broadcast live, but with 80s music.


Heat Radio’s also had a very good book, it’s best ever. They’re  now larger than The Hits with 965k listeners. These figures have come from good growth over the past few quarters and it’s nice to see its average hours are up too.

I think there’s a number of reasons that Heat’s done so well. Firstly it’s a great brand – you can guess what you’re going to get before you tune in. Secondly – it sounds like the brand. It’s a rhythmic AC station with values that give it permission to play the odd guilty pleasure. It’s also got a great on-brand presenter in Ryan Seacrest (and his syndicated show).

Finally, it’s a fun, active station with speech and music content that reflects today. This afternoon James Barr had a Glee promotion, interviewed Nick Jonas and then played 30mins of S Club 7 songs. I bet not many AC/CHR analogue stations had an afternoon that was as engaging.

p.s. Sorry Adam for stealing your picture. So, why not read his RAJAR blog post!

Ofcom backs Capital Xtra’s Choices

Ofcom’s Broadcast Bulletins are always an interesting read. Well, for radio bods like me they are. They detail Ofcom’s decisions on major complaints and for people who want to understand the regulator a little better it gives quite a bit of background into their thinking.

Issue 264 has just come out and in amongst slapping Radio 1 down for Lily Allen’s swearing and resolving similar naughtiness on The Wright Stuff it also talks about the complaints Global Radio’s had over Choice’s rebranding to Capital Xtra.

Many original Choice listeners have been unhappy about the shift to Capital Xtra away from its Afro-Carribean roots and complained to Ofcom that it was deviating from its analogue formats:

A targeted music, news and information service primarily for listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the Brixton [or North London] area but with crossover appeal to other listeners who appreciate urban contemporary black music. The service includes 21 hours per week of complementary specialist music.

There were three issues that came up:

  1. Was the daytime music in format; and
  2. Was the specialist music in format; and
  3. Was it delivering a satisfactory news, community news and information service for listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the Brixton and North London areas

You can read Ofcom’s full response here (PDF), but here are the main bits:

With regard to the station’s music policy, as set out above, we acknowledged that a greater ‘dance’ component had been injected into the station’s music mix. However, taking an overall view of the music output across both monitoring periods, and also taking into account the increasing overlaps between urban and dance music, it was our view that Capital Xtra’s music output remained compliant with the requirements of the Format. Nevertheless, we have reminded the Licensee that the Formats continue to refer explicitly to, “urban contemporary black music”. We consider that such music, including genres such as rap, hip hop and R&B, must remain the station’s core music offer.

In terms of local and community news, we noted that a separate London news feed is provided for the two FM licences which is different from the news bulletins broadcast on the (national) Capital Xtra DAB service. Consequently, a range of local London stories were aired, including some that would have been of particular interest to the African and Afro-Caribbean community. We noted that the local news bulletins broadcast by Capital Xtra were also compliant with the Format requirement to provide local news bulletins at least hourly at peak-times (which Ofcom defines as being weekday breakfast and drivetime, and weekend late breakfast).

We recognised that, in sharing most of the output with the national Capital Xtra DAB service, some of the previous local ‘feel’ of Choice FM has inevitably been lost. However, it was ultimately our view that the station’s news and information provision was sufficient to remain compliant with the requirements of the two London FM Formats, and was consistent with Ofcom’s localness guidelines

The output of Capital Xtra has changed in some respects in comparison to that of the former Choice FM, and we acknowledged complainants’ concerns about these changes. However, on balance, we did not consider that the changes meant that the station had ceased to be targeted primarily at listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the areas of London stated (as the Formats require). We therefore concluded that Licence Condition 2(4) had not been breached.

Some would argue that this is another example of Global riding rough shod over people’s radio stations and that Ofcom is weak. I’m sorry but I don’t really agree with that narrative. There’s no question that these stations have changed over the time, they were licensed in 1990 and 2000 so no real surprises there.

And that’s the nub of it really. Should radio stations be preserved in aspic? When the first station was licensed in 1990, there was no internet, no multi-channel TV, no digital radio, no mobile phones. Should, 24 years later, we be judging it the same way?

Have the Afro-Carribean community been ‘let down’ by the regulator? I don’t think so. Have they been ‘let down’ by business? Potentially more likely.

However, there has never been more opportunities for stations to be on-air. Licensed community radio, DAB across London, DTV, the Internet – they’re all options. Big ones. In Q1 of this year Capital Xtra’s share was 0.8 and 1Xtra’s was 0.7%. The idea that an FM licence is the only way to cater for audiences is no longer true.

102.2FM in London was licensed as a Jazz station, Smooth is very much not one now. Radio 2 used to play Mantovani. It doesn’t so much any more. Asian talk now comes out of radio tuned to 1035AM, it used to be Country.

The world moves on. It is a shame if you like the old. But there’s never been a better, and easier time, to build the new.

More Free Form Radio

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Challenge Radio today. It’s the Radio Festival’s pop-up radio station. It ran from 8am to 8pm and had a whole host of radio presenters from BBC, commercial and student radio, hosting shows together.

It was a bit of fun. Something nice to do whilst the Radio Festival is on and everyone is together. It was on FM and DAB around Manchester/Salford and some of the shows were simulcast on BBC Radio 2 and Fun Kids too.

With my Fun Kids hat on, that’s why I was listening to a lot of it. Interestingly it was our first ever live show on Fun Kids – which er, somewhat added to the Fun…

Anyway, listening along to it made me think about radio a bit. Sometimes you need to hear something different to remind you of what you know, or perhaps don’t know.


Firstly, it was a fun listen. The people doing it didn’t need to do it. They all have much bigger and better shows. They did it because they wanted to and as there was no real pressure they were relaxed and had fun.

Other than Ofcom ones there were no real rules. But that didn’t stop the presenters being presenters. They generally didn’t ramble on and they did ‘radioy’ things – teased ahead, reset and explained where they were are etc.

It certainly helped there were no ads to play (as it does the BBC) as it gave the presenters the room not to worry about hitting speed links etc. There were some lovely naturally paced stories and anecdotes and still room for plenty of tunes.

We live in an imperfect world, competition and ease of switching means that formatting is a necessary evil. Total free rein would make it harder to gain audience and traction. R1/R2’s success comes from heritage, high value talent and no ads. Being Radio 2+ads (and slightly weaker talent) would sadly be suicide for any station. Sorry anoraks.

However, the trick is how you can create the flow in an hour that allows the format to hit but gives the presenters confidence to be relaxed and funny. It’s something that commercial radio particularly manages in Breakfast, it would be interesting to take the level of production – particularly around break and song placement in traditionally more music intensive hours.

In 10mins-of-ads-an-hour commercial radio it’s probably still  going to be difficult. However, if you’re on, or run, a station with a spot load of less than five mins – maybe a digital station – I think it’d be possible to win on music+personality (providing, of course, you have the right people and the right scheduling). Plus if you’re a more specialist station you’re closer to being replaced by Spotify – you might as well add something to your armoury. Perhaps that’s chat.

Anyway, back to Challenge Radio…


Quite a few of the shows had people thrown together – for fun! Some of these worked, others didn’t. The ones that didn’t weren’t because they hadn’t met – some of those were actually great – they didn’t work because the people doing them didn’t understand what they needed to do.

So much good chemistry comes from generosity. Enabling others to be fantastic. There’s also the improv trick of ‘Yes and‘ to move things forward. You don’t need to know your co-host, you just need to know the skill. Lots of stations, especially those who want to prep people for bigger shows should teach these skills – rather than “hoping they all get on”.

Visualisation enhances

The pictures are better on the radio blah blah blah. Yes, of course the benefit of radio is that it’s a multi-tasking medium and you don’t need to look at something. However, when there’s something you can look at, make it available. Challenge Radio had high value talent, guests, chat – this made it something I would occasionally lean forward to consume.

It didn’t need pop videos (especially crappy ones pulled off of YouTube), just having some camera swapping based on mic levels and a smaller window showing metadata when songs were on was great. Streamed on YouTube, which I’m comfortable using on multiple platforms, was perfect. I think Challenge Radio had a Broadcast Bionics solution. It seemed to work fine!

Why bother? My hunch is visualisation like this would be hours enhancing. I think I’m more likely to keep something on ‘in the background’ if I can occasionally foreground it.

Different can be exciting

Like Radio 2’s learned with 2DAY, what can you do to your existing station that rejuvenates the presenters and provides something that’s fun for listeners.

At Challenge Radio they broadcast from a sort-of Crystal Maze type studio. It was a talking point. It was engaging, you wanted to see what it looked like. What can be a surprise? What can be intriguing? What can be fun?

Anywho, well done to the people who worked on Challenge Radio, particularly Chris North who had to wrangle all the presenters to be on it and then find all the people to support it and broadcast it. It was fun to listen to and made me think. So hurrah for that.

The Business of Internet Radio

Occasionally I stumble over people who are vociferously in favour of Internet Radio as the future, to the detriment of all other radio platforms. I think this is somewhat platformist. From my point of view, a pair of ears is a pair of ears. I don’t mind whether they’re listening on DAB, FM, Internet or a piece of string.

Radio is multi-platform and that’s brilliant. Each platform has its pros and cons and it’s our job (as radio folk) to use the advantages of each of the platforms to help us grow our businesses and serve listeners better.

Internet Radio hasn’t seen as sustained growth in the UK as it has in other places around the world. I think this is probably a combination of the music rights situation, plus the strength of the brands (BBC and Commercial) on DAB and Digital TV – they often scratch people’s choice itch. In many markets if you don’t like what’s on analogue radio you have to use the internet, here that’s not the case.

However listening on the Internet provides many positives and with everyone toting an internet-connected mobile phone it means we can bring our stations closer to listeners when they’re on the move. At home, apps like Radioplayer for the iPad give great discovery tools where, wi-fi connected, listeners can discover and sample our new radio stations.

Up to now what Internet Radio in the UK has failed to deliver is a killer commercial product. The versatility of a two way connection, and the ability to geo and demo target has been around for a while, but there’s been little way to take advantage of it. Selling geo/demo-targeted inventory is actually harder than one-size-fits-all and whilst target demos might be very much more profitable, you’ve still got the other ones to fill too.

For me, the big shift is the introduction of Global Radio’s DAX platform, built on much of the great AdsWizz technology. This allows ‘publishers’ be that radio stations or music streaming services to pool their internet radio inventory and let Global’s (and AdsWizz around the world’s) sales teams to do the selling and for stations to concentrate on content.

The idea is that they combine this large inventory pool with access to ad teams around the world to get good rates for spots. Providing they can fill the inventory this provides a brilliant new opportunity for radio stations – suddenly more internet listening equals more money. Having this formula will encourage stations to innovate in the Internet Radio space and do fun new things with streaming.

These opportunities are part of a wider discussion of Internet Radio, something the guys from US website RAIN have been having for decades. As well as making a great news website, they’ve also been creating conferences talking about it – and now they’re coming to London.

They’ve created an event in London – RAIN Summit Europe – that has a great line-up of speakers and to me, is a perfect primer if you want to understand the opportunities for Internet Radio in the UK.

It’s £199 , with £25 off if you use the code FMRSE when registering.