I think it’s impossible to review a new show from the first edition. This morning’s Chris Moyles show was basically a ‘special’. However, there were a few things that I noticed about structure.
The bedrock of commercial music radio is structure. There are a number of things that you have to broadcast in an hour and the flow can be made or broken on how those elements are put together.
Commercial radio is always handicapped by the fact it has to make money. We have to insert interruptions into the programming to pay for it. The trick is to balance how much there is. Not only can you vary how many spot ads there are, you can decide how many sponsored features there are – things like weather, travel, whether there’s paid-for contesting and even if you’re pushing premium rate competitions.
As businesses are generally designed to make money, it can be very tempting to take as much money as you can in the good days. The problem, like a good game of buckaroo, is that if you load too much on, the whole thing collapses and no one wants to listen.
This is connected to the reason that there isn’t much speech on commercial radio, which, generally, is 2-fold:
1. It’s a point of difference to the (relatively) large amount of speech in BBC music radio
2. If we’ve already got 10mins of interruptions an hour from the ads, let’s not add more interruptions in the form of speech
Moyles therefore potentially is a problem as ads+heavy speech on a music station would traditionally generate tune out. Or more accurately, the people who like heavy-speech music radio already listen to the BBC, so heavy speech+ads means we’re on a hiding to nothing from the people who quite like the other type of music radio.
The difference, I think, is about the definition of interruptions. Moyles’ background and heritage means that the audience already knows that he likes to talk. The attraction for Radio X of Moyles is that they’ll be attracting people who understand how he works and what he does.
If you look at fans of the previous XFM Facebook page about how they feel about him, compared to his new show page, you can see the difference in understanding. The old listeners care very much about the amount of music, the new ones, not so much.
Interruptions to a Moyles audience is not about interruptions to the music, it’s interruptions to entertainment. A Moyles listener sees him as a bigger part of the music and speech that make up a show.
Back to structure
Ads aren’t the only interruption to the core being of a show – news, travel, weather, unnecessary sponsored features – these can be interruptions too. Another word for interruptions is clutter. Clutter are the things that get in the way.
What’s great to see with Moyles is how much the clutter’s been minimised.
First no traffic news. Traffic would usually be twice an hour and is likely to run:
Traffic jingle, sponsor credit, traffic bulletin, sponsor credit, traffic network ad. Loads of clutter for a normal breakfast show and here it just doesn’t exist.
Secondly, News. Usually something that’s delivered twice an hour, with Moyles it’s just once an hour. It’s also all delivered by a single voice and one that’s a core part of the team.
There didn’t even seem to be an IRN Newslink ad either. Edit: The ‘solus’ Newslink ad, as Sophie Law points out, is actually wrapped into the break with the old “News is next” trick. However, with that and Dom doing it tightly packed and only once an hour it seemed a very clutter-free break.
Ad breaks. In the 7am and 8am hour there were three – 2mins, 1m30sec and 2mins. 5mins30secs an hour is incredibly light. Bauer breakfast shows will be crying on reading how long his run. Sponsor credits run into the breaks – just three times an hour before other commercial messaging.
The only other bit of clutter was a sponsored competition to win tickets to Muse. This was a text when you hear with some premium rate terms (voiced by Toby Anstis) and it was resolved straight after the break. It didn’t overtake the show by being opened and closed quickly.
All that was left was the entertainment – the speech content and the music. There were 4 songs in the 7am hour and 8am hour, 1 in the first half hour and six in the 9am hour. I imagine this is a little lighter than a normal show, but then they did have an exceptional guest in Noel Gallagher.
The entertainment works as it’s high quality, but also because it’s supported by having discarded so much clutter and the show’s fortunate by having shorting ad breaks.
Clearly Moyles is in a privileged position when discussing his show format with his bosses, but to me it really highlights the importance of flow and minimising clutter. If you’re doing breakfast, now really is a perfect time to review clutter and ask if all your show elements are entirely necessary and whether they’re delivered in the most efficient way.
The only structural negatives I felt were:
1. Long comedy production bits. There were a couple of longer than 30sec joke bits of production. I felt if these aren’t REALLY good there’s the danger that these drift into the clutter zone.
2. Talking about ad breaks. Moyles’ listeners are used to there not being ad breaks, when he talks about them, I know they’re coming and therefore feel the content-free discussion is just extending the inevitable. Chris is really lucky his ad breaks are so short, he shouldn’t being adding anything to them by going on about ads.
Overall though, minor quibbles. I’m really happy that Moyles is on commercial radio, I think the show’s going to make a real impact and be a big success. I’m also fascinated to see where the audience comes from.
However, as the show gets popular I imagine it’s inevitable that the demands for greater ad loads will increase as will the desire for more promotions. It’ll be interesting to see how Global balance keeping the existing inventory at a premium versus extending the amount of commercial minutage and whether they can keep doing the excellent job of keeping the clutter at bay.