Simplicity and Confusion

It’s been a busy week. I got back from holiday last weekend, had Next Radio on Monday, started test transmissions for our local multiplex in Lincolnshire and have been trying to catch-up on all the day-to-day stuff I’ve missed. Of course I’m not alone in being busy, we all have busy lives trying to combine work, family and fun.

One of the great things about radio, and one of the reasons I think we’ve done so well for so long, is that it’s brilliantly simple. You turn it on, it plays the last thing you were listening to. Marvellous. If you like a few stations you might use presets, scrolling by name on your digital radio, or remembering those frequency numbers. It’s a bit more complicated, but most people cope. Or at least teach themselves how to get to something that they need.

Changing a channel? But that’s not difficult, is it? No, it’s not difficult, but it’s another level of complexity in people’s busy lives. People, on average, listen to about three stations. That’s it. Radio contrary to our own belief, isn’t that important in people’s lives.

They consume what’s familiar without really thinking. It’s part of the reason that people get SO ANNOYED when we change something. Or someone leaves.

It’s fascinating to look through the tweets and Facebook comments to Chris Moyles and Radio X. There are a multitude of themes, questions and opinions. Lots are positive, some are negative. What I think it reminds me is the value in clarity and providing simple, easy to access information.

Away from X, I was talking to a colleague this week asking how his radio station re-brand went. He sighed and relayed bumping into a successful businessman who loved the old station, but hadn’t listened to the new one. The new name wasn’t familiar, and even though the programming was pretty much the same and it was broadcasting on the same frequency, he’d now gone elsewhere.

If you build it they may not come.

What helps, of course, is throwing lots of money at it. Many of Global’s re-brands have gone well because they’ve been well supported by above-the-line marketing that very clearly tells people what’s happening.

With Radio X we haven’t had that yet – it starts any day now, and in its place we’ve had below-the-line stuff of web and social, the messages on the existing XFM, press reaction and B2B messages.

In the absence of public information, it’s interesting to see how the B2B communications are so readily jumped on.

Radio X talked about being a male-focused station in its release. As an industry-insider I see nothing wrong with this. Radio is a demographically targeted product, it helps sell advertising. It makes it simpler for brands who do want demographically targeted outlets. It obviously doesn’t mean women can’t listen or aren’t wanted by the station, but having a particular skew is a good thing for the business.

However, that, alongside Popbitch talking about internal chats about whether positioning should be all Yorkie Bar Men Only, the hiring of an entire male daytime line-up and the (what I think is an incorrect assumption) of Moyles being a sexist pig, then it’s easy to see why the commeteriat have gone all Sexist FM on it.

Most of the articles and tweets about this are actually based on their being little information about what the station will really be. There are more women on the station than it seems (though of course room for more), the presenters aren’t sexist pigs, they are going to be welcoming to everyone and it’s not going to be some 90s retro throwback.

The trick is how, as a new brand or product, you can communicate what you are. I think it’s key that you do what you can to stop people jumping to conclusions. A vacuum of information, in a social media world, is a danger – as assumptions end up becoming truth. The more information you provide, the more you’ll find that consumers will correct each other. It’s also harder for someone to argue one thing when all the other information points in another direction.

Would 10 videos online, with a 50/50 gender split talking about the radio station have helped X’s coverage? What about someone laughing at the concept of banter? What about a video of the playlist meeting showing it’s not going to be Oasis FM. Positioning is much bigger than branding.

The other big question people have been asking is “How Do I Listen?”. Radio X is on the old XFM FM frequencies, has changed from having around 50% UK digital radio coverage to around 90%, is on Satellite and Cable, but not Freeview and is available through the old XFM apps, until they were updated to the new Radio X apps this week.

How do I listen again? On the Radio X twitter: “Radio X will be available all across the UK on the digital radio platform D1, as well as on 104.9FM in London and 97.7FM in Manchester from 21 September.” What the hell is the ‘digital radio platform D1’? D1 is a B2B brand that never needs mentioning. Is ‘digital radio’ DAB? Is it internet only?

I think we’re often so close to it, we don’t think and simplify enough. Now, the trouble for Radio X and for many of us is that our radio products are on a million different platforms – some are ones people can get, some they can’t. Oh to return to just being able to read out one frequency!

Tweets, and their character limits, don’t really help! You publish an iOS link and people are grumpy there isn’t an Android app. Can I get digital radio where I live? Again, I think more information is better than less. Is there a single page, with a good URL that explains it all? When someone asks ‘How Do I Listen?’ can it always be replied to with the same link?

Make these big questions ones that ANYONE can answer. If someone tweets their mates with ‘How do I listen?’, make it easy enough that their mate can find that one link so they can tweet it back.

I’m picking on Radio X as it’s new, but for your radio station, today, can someone easily find out how to listen? Is it obvious?

On the Radio 1 homepage, other than a listen live button, there isn’t any obvious link that tells you how to tune in. Looking at the last five videos on Radio 1’s YouTube channel none of them mention how to tune in to Radio 1 or give any information – in video, annotations or description – when the shows from Matt Edmondson, Grimmy, the Live Lounge or Scott Mills are on or how to listen to them on the radio. In the 1 day those videos have been up, they’ve lost 110,000 opportunities to tell people about listening to Radio 1 on the radio.

And when they do understand how to listen to something new, that they’re interested in, real change happens. Look at these tweets!

I think Radio X is going to be a big success, it’s position at the moment, is the ultimate in simplicity – it’s the radio station with Chris Moyles at Breakfast. If you want that, Radio X is the only place to find it. Most stations don’t have such a strong place to start.

So much of radio’s success has come from the platform’s simplicity. We’ve historically had a single device that everyone has access to. But radio’s becoming a multi-platform beast, 60% of UK listeners listen to radio on a device that isn’t a regular AM/FM set. Competition is stronger than it’s ever been before.

If someone shows a bit of interest in what your station is doing, are you making it simple for them to understand you, sample you and keep listening?