Interview Special: Stig Abell of Times Radio

Happy Sunday. A bit of an experiment today as I’ve been thinking about maybe publishing some longer form interviews with audio folk in the newsletter on the weekend. Is that something, dear reader, you would like me to do? Do reply to this and say so, along with any suggestion of who you would like to hear from.

This first one is with Stig Abell, who’s Executive Editor at Wireless, was the launch Director for Times Radio and now also presents its breakfast show. I caught up with him for the Media Podcast to talk about his first RAJAR figures, and Times Radio in general.

The interview’s a transcript of our chat, just tidied up to make it clearer to read. If you want it in audio form, the aforementioned the Media Podcast is where to go.

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RAJAR’s Return

The latest RAJAR data is out, and there’s a lot in there. An 18 month wait, massive consumer change because of the pandemic alongside gradual consumer changes happening anyway, new stations, network re-brands, new talent. Plus all the normal ups and downs. Phew. I can’t cover it all in here, so you get the best of what I’ve noticed in a few hours.

The other important thing to notice is that RAJAR has changed how it measures audience figures. As I talked about earlier in the week there’s a broader methodology. For this reason, like for like comparisons of data are not really fair. However it’s hard to talk about the data without mentioning changes. It’s therefore up to you, dear reader, to keep that in mind as I talk about old and new data below.

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Getting to know your listeners and the audio market

For something new to be successful, a number of things have to align. Of course there has to be a great idea, but you need to know where it fits in a market as well as have an understanding of your consumer.

The latter two aren’t as fun as coming up with the product or idea, but the research and knowledge helps you make better decisions.

For the radio sector, and for its audio competitors, there’s two releases of information that will definitely help shape current and future projects.

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Alternative funding for great audio

The business of audio in the UK has always had public and private elements. Radio of the 90s and 00s combined the licence-fee funded BBC (with guaranteed spend for independent production companies) alongside commercially-funded stations.

The public element existed because governments (and citizens), felt that there was value in creating media that wasn’t just the “commercially viable” stuff. A similar thing happens in other countries, in a variety of different ways. European countries tend to have publicly funded content through taxation or a licence fee. In America, PBS and NPR have some government funding, but much is from pledge drives with listeners and individuals/foundations who write big cheques.

Today, radio’s dominance of ear-time has receded as new audio opportunities, like streaming and podcasts have grown. So it’s interesting to think about whether public funding, providing public value, should still exist, and if so, how it should evolve.

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Creating Radio With Purpose

Greetings from Lisbon. I’ve had a lovely few days at Radiodays Europe. The pandemic had somewhat got in the way of the event’s usual planning, but they put on a great event with four simultaneous streams of sessions over two days. They also streamed the streams to people who wanted to attend, but not in person.

Unsurprisingly, Coronavirus was mentioned a few times. Yes, there were mentions of how it caused teams to work in different ways, but I think it had a more fundamental effect on how many practitioners thought about their audio medium.

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How Are Apple Podcast Subscriptions Going?

Apple released a new type of chart last week, showing the relative success of its new Apple Podcast Channels product. This is the thing where you can group together shows, or offer a single show, and then make it something that people can pay real money to subscribe to.

Here’s the pay-for list (with some context on each offer courtesy of Podnews)…

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