Taking DJs Off The Air

In the UK, last week, two DJs were informed that they would be taken off-air before they had planned to be.

Ken Bruce, who is off to Greatest Hits Radio, had planned to leave Radio 2 when his contract officially finished, at the end of March, and then appear on his new station after the weekend on April 3rd.

Steve Allen, who had been on LBC pretty much for 44 years, tweeted that his contract was up ‘shortly’ but that ‘following discussions’ he’s stepping down immediately. Announced, in similar words, on Friday at 2.15pm by LBC, it meant that he wouldn’t be having a last show.

For Ken, 15 minutes before the LBC announcement, Radio 2 announced that Vernon Kay was to replace him, starting in May and that Gary Davies will cover the show in the meantime. They also said that Ken ‘has decided’ his last show is this coming Friday, March 3rd.

His tweet suggests that the decision wasn’t really his:

Choreographing the departure of a very public face is hard on everyone – the talent, the station and the listeners. It doesn’t help that everyone’s motivations aren’t particularly aligned. Often talent doesn’t want to go and is angry, sometimes if stations are surprised by a departure they’re desperate to keep people on board whilst they race to make a decision.

The big issue for stations is the DLT factor (taken from David Lloyd’s Radio Moments Clips) where he resigned on-air and gave the station a kick-in:

The quote: Changes are being made here that go against my principles and I just cannot agree with them.

DLT’s view, later: Am I sorry I left? No. Am I sorry I did it on air? No, not at all. I would do exactly the same thing over again.

Radio stations try to project an image so having one of your DJs slag you off isn’t exactly enhancing. It also generates press coverage which covers the old – your exiting presenter or the historic nature of the station, rather than the one you want – the future, the positive. It drags you back, when you’re desperate to drive it forward.

A ‘DLT’ I don’t think is that good for the DJ. You’ve spent your life saying how much you love the radio station that you’re on (truthful or not) and suddenly you’ve done a 180 and now hate it. It’s hard not to sound like a disgruntled employee.

The fear of the DLT means that for many years, the default position for radio stations was that as soon as you find out you’re off, or you tell the station that you’re off, then you’re sadly shown the door.

I once remember sitting down with Johnny Vaughan talking about his exit from Capital. His take was that he knew it would come sometime and he was fascinated by the idea of it, and was almost excited for the moment of truth. Like he had done many times before, he was dispatched by Richard Park with a handshake and a smile.

Chris Moyles talked about the end of his time at Radio 1 on I’m A Celeb, where he was called in after the show by Controller Ben Cooper and told that it was going to be announced the show was ending in 20 minutes time on Newsbeat.

As the clip shows he managed to persuade Ben that he was the one to make the announcement and he’d do it the next day. Moyles tells the story that they were worried the news would leak, as he says “well, up to 60 seconds ago, I didn’t know about it”.

In the end this was allowed and Chris did a great goodbye the next morning, allowing him to tweak the truth slightly and reposition it as his choice. A white lie? Yes, but one that’s actually pretty generous of Chris as it gives the station ‘permission’ to then replace him, rather than anger the listeners. Obviously it also looks good for Chris too.

Radio 2’s situation with Ken is a little more unusual as it’s the talent saying they’re off, rather than the station giving the marching orders. It’s hard to know the time between Radio 2 finding out and the leaving announcement being made. The fact there was nearly a month before they announced a successor suggests they probably didn’t have that much time.

Radio 2 had faced a similar issue with Chris Evans’ departure. Announced in September, he stayed on air until Christmas, starting at Virgin Radio soon after. Chris didn’t talk a lot on-air about his new home, but listeners would be in no doubt he was off and still be available to listen to.

Radio stations normally have around 50% of their listeners tuning in to the breakfast show. The station you start your day with, is most likely the one you stay tuned to for the rest of the day. So, losing breakfast listeners is potentially detrimental to your whole station.

With the Chris Evans move, Virgin Radio didn’t make too much about Chris’ arrival during those last three months, but that’s not the same play that Greatest Hits Radio have made.

For many, Ken Bruce is the breakfast show on Radio 2 (with older listeners getting up later), it’s also the biggest show on the station. Ever since his announcement on-air, on-line and on social media (where a picture of Ken is even their accounts’ current avatar), GHR has gone hard on in spreading the word.

If Ken finished at Radio 2 on Friday and then started on GHR on Monday, it makes it very easy for listeners to switch across. With Radio 2 inserting an additional three weeks, it does give the chance for some listeners to calm a little, whilst quality broadcaster and safe pair of hands, Gary Davies takes over. His ongoing stint until May will mean the station stops them feeling startled by Vernon Kay, who for many might feel quite different to what went before. If they’d launched Vernon on the same day, the double shock of losing your favourite and finding a new person that’s of a different style (and era) would probably hasten a transfer. This way it gives them the best chance of making a transition. It also gives them a clear shot for Radio 2 to launch their new show.

Being wary of your talent and their destination isn’t something limited to the UK. In Australia, the biggest show was Kyle and Jackie O on 2DayFM and the Hit Network. They announced they were leaving in November 2013 after a contractual impasse, with one commentator discussing the talks, saying they “don’t think they have any other place to go”. Brilliantly wrong, 2Day threw a big party for them on their last day, but before the cake was finished a press release went out the same day announcing they were relaunching Mix as KIIS and becoming the new breakfast hosts. They started two months later and you can read about what happened behind the scenes here.

In the states, the biggest broadcast radio jock – Howard Stern – left linear radio for SiriusXM and talked a lot about it in his final weeks. So much so his old employer, CBS, sued him for “misappropriating millions of dollars” of radio airtime by promoting his move to Sirius satellite radio while he was still working for the network. They later settled.

So what’s the best way of dealing with someone leaving? It all depends on trust. The problem is that at the point of departure there’s usually a trust deficit! For both sides, there’s probably more that can be put into contracts about the end – both for stations and individuals – to stop the surprises and allow more dignified closures whilst everyone is in a good mood.

In the absence of that, it’s trying to understand each others motivations and point of view. Like the end of a long-running relationship, can everyone work to stay on good terms?


There’s a new episode of The Media Podcast available. I chat to Paul Robinson and Jamie East about Disney & China, scruffy newsreaders and journalistic doorstepping. Listen here.

Have you got a podcast superstar working for you? Do nominate them in PodPod’s free Faces to Watch initiative.

If you’re going to The Future of Audio event on Wednesday – I’ll see you there!

Been forwarded this? Sign up and get it for free to your inbox. Enjoyed reading it? Why not share with like-minded colleagues.

Subscribe now

Last week both Steve Allen and Ken Bruce got new news about their departures

Spotify on Podcasts and their New Radio AI DJ

Spotify’s recent Q4 update has resulted in lots of predictions about the future of podcasting, and Spotify’s position in it, partly after CEO Daniel Ek said “I got carried away”. The usually excellent Semafor ran a piece suggesting Spotify’s podcast bet has gone wrong.

James Cridland articulated a different view in Podnews – “If coming from nowhere and being #1 in most countries in less than four years is “going wrong” [where does that leave everyone else]?

I think it’s fair to say there’s been bumps in their podcasting journey, but it would be very difficult to argue that they haven’t made a massive splash and built a business of significant scale, providing the first real competition to Apple’s dominance of the podcast space.

Its intervention in the market has been down to three things. But before we get to that, it’s important to see where they came from. Before their acquisition spree, they had introduced podcasts into their app and had commissioned some of their own shows and made some talent acquisitions (like The Receipts).

The big change, though, was doing three things. The first was building scale in their owned and rep’d shows. Buying Parcast, Gimlet and The Ringer alongside exclusive deals with Joe Rogan, the Obamas and Meghan and Harry, gave them significant downloads and reach. This, combined with their other content initiatives meant they had the scale to drive their second big decision – growing their advertising operation. This is something they grew even further by acquiring Megaphone – which provides ad services to podcasters.

Having Megaphone alongside their other big acquisition – of podcast publishing platform Anchor – meant the ability to build a platform that could provide a great environment for creators.

The latter’s important – instead of continuing to spend loads of money buying content and content companies, you can instead have a selection of services that means creators come to you, and build on your platform.

It’s not a new play. YouTube’s hosting, monetisation and marketing of creators’ video content has built a huge business for Alphabet – one no one has come close to replicating. There’s definitely value in being the place for podcast creators – but I still think Spotify has quite a way to unite their tools, to lose their obsession with Spotify-specific features (polls etc) and to make the subscription journey as smooth as Apple’s.

In summary they now have scale in downloads, a stronger monetisation platform and (potentially) the right creator tools to attract more people to their platform. They also have the number 1 or number 2 podcast app in most territories.

The staff changes, axing of shows, bad integration work of studio acquisitions is, of course, not ideal – but the end result of all that is they are in a very strong place going forward.

Spotify’s AI DJ

But it’s not just podcasts that Spotify have been busy working on. They’re making (another) attempt at ‘taking on radio’. Radio, especially in the US, generates revenues that dwarf podcasting. Daniel Ek has always been focused on breaking broadcast’s stranglehold. Usually unsuccessfully. Whether its content plays like Music + Talk or devices like the Car Thing, Spotify have a history of delivering clunkers. As I’ve talked about before, this is because big tech fails to understand why radio works (and they never seem to hire any people who know!).

Will their latest attempt beat their last lot of cock-ups?

It is, on the surface, a neat idea. Spotify knows what music you like, so they’ve combined this with a ‘DJ’ – an AI voice that talks to you, provides context for what it’s about to play and is generally jolly (well according to the video above).

Ignoring the ‘powered by AI’ strap-line, which is a little band-wagon jumping, I think they still misunderstand what a DJ does. Listeners aren’t crying out for functional interruptions, especially from someone that isn’t real. The DJs that listeners don’t like are the inauthentic ones or those that ‘talk too much’, listener code for ‘I don’t like what they say’. Having an AI make guesses about what I want to hear now, based on what I previously listened to, is perhaps likely to be less successful than they think. All you have to do is look at people taking the mick out of their Spotify Unwrapped, and the reasons it’s wrong – kids, parties, ex-relationship woes – to show your play-log is not how you define your listening today.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating and we’ll see what it’s like IRL! BUT I bet they still don’t have next song markers and intros coded up, so it’ll end up being presenter link followed by a 00.00 start of the song, killing much of the flow. Now sorting that out with AI would be a step forward.


You can catch-up on last week’s Media Podcast where Ann Charles and Steven D. Wright joined to talk about the BBC Chairman, TV taxes and nepo-babies. Plus I spoke to Great British Bake Off boss and creator of The Piano, he unexpectedly did a mea-culpa over the last series of Bake Off, which ended up making the news with pieces in Deadline, Metro and more. You can listen here.

Had this sent to you? Subscribe and get stuff like it, for free, in your inbox:

Subscribe now

Spotify continue to go for your ears

RAJAR Q4/2022

In the UK, and in many markets, radio has developed from predominantly local stations into nationally executed brands and products. We’ve also seen lots of consolidation, so four operators – the BBC, Global, Bauer and News – dominate the majority of listening.

These groups have done a mixture of combining stations into national brands, launching spin-offs and launching new radio brands too.

For the commercial outfits, getting a larger share of commercial impacts is the focus, as that generates more £££. For the BBC, they’re dealing with far more competition than they have ever had before, losing their monopoly of broadcast spectrum, and being limited by what they can do on linear and non-linear by competitors and available budgets. However they are all still trying to demonstrate broad reach – so they can be seen to be delivering for all licence fee payers.

All of this taken together, I think, means the operators need to think more strategically about the stations they run and where these ‘products’ are in their life cycle. The old days of working to be number 1 makes less sense when you are running a portfolio of products.

Whilst true believers in local radio may be aghast, Global and Bauer are more akin to being a Unilever than a 1980s ILR operator. If you’re a radio anorak, maybe turn away now.

I say all of this because when I was looking at this quarter’s RAJAR figures, some product life cycle things struck me. If you are unaware, the historic product lifecycle talks about Introduction, Growth, Maturity, Saturation and Decline. Boston Consulting Group built on this creating a matrix that looked at growth stage and profits, splitting products into Stars, Cash Cows, Question Marks and Dogs. There’s a great primer on all of this here.

For radio there are lots of historic brands – your Capitals, Radio 2s etc – and then there’s been a lot of digital spin-offs – Absolute 80s, Capital Dance, talkSPORT 2 etc. In addition there’s been new brand launches – Times Radio, Scala, Boom Radio. These stations all do different jobs for the owners. Spin-offs require very little investment other than transmission. They piggy-back a brand, occupy a niche and plug into existing advertising network revenue. Agencies are buying Heart – all of it, rather than Heart and Heart 90s separately. Therefore it’s (relatively) easy money.

New brands require investment, but potentially take an owner into a new territory – it requires a lot more investment and the returns can be more of a gamble. But if it works and resonates strongly with listeners, you’re creating something with real ongoing value.

Legacy stations are difficult, they were Stars and can be long-term cash cows, but it requires owners to think about where they invest their money.

This is a very long introduction to this quarter’s RAJAR update, but keep all of this in mind when thinking about individual station ratings. I would also say that I’m able to write this post so quickly because I use Hallett Arendt’s Octagon software to analyse the data.


If we look at Absolute Radio it’s seen a, main station, decline quarter on quarter to 2,124 (from 2,487) but this is more a realignment back to its more recent figures. Its spin-offs see a variety of results. 70s falls to 294k (vs q-on-q 312k and y-o-y 420k). Is it competition from Heart 70s? Not really, it’s a recent launch but perhaps peaked last quarter at 630k, it’s now at 591k.

Over in the 80s battle, it’s been relatively flat for Absolute 80s over the last year – around 1.5m – and Heart 80s has seen a drop to 1,265k (vs q-on-q 1,407k and 1,325k y-o-y). Perhaps interest in 70s/80s has now peaked?

Absolute 00s and 10s are starting to see some growth, with 00s nearly doubling y-o-y to 305k and 10s up to 143k.

Dance and Pop

Heart Dance sees a drop from last quarter’s 1m reach back to a more regular 741k (Q2 was 752k). Capital Dance has seen good growth to nearly a million – 916k (up from 819k q-on-q and 593k y-on-y)

Kiss meanwhile sees a decline to 2,348k (vs 2,702k q-on-q and 2,772 y-on-y). Kiss Fresh is trying hard to hold its ground now at 241k (vs 254k q-on-q and 306 y-on-y). Kisstory’s in a similar position with a 2,264k reach (vs 2,299k q-on-q and 2,300k y-on-y). Kiss is still a very big station – the 17th biggest by reach (and Kisstory the 16th) – even maintaining its audience should be regarded as a big success, but with new entrants it’s going to be hard to grow – and defending it is likely to become even harder.

Similarly Capital was up q-on-q to 5,913k (from 5,730k) though down year on year from 6,348.

Radio 1 is down again – back into the 7s of Q1 and Q2 – now at 7,795k (vs 8,144k q-on-q and 8,166k y-on-y). A lot of big schedule changes in 2022, including Scott moving in the last quarter from Radio 1 to Radio 2.

It’s still early days for Scott’s move to replace Steve Wright. Looking at the R2 numbers for Steve’s slot (2pm to 5pm) there’s a month of deps (Steve left at the end of Sept) and then two months of Scott in Q4 data (though doing two hours rather than three). There’s been no particular cratering to the slot, he’s very marginally down to 7,118k (vs 7,286 q-on-q and 7,443 y-on-y). But probably holding up better than the station as a whole, where R2’s reach figure is now 14,286k (vs 14,461 and year-on-year 14,865). Looking at Scott’s 2-hour time-slot, the results are similar.

Also, again it’s early, but Scott’s appearance on Radio 2 between 2pm and 4pm hasn’t really affected Radio 1 – where you would expect some side-switching to follow him. R1’s reach for that slot is now 2,659k vs last quarter’s 2,686k. The real test will come from looking at a year’s worth of quarters – but no instant crumbling so far.


Similar to Kiss, Magic has a stable quarter, hitting 2,849 vs q-on-q’s 2,847 – but it is significantly down on where it was last year – 3,253k. Magic Chilled has seen good growth to 448k (its previous four quarters were 263k, 323k, 376k and 409k). Magic Soul lacks nationwide distribution, but while it is down on the quarter to 418k (vs 455k), it’s up on the year significantly from 286k. Mellow Magic has seen growth to a high water mark for the last couple of years – 555k

Greatest Hits Radio has been marching on over the past few years, gobbling up FM stations, and adding talent like Simon Mayo. Its recent announcements include the snaffling of Ken Bruce and some re-brands of Scottish stations. I think we may see some more of that in England before Ken starts at the beginning of April. Its figures have been steadily growing with reach now at 3,978k (vs 3,721k q-on-q and 3,026k y-on-y). In London it’s now at 936k (vs 873k q-on-q and 818k y-on-y). Looking at audience share in London, it’s now at 2.1% vs Smooth Radio’s 2.2%.

One interesting GHR aside, is that the brand-licensing deal with Nation for their large South Coast FM regional expired just before this quarter. This meant the station rebranding from GHR to Nation Radio on the 19th September. It’s Q4/2022 figures include half from Q3 and half from Q4, but it has seen a drop to 136k from 245k last time around. I would imagine it will drop further in Q1/2023. What’s not helpful for Nation is that GHR continues on the digital platforms.

We’ll definitely see more growth for GHR when we get the Q2 and Q3 figures later in the year. It will be interesting to see the effect on Heart, Magic and Smooth.

Speaking of Heart its had a good quarter, one of its best for around five years – with an 8.6m reach. Its broader network, including the spin-offs has generated its best ever performance with 10.8m reach and a whopping 73m hours.


The Ken Bruce shift is definitely going to generate some churn from Radio 2. As we’ve seen with the previous departures of Chris Evans and Simon Mayo, R2’s figures aren’t really that affected. When you have 14.5m listeners, losing 500k after all, is in the margin of error for a quarter. It is clearly good news for GHR as Ken will keep his slot, just further up the dial – but for older listeners who may be looking at the Radio 2 daytime schedule and thinking there’s not a lot for me – many may well be on the hunt for a new home – or at least auditioning one.

This churn is great news for GHR and Smooth – and perhaps suggest why Smooth’s music position has changed from ‘relaxing’ to ‘always the best music’.

It’s also good news at the top end for Boom Radio; the start-up for those slowing down. They had another great book up to 530k reach (vs 443k q-on-q and 241 y-on-y). They’re also up there with Radio 4, Radio 2 and LBC for average hours – 11! This gives them a great total hours of 3.9m – making them bigger than Heart 80s, Hits Radio, Capital Xtra, Talk Radio and Times Radio.

Boom is targeted at 55+, though its core 5-year demo is 70 to 75 – where it has a 131k reach. Radio 2 on the other hand has 1.4m of them tuning in. These are great targets for Boom, who have very few other radio options – it will be interesting to keep track of both stations’ reach within this audience over the coming quarters post-Ken!


LBC remains dominant in commercial speech with a reach of 2.5m (vs 2,453k q-on-q and 2,611k y-on-y). But it’s also interesting to look at the younger upstarts.

GB News had a good book last quarter (414k), but this has dropped back to 306k. Over at Talk Radio they’ve dropped back to 608k from 637k Q3 and 685k in Q2. These are the quarters when it’s been simulcasting with Talk TV.

TalkTV is mainly Talk Radio during the day and then it’s the shiny TV shows with Piers Morgan et al after 7pm. Whilst the telly figures haven’t set the world alight, the radio figures are even more disappointing. 7pm to 11pm on Talk Radio is now reaching 86.1k (down from Q3’s 117k and Q2’s 123k). A year ago it’s radio-only output was giving them 107k during that time-slot.

Radio 4 meanwhile pops back over the 10million mark, and a football-infused Five Live goes to 5,564 (up from 4,873k q-on-q and down from 5,887 y-o-y).

Asian Stations

Often unreported is the competition between Asian radio stations, particularly in London. So well done to Panjab Radio whose London numbers are up to 110k reach (vs 92k q-on-q and 58.7k y-o-y). Its total hours has also seen a big jump – to nearly 1.2m (which is nearly as many as Sunrise Radio and the two Lyca stations in London, combined). Whilst that may be a short-term big bump, the reach growth across the different platforms certainly means there’s some audience movement in that market. The historic big player in that market continues to be Sunrise Radio, with a London reach of 164k


I’ll leave it up to you to decide which stations you think are Stars, Cash Cows and Dogs – but I think we’re definitely over the more scatter-gun approach to spin-offs. I think groups perhaps need to be a bit freer with evolving/killing under-performers off, to give room for other low-cost stations to appear and try their luck.

I think we can also see what a challenge launching a new brand is. Times Radio and Talk Radio have lots of investment and are doing a good job content-wise for their respective audiences, but lack the audience success of Boom who are delivering significantly more hours on a fraction of the budget, but to an under-served group. I think Boom is likely to hit profitability faster than Times or Talk.


There should be a new Media Podcast out imminently, where I talk about RAJARs with Adam Bowie, plus all the other media headlines with Scott Bryan and the Press Gazette’s Charlotte Tobitt.

There’s a few quotes from me in the Telegraph’s piece about Spotify’s podcast talent changes.

I mentioned last week that I’m speaking at Adwanted’s The Future of Audio Europe event on March 1st. They’ve kindly given me a code to knock off 10% a ticket. It’s SPEAKERVIP.

Been forwarded this, or seen it on the socials? I write about audio – radio, podcasts and streaming. You can get articles like this free to your inbox:

Subscribe now

Who are the Stars, Dogs and Cash Cows?

Generated by Feedzy