Video on the Radio? Let It Go?

Every year I get a load of emails from students asking for interviews for their dissertations.  It’s usually quite a good barometer about what younger media types think are the core radio issues. This year all of the requests were about radio and visualisation.

Much of the kick of from this concerned Radio 1 – who’ve done a big push into the space with their own material as well as co-opting talent from YouTube to become more mainstream broadcasters on the network.

With a strong push from the BBC, it’s meant commercial stations, particularly Capital and Kiss, have had to catch-up and provide a high quality video-offering.

However all of radio (and we definitely see this at our own Fun Kids) is still somewhat finding its way with what it should produce.

Generally my take on most things is that it needs objectives. You need to know why you’re doing something – what’s its job – and then you can measure whether you’re managing to achieve that.

I think stations are particularly troubled by the new grammar that’s developing, particularly around YouTube. This is both in style – jump cuts, post-video shouts etc – as well as YouTube -specific terminology – subscribes, thumbs up, shares etc. There’s creating good video but there’s also creating good video that works on the particular platforms.

Personally I see YouTube Video as driving awareness to encourage an owned-media action. I want someone to learn about my radio station, be encouraged to sample it, visit my website, find out more about my presenters.

I’m happy for them to consume more videos and even subscribe to my channel, but mainly as a way that could later generate an action that happens on my media.

Another objective many people have is to make money on YouTube’s own platform. A noble aim, but to be honest, if you’re not generating 500k views a video you’re not really going to be making anything worth the effort.

The people who play YouTube well are the YouTubers. They’re the people who’ve developed an act that caters for the YouTube audience and is delivered in a way that generates more subscriptions and more views.

They have learned to do on video what we have learned to do on the radio.

What’s that? Identify a target audience and create content for them. It’s about being consistent, believable, relatable and high quality. It’s also about using the tools within the platform to best position yourself and better support the chance of being successful.

Radio 1 (quite rightly) leads the pack with 1.2m subscribers to its channel. They often generate multiple videos per day but with view counts ranging from a few thousand for a movie review, to 50k for an innuendo bingo, through to 200k for a live lounge on to 500k+ for an executed bit of content like a Greg James parody video.

It’s similar for Capital and their 35k subscribers. A couple of thousand views for their entertainment news in The Crunch, 5-10k for an interview and then 100k+ counts for videos about artists with a strong 13-19 year old following. The success of those aren’t driven by subscription or by being from Capital but through popular acts that YouTube SEO lets your surface easily to fans.

On the other hand, if you look at a native YouTuber like Zoella – an English girl in her early 20s – she has 4.5m subscribers and each of her videos consistently gets 1.5m views, with occasional peaks to 2.5m for collaborations.

This continual success is about consistency and a focused product and being of the platform rather than just putting some ‘content’ on it.

I point at Capital and Radio 1 – but at least they’re learning by developing different types of stuff and putting it out there. I could pick lots of stations – particularly large local and regional stations with woeful video – in volume and quality.

I think for radio to conquer video it needs to know what its trying to do with it and how to balance what they do with the platform their putting it on.

Radio should also look to see what it has that’s unique and how it can best use that.

I think one of my favourite bits of recent video content is Matt Edmondson’s video with Arthur Darvill off of Doctor Who doing a song parody of the Let It Go song from Frozen.

I think it’s something that plays to radio’s strengths by combing two things – Access and Talent.

Access, is the fact that Arthur is in their building. The might of broadcast Radio 1 makes that happen. Talent is the talent to write the parody song, to give Arthur something that’s special that makes the video not just watchable but something that generates delight when watched.

That is not something that’s easy to do. It’s not something that can easily be replicated. It is however something that suits the skills we and our medium have.

I think there’s also an attempt to be more ‘of YouTube’ at the end with traditional YouTuber calls to action of sampling other videos or subscribing, though perhaps there could be a call to teach people when the show’s on the radio etc, especially as it contains a Doctor Who actor it’s likely to get some viral growth in that community.

From a serving subscribers point of view this content (460k views) sits between a 1xtra Fire in the Booth (6k views) and Dan & Phil’s Internet News (10k views). It would be interesting to know if the channel would grow its subscribers further if it just had content like Matt’s rather than being a part of a varied catalogue of all the (albeit great) video content that Radio 1 produces?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter if you don’t think ‘subscribers’ matter. The vast majority of YouTube users don’t really understand the subscribe button and just browse videos – if your objective is to drive brand awareness you’re much better off just optimising the content you make for SEO (resulting in the peaks and troughs you can see with Capital).

Like I say, I think it all comes down to objectives. Why are you doing what you’re doing. And can you measure whether its working or not.



Choice FM Becomes Capital Xtra

Looking at my referrer logs for the blog I often get searches for people asking “Why did x station become x” or “Why did x station close”. So I thought it might be (mildly) interesting to look at Choice FM’s change to Capital Xtra in that context.

Choice was well liked and had a good, different history as one of the only black-owned stations. Even after being subsumed into the Capital Radio Group it retained a (relatively) good connection with its first community.

Historically Choice was stymied by its two frequencies – two lower powered licences rather than a London-wide frequency that the other stations have. I remember when I was there I did some analysis that showed how in the postcodes you could actually get it, it would often do better than Kiss. I also know that before GCap, the Capital Group looked at what the benefits would be of swapping frequencies with some of its other London brands. In other words, was it a potential sleeping giant – particularly as a more urban market had opened up as Kiss had (albeit very successfully) moved into a more mainstream format.

There was a national idea of Choice with it broadcasting Urban Choice (a voicetracked spin off version) on the MXR multiplexes (that it was a shareholder in) which later merged into a Choice simulcast that came off the air in the last few years.

It’s national audience though never really hit the numbers the format deserved. This was partly because of Galaxy’s (then) existence, the rise of 1xtra and the fact there had been no real out of London marketing.

I imagine the Choice brand and heritage also didn’t always make it a mainstream buy for advertising agencies. It probably didn’t get on as many schedules as it should, and probably at a lower value too. No matter how hard you try, some brands just don’t get the national agency resonance. This, ultimately, is why Galaxy re-branded as Capital too.

From an advertising angle, a re-brand to Capital Xtra means agencies will understand it better – as they already understand the Capital position. It’ll also end up on more schedules as I imagine agencies will buy a ‘Capital All’ which will be spots on both services.

The other reason Global have done this is Bauer.

There’s no love lost between the two organisations and they’re very competitive. Bauer’s new national strategy has spooked Global at the same time as their own M&A is mired in the Competition Commission. Global wanted to be the ‘national brand’ company – but suddenly Bauer’s distribution of Kiss, Planet Rock, Absolute (and Absolute spin-offs) nationally on D1, was vast compared to Global’s Classic and (now) Smooth. Heart and Capital have good coverage – but it’s not very national – that’s what the GMG acquisition was supposed to fix. The extra Absolute spin-offs also potentially provide more capacity to be re-purposed for other Bauer brands, Magic perhaps, if it’s what Bauer wants to do. Bauer are clearly on a journey to have their key brands nationwide.

Additionally, Kiss and Magic continue to do very well in London, stopping the Global brands from having consistent market-leading dominance. Clearly, the new Smooth will aim to give Magic a bit of a kick, but it’s also Kiss that needs some knocks to make Capital more dominant.

The close nature of the London market means that you don’t need to lose that much audience to give market-leadership to someone else. Half a share point off Magic and Kiss will give Heart and Capital a real boost. It doesn’t matter of course where that half a point has gone to, just that it’s no longer with Magic and Kiss.

A Choice re-boot, re-brand and marketing push has the potential to do that to Kiss. With Capital and Capital Xtra nationwide, grouped and sold together it will also look a strong nationwide sell when compared to Kiss nationally on its own.

With Smooth becoming the Magic that Richard Park created ten years ago, Global have the chance of a pincer movement to disrupt Bauer’s success in London.

The other competitor is 1Xtra. It’s had a great year, now regularly over 1m listeners. A more populist version will have a good opportunity.

Finally, in any company, having less brands means its much easier to run. Subsuming Choice into the Capital family makes it easier to do more and re-enforce each other. There aren’t that many people at Global – this is commercial radio after all – so having the resources concentrated on less people is a sensible thing to do.

The radio industry is, more than ever, in a state of flux. This is primarily driven through consumer change – listeners are tuning into more stations across more platforms. This brings new opportunities for some and significant issues for others. Global themselves have grown their business through assimilating assets and redeveloping them to generate both significant financial returns and to better position the stations for the future. This growth is particularly driven by deploying change on a large scale.

A Choice re-brand has been in the works for months, I think I first heard about it in July. The interesting thing is not the re-brand (they’re easy), the clever thing is changing the nature of the station by making it a new national opportunity. This is something they could only do when they integrated Smooth, as it released capacity on Digital One by closing Smooth 70s to deliver on that vision.

It’s also the first real signal about Global’s position on a digital radio future.

The easy thing to have done would have sell-off some excess digital radio capacity – there’s plenty of demand after all. Instead they’ve chosen to invest in one of their brands, expand the footprint and try and build a true digital radio station. I think it can also be read as an acknowledgement that digital has become an important battleground- one that you can use to beat your enemies as well as new ground to colonise and develop.




New Radio Presenting Skills

It’s clear that the radio industry is changing and evolving. It’s not only about how radio groups are altering their structures, but also how consumer behaviour is changing and how that means we need to do things in different ways. This affects everyone, including presenters.

I think sometimes there’s an assumption that formatted radio means all a jock has to do is talk for 20seconds every fifteen minutes. That’s hardly the case – whether it’s keeping social media updated, doing other roles in the radio station or creating different versions of what they do, for different audiences.

In our office we were listening to Capital Scotland (don’t ask…) and I heard this link:

What I thought was interesting is that it demonstrates how a presenter’s role has changed. If you listen to the link, it seems like a paid live read for an event in London. That’s a tough sell if you’re a presenter doing a networked show across the UK. Rich Clarke, the mid morning presenter (and disclosure: an old friend) manages to execute the sell, but with good local references for Capital Scotland.

So, that was the Scottish execution, I was interested to hear how the same link was dealt with elsewhere:

Capital Yorkshire:

Capital South Wales:

Capital Manchester:

Capital South Coast:

and here’s how it went out in London:

I don’t really want to get into the rights and wrongs of networking. What I do think is interesting is how the presenter’s role is changing and evolving. Whilst connecting with an audience has always been important, these changes mean presenters have to evolve their skills to execute those connections in lots of different ways. Keeping up with what’s happening on one station can be difficult enough, working to ensure that you know what’s happening on ten so you can make your show on their station fit in is a new type of skill.

Networking can often be accused of being lazy, this kind of effort doesn’t seem lazy to me.


Capital Breakfast

It’s always very difficult to know why a station’s axed a presenter, it’s normally though, a combination of things. How it performs, how it sounds, what the people are like, is everyone getting on etc. What’s interesting about Capital axing Johnny Vaughan is that they’re doing to a time when he’s (consistently) the number one commercial breakfast show in London.

However, my personal view is that they’ve made the decision at the right time. It is always better to make bold changes when you’re at the top of your game. So often change comes from weakness – declining figures, lack of growth etc – that any new show is already starting thirty-love down.

For Capital, the Breakfast show is popular, people aren’t drifting off to other stations and they tend to be locked in for the rest of the day. Naturally a new host will generate some churn, but with listeners broadly happy it’s a great headstart for a new programme.

I’ve always thought X Factor was excellent at constantly innovating with a winning formula. At the point they were top of their game, they weren’t afraid to swap judges out – bye bye Sharon Osbourne (and Louis Walsh at one point), take the auditions in front of a live studio audience and reinvent Sunday night’s result show as the new Top of the Pops. Conventional wisdom would have been to NOT CHANGE ANYTHING – but they took their lead and constantly developed and improved their already winning product.

Interestingly it’s been when change has been forced upon them – X Factor USA taking away two judges and management focus – that the changes have been less successful.

Back to Capital, I’m sure they’re also haunted by the ghost of Breakfast presenters past. Chris Tarrant caused the old Capital massive success and then massive problems. They were so wedded to Tarrant (he was a constant issue even in PLC annual reports) that they kept hold of him way too long. By the time he moved on, they had a Breakfast audience who were older and didn’t listen to the rest of the output and whoever they replaced him with would have been a massive change. Net result it took years and years for Johnny to be established. They just waited too long.

It’s a problem that Radio 1 now faces too. Moyles is an excellent breakfast host, and probably generates the best breakfast show in the country. The programme is however drifting away from the rest of the network. It’s hugely popular, but the audience is getting much older and the programming has a habit of drifting older topic-wise. Did you hear the hour long (!) interview with John Cleese? It took me ten minutes to realise who it was.

Now, they’ve renewed Moyles for another few years to give the station some breathing room whilst they advance their talent plans, but by doing so they’ve piled on the trouble for the future. By then he’ll be even more off target and his disappearance will lose them a stack of older listeners plus they’ll have to work hard to re-attract the 15 to 24s who’ll already be listening to another breakfast show – perhaps the new one from Capital?

Who’ll be Capital’s new breakfast host? I think the smart money’s on Dave Berry. He’s similar to Johnny, younger, more relevant and still funny. However, Global are excellent at pulling a rabbit out of the hat, and I think someone like Scott Mills could make an appearance. If they go for a Scott-type person or bigger they’ll also have the opportunity of networking Breakfast across the old regional Galaxies – so their new host could come to Yorkshire and the North East. Whilst I think they would be mad to replace Hirsty, with Steve and Karen off to Metro – maybe we’ll see the new host waking up two areas!

Comparing Radio 1 and Capital’s Music

I really enjoyed the Radio Festival this year, especially the first session where Global Radio boss Ashley Tabor and BBC boss Tim Davie had a bit of a ding dong about Radio 1 and whether it should be more distinctive when compared to commercial radio (and, I guess, Capital FM particularly). Ashley argued that musically Radio 1 in daytime isn’t distinctive enough and that it was very similar to commercial competitors. Ashley’s sentiment is something I agree with (Radio 1 needs to keep being distinctive), but I thought it was worth having a look at the actual numbers to see if his hypothesis is right and compare Radio 1 and Capital airplay.

Luckily, at Folder Media we’ve built a radio intelligence tool, RadioBase, that’s perfect for these sort of things. M’colleague Sam, ran some numbers looking the songs played between 6am to 7pm from the 11th to 17th of October. The data we’ve used to do this is very good, but I don’t promise that it will be entirely perfect. However, i’m more than comfortable to say it’s representative of the majority of both stations output.

So… what do we see?

Well, a quick glance shows that all of Capital’s top 20 most played songs are also all played by Radio 1 in daytime. So, is Ashley is right? Well, numbers can show all kinds of things, so maybe it would be good to start at the beginning…

Over the time period we measured, both stations played a similar number of tracks – Radio 1 with 1068 and Capital with 1081. However – unique songs at Capital is 83 and at Radio 1 its 443, together they share 49 songs.

One of Ashley’s arguments was that it didn’t matter about the number of different tracks played, it was about the volume of airplay that the hits got. In other words you could play a few hundred tracks once, but you might play the top ten most of the time. I thought it might be useful to look at those shared songs – the 49 – and see what percentage of the total number of spins were from those songs.

For Radio 1 these 49 represent 26.3% of their daytime airplay and for Capital they represent 79.4% of its daytime airplay. In other words 73.7% of Radio 1’s daytime airplay has no crossover with Capital whatsoever – to me that makes Radio 1 pretty distinctive.

However, crossover isn’t the entire story, does Ashley have a point about the volume of Radio 1’s output being hit driven?

I looked at Radio 1’s top 30 tunes and they make up 39% of daytime airplay (the other 412 representing 61%). I think it’s an interesting question about whether this rate is too high. If you do the same thing with Capital the figures, the plays of their top 30 songs represent 73% of their output. Yes, it’s much higher – but the two stations are there to do very different jobs.

Overall, Radio 1 is musically a much more distinctive listen and it’s clearly concentrating on songs that one of its main commercial radio competitors isn’t playing. Its definitely creating its own hits and then reaping the benefits of continuing to play those tunes.

Is it mean to press Radio 1 to play more unfamiliar songs or less hits? Or is it already getting the right balance in daytime?