How Are People Listening and What Happens Next?

You may have gathered that I’m a fan of radio data.

I love it because deep down I’m really a fan of listeners. I think radio’s job is to cater for their tastes, interests and needs, as well as giving them the occasional surprise by providing them something they didn’t know that they wanted.

To a do a good job at this, you have to understand them and their lives.

I am always wary of people who slag of (any form) of radio research. How arrogant to think that you, on your own, know what’s best for other people?

Now, I have a strong idea of what people want because of the experience I’ve built up making radio and radio stations, but I always want to test these ideas from real feedback from the listener.

In this modern multi-media platform world, it’s much harder know what people want, because their world is changing. Tablets, Sonos, Wifi, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook – (for non early adopters) the last five years have been incredibly disruptive. People have formed super-strong new habits with new technology and content.

You would be fucking mental if you didn't think this has had an effect on 'our' listeners. Click To Tweet

Reach and Hours as a measurement has been pretty good for radio. It tracks how many people we’re reaching and how much time they’re spending with us. Where people used radio and how they listened has never been that important – it’s always been a car radio or a home/office radio.

The battle we’ve fought has been against each other. The battle we’re now facing is winning people’s time.

To do that it’s essential that we understand how we’re doing in different places, against other devices. It’s vital to be able to see where you are, to work out where you want to go and then how you’re going to do it.

It’s great that RAJAR have published its MIDAS survey in more detail than they previously have – really looking at how time listening to audio is split amongst radio, streaming, music videos on YouTube etc as well as how that changes with different ages and different devices. There’s quite a bit in there, but what I find interesting is where radio is winning the battle for time and where we’re losing.

And indeed, what we should defend and what areas should we attack?

On the face of it, it’s pretty good news:

shareofaudiotime

Live radio still totally dominates in listening. We’re lucky because we’ve got these industry-specific audio-consumption devices (radios) that people have got and love. We have vendor lock-in! A proprietary device that limits the number of new entrants – APPLE HAVE NOTHING ON US.

 

When we look at how people are listening to ‘live radio’ it’s these devices that continue to rule.

bydevice

This chart is the reason that there are no successful internet radio stations in the UK (my judge of success – actual listeners, run as a business, making money, investing in content).

To have any chance of being successful you need to be on FM/AM, DAB or, at a push DTV. If you’re playing on the other platforms, even if you’re doing AN AMAZING job, there just isn’t the volume of listening to be able to do well.

However there is a tyranny with the success of our platform. Live radio is significantly challenged in other places.

newplatforms

We’re doing okay in the PC world – but streaming services are coming up fast. I think it’s amazing that our PC listening is so strong when, generally, our web products are pretty dreadful. Why aren’t we building on the success of Radioplayer to build out more cross-industry web products? We need to strengthen our lead there, not let it be lost.

Similarly what’s our, and when I say our, I mean YOUR station but also our industry approach to creating something great for tablets – it’s our least successful new platform. When was that last time someone even mentioned it in your station?

On the mobile, I think we face our biggest challenge. There is lots of good stuff on a phone that’s non-audio but it eats into our time with listeners.  Looking at audio specifically – podcasts are doing well, and music video is starting to make an impact – where are our products in those sectors? Not, where is Station FM’s podcasts – but where are we working together to show radio industry content and make our brilliant stuff discoverable?

Today we dominate audio listening, driven by radio devices. We reach 90% of the country and they spend a ridiculous amount of time with us. It’s time to take that lead, reach and impact and start invading other sectors, doing a better job to defend and grow radio’s position.

Chris Moyles – RAJAR Q4/2015

I’m sure they’ll be a load of press coverage around the return of Moyles this quarter. The problem is that we haven’t really got all the data in yet to properly say how he’s doing.

Radio X’s London figures are measured over three months, but Radio X elsewhere – in Manchester and the ‘UK’ – is measured over a six month period. Therefore, this time round we only get half Radio X and half XFM.

So, what do we know?

Well, I think there will be some disappointment about how he, and the new Radio X, has done in London. They’ve gone from a station reach of 507k to 517k. Which is fairly flat. The show itself has had the best reach for about eight years (and hours for about ten), but it’s still perhaps not quite the scale everyone had hoped for. At a push I’d say that it’s likely that they’ve churned a lot of listening – ie they’ve brought in a similar amount to what they’ve lost. What tells me that? Well the proportion of Radio X listeners who listen to breakfast has gone up quite a bit – 42% to 58%. 104.9 is now a radio station with a base of Moyles fans.

I thought it would have been Moyles’ London figures that would have had the strength, with the rest of the country, because of the 3/6 month thing, gradually following further behind in the next few surveys. But, it hasn’t really worked like that. Even with a 6 month survey period, it’s the UK numbers – that look at the station as a whole – that have seen the growth. For the UK station, reach is up from 1.04m to 1.22m and the national breakfast numbers are up around 40%. Looking at the data it seems like he’s also sitting on a strong UK book for next time, when we’ll perhaps see him on the verge of doubling the old XFM UK breakfast audience.

Similar to London, 97.7 in Manchester has been pretty flat too, with the audience even dropping back a little this quarter.

I suppose what’s happened is that for Manchester and London, where X was on FM, this has all been a bit of a shock – these were stations with passionate audiences. Moyles has brought in new listeners and it’s about balanced out the ones who’ve fled. However, where the growth for Radio X is coming from, is outside its two FM cities. To these listeners this is very much a new radio station.

Global are seemingly on the road to a successful launch of their new station – driven by digital listening – outside of the analogue areas. As the national figures get a full book next quarter, I think we’ll start to see it look more like a success.

Listening to Moyles, the shows three months on are perhaps unsurprisingly much stronger than the early few. The team, who were all very uncertain of their roles and what the dynamic would be, have settled into a much more steady rhythm with individual personalities coming to the fore. Pippa’s dating storylines have really helped round her out and Dave, nervous of Moyles in the beginning, is being given much more meaty things to do and sound much more confident and happy taking part.

I think part of the thing they’re aiming for is a much more relaxed feel. Positioning themselves against formatted breakfast shows, using authenticity (of which Chris has buckets) to make the show seem different is not a bad tactic. Whilst I enjoy the show, as a listener the lack of benchmarks, the changing competition mechanics and thus the need to provide quite a bit of explanation and exposition can though make it hard to navigate.

Overall though, the show is clearly a good one and, with the right focus, will only get better. Global themselves have never been shy of spending money on marketing, but just reading the Facebook page and tweets to Moyles, there is still a big job to do to teach people that not only is Moyles on Radio X, but that’s it’s easy to tune into digitally. There is still more old listeners to deliver across.

Moyles: The show is clearly a good one and, with the right focus, will only get better: Click To Tweet

However for Global and Moyles to achieve the promise, they’re going to have to stay focused and keep delivering. They’ve made a more solid start to this battle than it perhaps seems on the surface, but there’s still a good way to go.

There’s normally more RAJAR fun from Adam Bowie, Paul Easton and John Rosborough.

RAJAR Q3/2015

Some things I’ve noticed from this quarter’s RAJAR…

Digital

Another good quarter for digital radio. 41.9% of all radio listening in the UK is on a digital platform (two-thirds of that is through DAB). 63% of the country listen to some form of digital radio each week – that’s 30m listeners. 20m listeners listen to DAB each week, 9m listen online and 7.7m tune in through their telly.

I really feel for you if you’re radio station isn’t on some broadcast digital platforms. The real world effect of that 41.8% means that your available audience is now only 60% of the market, a huge handicap before you’ve even started.

National digital stations are now huge parts of UK radio listening. Absolute 80s has 1.5m, Kisstory 1.3m, Kerrang’s on 820k, Heat’s on 912k, Planet Rock on 1.2m, 6Music on 2.1m, 1Xtra on 1.1m and Radio 4 Extra with a super strong 2.2m.

With hybrid analogue/digital networks – Magic doubles its London FM audience  – now reaching 3.4m and Smooth Extra (the Smooth that fills in the gaps of the FM Smooth’s) has a first book of 930k.

If you’re a stand-alone local station wondering where your audience is going – this is the answer!

Radio 1

  • Radio 1 has had its 2nd lowest 15-24 reach ever.
  • The Radio 1 Breakfast show has its lowest ever 15-24 reach
  • 15-24’s make up the (joint) lowest proportion of its total audience ever.
  • 15-24’s make up the third lowest proportion of the Breakfast Show’s total audience ever.
  • Radio 1’s average age is the second highest it’s been in the last ten years.

I don’t envy Radio 1’s challenge. Getting younger audiences to listen to the radio is hard and it maintains a huge heritage with older audiences. Nick’s breakfast show is sounding better than it has for a long time and it still generates a 22% share of 15-24s – which is impressive.

However, it is Radio 1’s job to fix the problems above. It gets £40m to ensure that it can do an exceptional job of catering for young audiences. Kiss and Capital have as much heritage but manage a younger average age. Capital, with much worse distribution manage nearly 80% of R1’s 15-24 reach and beats it for 10 to 14s. R1’s budget and marketing access give it massive advantages that it should be benefiting from.

In its RAJAR press release Radio 1’s Controller trumpets the YouTube reach (1m views a day and 85% of audience aged 13-34). I think this makes the on air figures all the more disappointing. R1 has built an amazing YouTube platform with loads of great content, however it does virtually nothing to get the people it reaches to listen to the radio. Of the last five videos I can see – Innuendo Bingo, Derulo Live Lounge, Bieber on Grimmy, Pia Surprise Karaoke/Edmondson, Pewdiepie – the only one that has any reference to on-air, sort of, is PewdiePie where the description mentions that you can watch the takeover show on the Radio 1 website on a certain day. Even then it fails to mention that it’s also on the radio.

With the rest there’s no reference to how you can listen to Scott/Clara/Nick/Matt or when you should tune in. Hiding behind ‘teens don’t listen to the radio’ is easier to do when you not using your relationships with them to encourage them to listen to the radio.

Radio 1 is full of great content, so why at the end of Nick’s Bieber vid didn’t they say who’s the next big guest, what day they’re on and how to listen? Same for the Live Lounge. Why isn’t Clara IDing it reminding us to listen in the morning?

If you haven’t watched it, there’s a great clip with Greg James and Vin Diesel (stay with me) where he gets quite emotional about the Live Lounge. These are the sort of connections with audiences we would sell our Mums to get hold of – it’s such a wasted opportunity not to take this passion and use it to generate more value for the station.

There of course is an argument that Radio 1 is not just a radio station, but the BBC’s vessel for reaching young audiences and therefore YouTube, the iPlayer channel, Twitter etc all work as their own unique platforms and they should be creating specific content for those channels. I just don’t buy it. Radio 1 has a service licence that almost entirely concentrates on being a radio station – digital platforms are there to support the radio. Not the other way around.

London

London remains such a competitive place commercially. Capital’s had a bit of a resurgence over the past few quarters, this time winning the city in share, but losing out by around 3,000 listeners to Kiss for the biggest reach.

XFM

It’s the last book for XFM before it becomes Radio X and we see how Moyles is getting on. As is often the case, it’s had a great book! Biggest network figures since 2007 and best London numbers for two years. There’s often a similar peak when presenters are working out their last quarter – does the lack of pressure allow everyone to be a purer version of themselves and become more successful? Discuss.

Manchester

Key 103 still faces quite a bit of trouble. Its figures are similar to last quarter, though Heart North West now has more hours in its TSA – taking Key from commercial number 3 to commercial number 4.

Oxford

Jack (and Jack 2) have been plugging away on their target to being bigger in reach terms than Heart (the old Fox FM) in their TSA. The combined Jack and Jack 2 are now just 4,000 listeners behind Heart – an impressive feat. Whilst being neck and neck isn’t going to worry Global that much, for a local operator it gives them a great angle when talking to local advertisers and pushing up their rates.

Orion

A good result for Orion, quarter on quarter increases for all of their stations and for most, year on year increases too. There’s also a great reach figure for Gem of 476k – up there with its best ever quarters.

More RAJAR:

  • Adam Bowie always gives a good run down of the figures
  • John Rosborough tends to give an update on Northern Ireland’s stations

The Mirror’s Ampp3d and UsvsTh3m

Today’s the second recent new media launch for The Mirror. Ampp3d is following hot on the heels of UsvsTh3m.

Ampp3d, according to their Facebook page is “a topical, data-driven site from the Daily Mirror, making journalism more accessible through data visualisations”. Whilst UsvsTh3m makes “toys, games and quizzes”.

UsvsTh3m has been a real success. I’m not going to explain how and why it works, as Martin (who created it) has written a great post all about it here. Short version – starting from scratch, using a very light team and little corporate interference, they’ve created a new site that’s generating 7m users a month. This is particularly driven by very topical, funny games. Also, unlike newspapers where all the traffic comes from SEO, their traffic comes from social sharing. Only downside, their focus has been on audience rather than revenue, which mean’s there’s no monetisation in it currently. In my mind totally the right thing to do – I’d rather have a site up and launched with 7m users than one stuck in corporate hell, with no visitors, but a revenue plan.

What I  find interesting is how Ampp3d’s an evolved version of their first launch. Whilst, I’m sure this is partly demographic, it’s notable that:

  • The site runs off WordPress rather than Tumblr (less native virality but much more control)
  • It carries Mirror branding (on site and in the URL)
  • It carries banner ads from the start

Whilst I’m sure that banners aren’t really its main plan for monetisation – I’m sure that’ll be good old native content – getting them in early at least means you can decide whether to keep them later. Banner positions are also handy if you want to skin in sponsors of sections and such later on. Introducing commercial units later on can disappoint users – it’s good to set some expectations early.

The Mirror branding is probably confidence more than anything else. The first project was launched in 6 weeks, with a “if it doesn’t work in three months we’ll close it” attitude. At that point it was probably wise to distant itself from The Mirror. Now there’s more confidence and potentially a slightly less edgy proposition, it makes sense to add the branding for Ampp3d.

Hindsight’s clearly a wonderful thing, but I wonder that if they knew how much of a success UsvsTh3m was going to be, whether they would have changed any of the branding/monetisation decisions?

The best part of this story though, is look what can be achieved when a corporate finds good people and lets them get on with it. Plus the support you give them is the stuff your company’s good at – in this case The Mirror’s picture desk and duty lawyer!

Austereo’s Roadtrip Forever

I think commercial radio’s biggest issue is that it forgets that its job is to provide compelling entertainment and experiences to its listeners and successful, innovative products to its advertisers.

Commercially, particularly, radio needs to raise its game above spots and a bit of S&P.

I really like what Austereo have done with the Transport Accident Commission. It’s not ‘radio’ but it’s helping meet the business needs of their customers.

Have a go with their Roadtrip Forever.

Afterwards, watch the ‘making of‘ video.

Jobs By Twitter

Alan Geere who heads up Editorial at Northcliffe South has just put out an interesting job ad.

Well, the job’s not particularly interesting, it’s a call for reporters on his titles. The way he’s asked for it though is. He only wants replies through Twitter as an @message.

He says:

I’m fed up wading through turgid ‘letters of application’ and monstrous CVs outlining an early career in retail handling and a flirtation with the upper slopes of the Andes.

I want reporters who can find stories that no-one else has got and write them quickly and accurately.

As someone who’s had to wade through a lot of applications recently I definitely agree that it’s a soul-destroying experience and you’re just crying out for someone to be different.

There are lots of people being sniffy about his idea, unfairly I believe. The purpose of a covering letter/CV is to get an interview. No one gets hired directly from their written application. So why not use a 140 characters method?

You can, of course, read the applications through Twitter Search.

p.s If you’re after radio jobs, I do a free email, details on the right.

State of Radio – Q2/11

I’m a big believer in RAJAR. It’s a big survey that talks to  lots of people. When i’ve commissioned my own research, using a very different methodology the numbers are comparable. Also, i’m a big believer in trend being the best way to look at numbers. Of course, there may be oddities in any survey, but your trend line is the best indicator for how you’re doing.

This is why i’m not that bothered about the ups and down of the majority of well-established radio stations. There needs to have been a major change at a station or in a market before that’s interesting.

On the big changes front, for many of the new Capital stations this is the first book that’s all Capital, having jetisoned any residual numbers from their previous incarnations. If you look at the network as a whole it’s only a marginal change of hours up 1% and reach down 1%. Other than some hours declines, for the majority of the new Capital’s its been just about business as usual. Two though, stand out – South Wales and Birmingham.

South Wales has seen its reach drop 15% and its hours 20%. That’s quite a drop for the old Red Dragon and looking at (perhaps an unrepresentative quarter) could suggest that losing its Welsh position maybe hurting it. At the other end of the spectrum, Capital Birmingham has added 20% to its hours. Is this the benefit of ditching the legacy of being an urban station and being reborn as a pop one? Only time will tell.

The other big change – BBC 7 to 4Extra – has generated another 400k listeners to that service. Why? Cross-promotion and being part of a wider brand family. It’s now the UK’s biggest digital station.

I also think Jack in Bristol deserves significant kudos for dumping an under-performing format and replacing it with one that’s cut through. It’s been another record RAJAR result and it looks like there’s still some room for even more growth.

Big changes (like the Original to Jack flip) produce behavioural shifts, but then gradual change can have the same effect too.

Gradual change isn’t as fun or exciting though. The transition from the analogue to digital world for the radio industry is something that’s certainly taking its time. Our listeners have had thirty years of analogue commercial and BBC radio available in every device under the sun – kitchen radios, hi-fi’s, portables, car sets – and in every place they go – home, car, work or on the move. The ubiquity of radio in form and location means that 90% of the population use it and  they consume an eye (ear?) watering 24 hours a week of it. It’s the kind of media consumption that any other product or platform would kill for.

At the same time we’re offering listeners digital radio options too. Though, to be honest we’re making it quite difficult for them. For content we’ve gone from ubiquity – every station (in my area) available on every type of analogue radio – to one where we  put different stations on different platforms (just compare the line-ups on DAB and DTV), for cost we’ve gone from ‘free at the point of use’ to charging people based on usage for some devices (mobile data), for devices we’ve gone from every form factor being available cheaply (or often free) to one where you pay a premium and sometimes it’s hard to install (like in-car DAB).

We’ve also done all of this whilst continuing to provide radio that they’re used to, is still free and works on every device.

Looking at it, it’s amazing that anyone’s decided to listen to radio on DAB, Digital Television or the Internet.

But they have. They’ve decided that they want something more than what’s provided on analogue – be it choice, coverage, quality, ease of use. Now they haven’t decided to opt-out of analogue (even the most ferverent digi-phile still uses analogue in someway) but they’ve added a chunk of digital ‘to fix’ their radio listening.

Sometimes people who work at (predominantly) analogue radio stations dismiss the need for digital – they talk about it not affecting them – that their digital listening is small and not growing. They often forget that analogue and digital needn’t be mutually exclusive.

Our listeners are more than comfortable being multi-platform – listening to some stations on analogue devices and some others on digital ones. In probably most households the analogue device consumes the majority of listening, the digital the secondary.

I think all of these things hide quite fundamental changes. Though, as I started to dig through some of the data, you start to see how our listeners are building a new parallel structure of listening.

The availability concept can be demonstrated by NME Radio. Its been on and off a number of platforms in its short life. However, the reach over this time stays pretty static. Why? Well, listeners need to be aware of the service and then if it’s something they would like to listen to, they then seek it out – however they can get it. The circled area is when NME was nationwide on DAB. A small reach increase, but a massive hours jump. Why? The awareness doesn’t change, but suddenly a lot of these listeners can get in on a device they have more access to – their DAB digital radio – a device that’s much easier to listen for a decent length of time on (no fighting those in the house who want to watch Eastenders on the digital TV).

The dominance of analogue radios for primary listening points can be seen in the chart below. This shows platform consumption over a weekday. Breakfast and daytime is dominated by analogue radio, which then, like all radio drops away as we get into the evening. DAB (the red) and DTV (the green) grows – I’d wager these are  people opting out of traditional listening to consume non-analogue stations.

Availability of listening on digital devices is strong – over 40% of people listen to some type of digital radio each week. It’s interesting to see how Absolute have used their new stations to repair and then grow their total hours. At a time when there have obviously been issues for their main service, they’ve weathered the storm by bringing new products that are bringing significant hours to their business.

In fact the impact is such that they are transitioning into a predominantly digital business:

The thing that Absolute are actually benefiting from is wide digital radio reach but a low number of new mainstream choices for listeners.

This latent demand can be seen by the next chart – this is the Eagle TSA and analogue/digital reach. It’s not stacked, so the blue is analogue at just under 500k listeners, with digital at around 250k. Now this is a TSA where the local multiplex hasn’t switched on yet – so the Eagle only exists in an analogue (and internet) environment. For an ILR The Eagle’s doing quite well at the moment, but what I’d be worried about is that, at speed, the TSA are listening on devices that I don’t broadcast on. As these radio listeners transition from the devices being for secondary consumption to primary consumption the competition in the marker (even if we assume they’ll be on digital) will be severe.

If ever there was a need for evidence that there’s the ability for swift change is to look at the success of the transition of Radio 4 Extra from BBC7. Adding 440,000 listeners in one quarter isn’t about gradual development of new platform listening – its 440,000 digital listeners ready to switch into content that’s been promoted to them.

Last chart for today is one showing analogue vs digital hours for the BBC’s national stations:

To me this is the bell weather. The BBC’s national stations are available everywhere and the services have high awareness. There’s a mix of analogue favourites and new digital stations too. Taken as a whole a third of their output is now consumed digitally.

If unlike the BBC and Absolute, your output isn’t being consumed digitally at a similar pace then I think you have a problem. The audience is tooling up to consume more radio digitally – both to new and existing stations. Well over 40% listen digitally, the barrier isn’t the idea, its just a physical issue –  analogue sets are currently occupying the places that generate the most consumption.

If I owned or worked at an existing analogue station it’s not whether my reach was up 2% or that Capital nudged ahead in the market – it’s whether i’d built a brand that was going to be consumed by digital listeners – because that’s who my listeners have become and there’s far more competition on that dial.

What are you listening to?

No, not a RAJAR post. Maybe one of those later.

This has been around a while – a guy, Ty Cullen, in New York stopped people in the street and asked what they were listening to on their iPods.

Here’s the video:

There’s also another one that’s been done, this time in London…

I think what’s lovely about these is that people are, generally, happy to tell the questioner what they’re listening to. It’s also really great to catch people in the moment of consumption and how they’re pretty much all smiling when they share their secret passion.

An Award for Shows or Podcasts

An email from Suzie at the BT Digital Music Awards, reminding me about the Best Radio Show or Podcast category and that it’s nearly the closing date (15th July, now 19th July). It’s open to any music-related podcasts or radio shows created by a company with a UK presence and available via digital platforms to listeners in the UK in the past year.

One of the nice things about this award is that ranks radio shows and podcasts alongside each other, looking at content, expertise, creativity and effectiveness.

The details….

Entry requirements

The podcast or radio show must have been available to listeners at some point between 1st August 2010 and the present day. Entrants will be asked to supply a url where the show or podcast can be accessed or a digital recording of one or more of the shows or podcasts for the judges to sample along with the completed submission form. On receipt of an entry, the entrant will be emailed a submission form to complete in no more than 1000 words covering the points mentioned in the judging criteria below.

Judging criteria

Content
What is your podcast or radio show about? How do you select your content?

Experience
Who is your podcast or radio show aimed at and how is it marketed to them? How do listeners access your podcast or show?

Creativity
What makes your podcast or show unique and interesting? How do you use your content to attract listeners?

Effectiveness
Evaluate how successful your show or podcast has been in achieving its original objectives. Give evidence such as size of or increase in listenership, listener interaction or good PR (please note that your submission will be judged for its relative success. Judges will be instructed to pay attention to percentage growth, rather than simple volume of listeners).

All the details are here on the BT Digital Music Awards website.

 

Radio’s Twitter Obsession

Dick Stone wrote a blog post about Twitter last month, touching on the fact that stations looking at Twitter buzz has replaced “all the lines lit up” as justification for  a particular feature etc. I’d go a bit further than what he said and say that radio has an unhealthy and incorrect obsession with Twitter.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. I was an early user and still a regular one – Tweetdeck tells me I tweet on average four times a day. It entertains me, I get to hear from people much brighter than I am and it’s helped in work – it’s connected me to people that now use our services and it’s helped us get press coverage too.

I am, however, like many of us, a media wanker. I like showing off and I like hearing from other show offs. I’m so entrenched in using it that I think it’s the cleverest most important and relevant thing in the world. I can talk about those super-injunctions, I can get i-rate about the latest Daily Mail poll and revel in Charlie Brooker’s put downs. The problem is real people, they really couldn’t care less.

They’re not stupid, they know what it is. Well, how could they not, it infects radio and television like a media-spawned virus. It’s just not that interesting for them. The vast majority of every Twitter mention on the radio is clutter that gets in the way of stations communicating with audiences.

Here’s a list of things that radio gets wrong.

Usernames

Stations have created the most confusing way to tell people how to get involved via Twitter. Often different presenters each have different accounts with different descriptive styles. To take Radio 1 as an example (but similar problems affect everyone) – they go from @chrisdjmoyles (a dj in the middle?) to @fearnecotton to @gregjames to @scott_mills – an underscore ffs! They also mention @bbcr1  (an abbreviation they use nowhere else) sometimes on-air, but not all the time. Often they mention that station account and a DJ account together. There’s also now the introduction hashtags on air – be it for a breakfast feature or for something like #r1bw.

Giving out confusing Twitter usernames is the equivalent of giving all of your presenters different phone numbers or email addresses with different domains. It’s hard for listeners to understand and for people not on Twitter it’s irrelevant clutter that gets in the way of content that’s relevant for them.

Follower Counts

One of the biggest issues is an obsession with follower counts. If you’re a webmaster who gets annoyed at the amount of social network mentions compared to website mentions, i’ll tell you the answer – it’s all because with Facebook/Twitter presenters get to see a number increasing in the corner of their screen. They equate more ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ with success. Presenters crave feedback and this gives them it. It is, of course, irrelevant.

There is little accuracy to Facebook’s ‘like’ numbers and follower numbers are inflated too. Why not go through your Twitter account removing anyone that’s not a ‘real’ person – corporate accounts, spam etc. You’re hesitating aren’t you? Why, because you’re obsessed with having a high follower number! How many times have you seen “just ten more followers and I break 500, or 1,000” etc. Totally pointless metric.

The right things to measure are how many @replies have we had, how many retweets, how many click through – measure the engagement – that’s the true measure of your success.

Follow Me Pleading

“Hi, you can follow me on Twitter, i’m @somethingquitecomplicatedtodowithmyname”. Why? It’s the modern equivalent of hearing “give me a call” without giving a reason why. “Hi, you can follow me on Twitter, i’m @somethingquitecomplicatedtodowithmyname (not that it helps as you probably don’t know my name),  i’m quite needy and I can use my follower numbers to show people like me and replace the fact the PD hasn’t snooped me for a week and I had a slightly poor RAJAR”.

The vast majority of your listeners are not on Twitter. They don’t want to follow you. They can’t follow you. It slightly annoys them because you’re going on about something that they don’t use and can’t be involved in. Every time you mention it you exclude people. In fact, it annoys the people who already follow you, as you’re wasting their time with a link that’s irrelevant to them.

Your aim should be to signify to people on twitter that you’re on it and if they follow you they get a benefit – without annoying everyone else.

“Paul just tweeted @localdj asking for the new Take That song, it’s on next” is a great way to do it. You’ve told people your username, you’ve shown there’s value in getting in touch that way and it hasn’t cluttered the radio station.

Reaching Twitter Users on Twitter

The trap radio people fall into is that they think “Hey, we’ve got 200k listeners – if I talk about Twitter on there that’s the easiest way to get more followers!” whilst ignoring the massive number of people who aren’t interested. This slips into “oh, just one more mention” and on it goes. More clutter on the radio.

A much more efficient way of growing followers is to use the places that they’re more likely to be – Twitter.  Use other presenter of station accounts to retweet your messages and just write interesting messages that will be organically retweetable too! Also remember to follow people who @message you and the station during your show

Depending on how you’ve written your data protection rules, you can also use Twitter’s email checker to see if people who email you have a Twitter account that you can then follow. Just export all the email addresses of people who’ve been in touch to a fresh Gmail account – then just connect your Twitter account to it. It will tell you out of those people who’s got an account and away you go adding them.

Also make sure that the places people go to find you have links to your Twitter account – station websites and email newsletters as well as your Facebook page.

Twitter is about relationships not replicating broadcasting.

A few people just use Twitter to send messages out, never engaging with anyone. This is clearly a bad thing. But you probably don’t do that, do you? You send @replies and reply to listeners that message you, you’re all interactive, right?

How many of you follow back listeners? How many of you actually read the stream of tweets from your listeners that aren’t to do with your radio station? Do you independently get excited about what you’re listeners are up to? They follow you, but you don’t follow them – well, unless you follow them because you feel you have to.

If you can’t bear muggles infecting your feed create a list for ‘listeners’ – you can then read their tweets independently of your ‘real’ friends. But do it and engage with them. Congratulate them on births, commiserate on staying in and doing exams. They will be so impressed that you, that famous person, is interested in them, that you’ll have a listener for life.

Is it really you?

Punters want to follow presenters because they buy into them on-air and want that on-line and in their feed. If you are a personality presenter at the top of your game this is probably fine. You are probably mainly like your on-air persona, even if the volume is turned down a little bit in real life.

If your on-air persona is just that, and Twitter is the ‘real’ you then you have a problem. The reason the listener followed you is because of who you are on-air. If that’s smiley and breezy they’ll be surprised when they find out you mainly tweet about the government’s failings, back and forward in-jokes with the presenter on the station across town and plugs for your club nights. You need to deliver on your on-air promise – whether that’s a lie or not.

Station Accounts

One for the bosses – does your on-air team have a strong enough personality to justify a Twitter account each? You can almost justify the Radio 1 example at the beginning by saying that all their daytime jocks are big personalities and can sustain separate identities. Is it the same for, say, a small ILR? Do your listeners really know the name of the afternoon presenter? Is getting them to engage with a Twitter account for that person adding too many barriers to get a connection with a listener?

I believe that for the vast majority of people, they follow presenters as an extension of the radio show and station. If they disappeared off the radio, following them on Twitter wouldn’t be as interesting any more. For this reason, I think the majority of stations would do better with Twitter if they replaced their individual presenter accounts with that of a station one.

Also from a cynical business perspective, presenters are plugging their own accounts on your time, to your audience. Their growth in followers comes directly from them being on your  radio station. The numbers they amass and the relationship built can then be transferred to your competitor radio station.

When Chris Moyles finally disappears off Radio 1 to a new station, he’ll be giving 1 million Radio 1 fans reasons to switch radio stations.

The way around this is to let each presenter ‘host’ the station Twitter account during their show – but also at other times where it’s relevant. There’s no reason why the breakfast show team shouldn’t be tweeting about Eurovision at 8pm on a Saturday night.

The sell to presenters is that by using the main account they’ll be reaching more people and better improving their chances of growing audience -ie a follower who wants to hear about Breakfast will also find out about reasons to tune into the evening show.

Some people say that this isn’t the essence of Twitter – that brand accounts don’t match the authenticity of individuals. I disagree. Especially in radio, by combining the station’s brand values alongside individuals that live that brand, actually makes station accounts more compelling – and help to drive audience.

Return on Investment

As mentioned before, Twitter and Facebook are often enthusiastically used by presenters because it gives them instant feedback – but sometimes at the detriment of station’s own objectives.

Have a plan for how media is used. Don’t use Twitpics – work out a way to have those snaps go to a station website and link to that. Track all of your links so you can see what’s driving click thrus, measure which presenters are sending the most traffic and share the good practice amongst everyone.

Make sure that station key messages are used on Twitter too. If there’s a big breakfast promotion, tweet at different times in different ways talking about it. Radio followers are probably all P1s – there’s a great chance to increase hours by using Twitter properly.

Summary

Overall, Twitter is a great resource and platform to help grow audience and engagement. Remember though that the vast majority of your listeners probably don’t care. It’s not your job to evangelise Twitter to rejectors, it’s about finding ways to reach existing Twitter users with the right kind of content that helps grow your station and improve connection with your audience.