One Radio Industry

Here’s a statement in response to the publication of the Digital Radio Working Group’s report by the DRDB. My emphasis in bold.

The DRDB (Digital Radio Development Bureau), the BBC, RadioCentre (the industry body for commercial radio), and manufacturers’ trade body Intellect, have welcomed today’s report from the Digital Radio Working Group (DRWG) on the future of digital radio in the UK.

The report presents a set of measures which will drive radio towards a switch-over trigger point. The radio industry will work together to meet the report’s targets through an increased commitment to marketing, content and coverage. This will result in a stronger consumer proposition for digital radio.

DRDB Chief Executive, Tony Moretta, says: “Consumers, retailers and manufacturers continue to enjoy the benefits of DAB radio. Sales this year remain strong and we anticipate nearly a million radios will be bought this Christmas period. The report does much to confirm the radio industry’s confidence in digital radio and lays the groundwork for the move towards digital switch-over in the coming years.”

BBC Director of Audio & Music, Tim Davie, says: “We welcome the DRWG’s report. The BBC is committed to supporting DAB through distinctive digital services and extensive coverage, and will continue to work with the rest of the radio industry in driving digital listening.”

Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive of RadioCentre says: “Clarity about digital radio is critical for Commercial Radio’s future. We’re delighted now to have an aligned plan along with other DRWG stakeholders. RadioCentre is fully committed to working with the industry to make that plan happen. The DRWG has done excellent work over the last 12 months in finding the best way to achieve this. We hope the recommendations in the report will be accepted by Government and will be reflected in their Digital Britain report next year.”

Intellect, the electronics manufacturers’ trade body, joins the DRDB and its stakeholders in welcoming the report. Director of Consumer Electronics Laurence Harrison says: “We believe the future of radio is digital and fully support the recommendations in the report. We think the collaborative approach that the government has taken in the Digital Radio Working Group is the right one. With nearly nine million DAB sets expected to be in homes by the end of 2008, increasing listening figures and a variety of exciting new products coming to market, digital radio is set to go from strength to strength.”

Journalism Fail

Newspapers are mental. After two years (yes, it’s been that long) of media-related ‘scandals’ about vote rigging or Manuel-gate, I think we’ve reached a new low. No, not of broadcast media’s decline in standards but in the barrel-scraping of our print friends.

In the last 24 hours, The Telegraph, The Metro, The Mail, The Sun, and the Birmingham Post amongst others have all reported on the ‘story’ of some DJs on Burn FM in Birmingham having a joke and stating, incorrectly of course, during some, no doubt, hilarious DJ banter, that Des O’Connor’s daughter has acted in pornographic films.

Burn FM, of course, isn’t really on FM and is actually an internet streaming station. My spies tell me that there were only 28 people tuned in on the internet listening at the time of the incident.

So, a load of newspapers, combined circulation of millions have highlighted a silly prank that virtually no one listened to and brought it to a much wider audience, causing, I imagine,  much more distress to the daughter and the national treasure.

The mock shock of the papers (and their gleeful desire to repeat the details) is much worse than the behaviour of some over-excited student DJs.

New Capital 95.8 Website

New Capital Website

Interesting to see the new Capital 95.8 website go live this evening.

Whilst it is using roughly the same structure of the previous sites (and the new One Network sites), it’s had a wash and brush up, and at least works in Firefox properly for the first time!

Now, radio websites are, by and large, bloody awful. It something that strangely inflicts stations from all over the world. After you get over the ususal horific design, the main problem is badly updated content and terrible copy writing. It’s always amazed me that radio can be incredibly talented at getting the right sound on-air, with presenters on message, and music and production that work, clearly targeting an audience, but they somehow abandon all of this when creating a website.

GCap, however, have done a good job with the latest roll-out of sites and I believe this is also likely to just be an interim version before there’s a full re-tooling later in the year. With lots of staff involved with the sites, I think they they clearly lead UK commmercial radio’s online presence.

One thing the sites still haven’t managed though, is adopting evolving internet practices, something users will be used to when using other sites. What particularly grates is the abysmal blogging system that MediaSpan (who currently provide the backend) provide. If you have a look at this, you can see that it barely looks like a blog. There’s no room for per post comments, you can’t link to a specific post and there’s no use of trackbacks. Really this means it’s not a blooming blog and the station loses out on all the benefits of being a part of the blogosphere. It’s the comments, linking and trackbacks that will generate more page impressions and more ad money. I also can’t stand the URL structure, all this Article.asp?id=450638&page=2 nonsense is rubbish, some plain english URLs would make users more comfortatble navigating the content.

Edited to add the words UK commercial above.

Barcelona for NAB

Radio Barcelona

Me and Greg, and a big chunk of the radio industry have all disappeared off to Barceona for the NAB Europe conference.

We arrived here a few days early for some meetings and a bit of sightseeing. I’ve never been to Barcelona before, but it’s a great City and best of all, it’s still warm!

We met up with Josep Torra who’s one of the partners in Barcelona Virtual. They’re an internet marketing company but are doing some interesting things for the clients in Second Life. This week they hosted a virtual party for Spanish fans of Heroes to promote the launch of the Season 1 DVD. Josep showed us around the island they had created and played us some of the videos from the party itself. What was interesting is that the company had created an island that could easily be re-dressed for different events – something not disimilar from the real world.

Radio Barcelona

We also popped into Radio Barcelona, who, a bit like GCap in London, operate a number of radio stations from one building. The above picture shows the control room, around which are all the studios for the different services. It was quite nice to see all the stations broadcasting feet from each other.

Same Old, Same Old?

The UK radio industry is dominated by four groups – the BBC, GCap, EMAP and Global Radio. They’ve got the highest distribution of scarce spectrum and (for the commercial ones) a hold on most of the ad revenue. They also have, I suppose quite naturally, a disproportionate influence on government, regulators etc as they make up a big part of the ‘industry’.

This means that when the ‘industry’ catches a bit of a cold, everyone’s tarred with the same brush. Just because the BBC is downsizing, GCap is restructuring, EMAP is being sold and Global have new management that needs time to think about what they’re going to do, we end up with ‘radio in trouble’ headlines. When, in fact, lots of other people are having a good time. GMG‘s rolling out a new brand and has great support from their parent company, TLRC are increasing audience and revenue and Town and Country have amazingly strong audiences and is expanding into new areas.

And that’s just the traditional ‘radio’ companies. Lots of other people from other sectors are excited about getting into radio whether that’s Channel 4 launching three big national stations or a Polish group who’ve just gone on-air in London on DAB. My firm, Folder Media, is working with lots of different existing operators about digital expansion and they’re all quite excited – no doom and gloom there.

Now i’m not saying that the big groups are rubbish, far from it. I think they’re producing some excellent content both on-air and on-line and that listeners have never had it so good from them. Their businesses though are still struggling to evolve fast enough in the face of rapid consumer change and that’s what’s causing some pain (as the largest heritage operators they’re of course affected the most). However, I don’t think the rest of us should be that worried. Well, we certainly shouldn’t be worried about them. Their job is to change or die. And if they were to die, well that’s a shame, but there’s more than enough interest to cover what they’re already doing and drive it forward.

I think one of the issues with the larger operators is that they haven’t been through much recent creative renewal. The people at the top are, generally, the same people who were there over ten years ago, many even longer. That was in an age that was pre-digital, pre-internet, pre-multi-channel and really, pre-competition.

Indeed, today, part of me sighed a little when it was announced that David Mansfield is to become Chair of RAJAR (the radio listening figures body). Now, David’s hugely knowledgeable about the radio industry and TV too. He knows what it’s like to be a radio operator and has a strong understanding of the advertising world as well. But part of me thinks that that’s just not good enough any more. The route RAJAR’s going down, with more electronic measurement and multi-platform analysis is going to cause a lot of trouble. You can’t after all change the methodology and just expect the results to stay the same. It’s going to drive advertisers and stations absolutely bonkers. And good. The media world’s changing much faster than any one in it would like. The result is that the old-schoolers hold up change, slow it down, make it not so revolutionary. Great for the short-term and absolutely rubbish for the long-term. Whilst radio is arguing about how to combine pagers and diaries, online is steaming ahead with excellent metrics across all demographics. Maybe David can straddle this challenge, but maybe the Chair could have been someone more revolutionary who doesn’t really care about the old ways and is more interested in the best ways, for the future.

I feel a bit mean picking on RAJAR and David Mansfield. I think you could substitute them both for many companies (and individuals) that make up the old radio industry. If the people running the big radio companies can’t keep up with their consumers is it time for them all to move on?

Radio Meta Data

News is breaking that many HD radio stations in the US are installing special technology that links the song being played with the iTunes store so you can buy what you hear. There are some who think that its giving a little too much away to Apple who are already, if you haven’t noticed, a little dominant in this area.

Here in the UK, there’s a service about to launch called Cliq. Cliq sucks playlist data from radio stations and then allows JAVA or DAB enabled phones to download the songs for a small fee. I guess the difference is that Cliq themselves have built some value-added technology on top of the radio stations and selected hardware. Whereas the HD example above seems to have hard-wired the system into the newest iteration of HD itself.

I’m not sure how beneficial it is to ‘lock’ something as potentially valuable as content downloads at the device level down to one platform. What happens if people stop liking iTunes, or it gets discontinued (cf Virgin’s Download service)? I’m not saying this will happen, but surely it would have been more sensible for stations to provide ‘now playing’ data through an API and then allow a variety of hardware/software manufacturers to be able to hook into that?

This would have still allowed HD Radio to say “download music at the touch of a button” but allowed consumers to choose the music store that they like to use, whether that’s iTunes or not.

Over Catering for Your Listeners

In America they’ve changed the way that they measure the number of people tuning into a radio station. Like the UK they’ve been using a diary system, this is where listeners tick a box for each quarter hour of a station that they’re listening to. It’s not exactly scientific, but at least everyone has the same system. Except, it doesn’t really work like that. As the diary is measured on recall, after the fact, it’s maybe not exactly accurate. ‘Heritage’ stations tend to better, as people can remember them; smaller stations, especially ones that people flick onto when they’re not happy with their main station don’t tend to get recalled so their listening isn’t measured so well. Hence the reason that a lot of stations constantly repeat their names – they’re just reminding the diary holders what to tick. There’s also lot of other pros and cons about diaries, but maybe that’s for another post.

Well, in some US markets they’ve changed to something called PPM, basically it’s a little pager device that you carry that listens to what you listen to, it’s therefore thought by some to be much more accurate. Nothing’s ever going to be 100%, but one thing it does do is give you more information, like ratings by the minute, and it delivers it quicker back to the stations.

There’s some interesting new learning that’s coming from PPM, one is that a smaller number of listeners than previously thought provides a disproportionate amount of a station’s hours. Therefore keeping these super-P1s interested is going to become even more important for every station.

What reminded to write about this, was watching Radio 1’s 40-year anniversary show today. I say, watch, because they’re streaming today live in vision, with the audio from the radio station. Throughout the day lots of old DJs are popping in and co-presenting shows so they’ve decided it’s worth going video for the day. It’s also more than a streaming webcam, they’ve got three fixed cameras, but there’s also a vision mixer cutting between the three and occasionally popping up titles for guests etc. It’s surprisingly compelling and not just because i’m a radio geek.

Whether the presenters are dancing along to a song, giving a little wink when they say something or giving evils to their producer it really makes you interested in watching. I’m typing this whilst a record is on, and then stopping to look at them when they’re chatting in a link. Radio is, of course, excellent as wallpaper letting you do something else while it’s on, but sometimes people don’t want to just to hear they want to be a bit more engaged and to properly listen. Anything, like this TV streaming, that can satisfy their consumption desires is a good thing. Especially for the station which will benefit from their listening hours.

It’s also the type of thing that will really help stations in this new PPM world, by catering for the desires of the core audience, the extension of their listening will drive total hours. This, and other web-based things, are also good because they don’t exclude the P2s or other listeners who occasionally stop by for other reasons as it doesn’t clutter the station with unnecessary speech and promos.

If you only had to worry about your core audience, what would you change at your station?

How Passionate Are Your Listeners, Users and Consumers?

If you’re an early Chris Moyles listener, you’ll know that they have an opening song every morning. One of their listeners has created an aninmation to match it and has put it on YouTube…

It’s a great example of an enthusiastic consumer deeply interacting with what an organisation does. It works as great marketing because it’s high quality and independent. A third-party endorsement of this type is surely the best around? It shows new listeners that someone cares about the product so much that they’ve produced something of their own to support it. The internet then fans the flames to promote it further – being searchable, embeddable and accessible it can be easily found by others.

The show itself also encourages third parties to make things. It mentioned this video on-air, it put it on the blog, in a post that encourages others to do the same. Also, probably more importantly it created some content that was easily remixable in the first place – the song itself.

If you’re keen to get more people to appreciate what you do, do you do enough to help them interact with your content and then highlight their work?