Visualising (Student) Radio

Generally the people that do visualised radio are the larger radio stations – whether that’s Radio 1 and the Moyles record attempt, Capital’s interviews or Kiss’s new Breakfast takeaway. I was interested, though, to hear about a student radio visualised attempt – The Josh and Kenny Show.

I thought it was really good.

They’ve created a two-hour special that attempts to work on the radio and on video too. You can watch it below:

There’s quite a few clever things they’ve done.

Firstly – the music. Always a rights issue. On the radio (and live streaming) it’s fine – that’s covered by standard agreements. On-demand it’s much more difficult. They’ve got round it by creating a YouTube playlist consisting of their content bits and then adding in the relevant songs. The segues aren’t super-smooth, but it’s a great way to do it and a good creative solution to a problem.

2nd – visual quality. It’s shot really well. Fixed-camera for studio bits, multi-camera for packages and some hidden-camera elements as well.

3rd – ideas. There’s lots of different ideas in there, that do (mainly) work well visually and audibly. Plus if you were listening there’s enough to encourage you to tune into a video stream, without putting you off. The feature ideas are really well put together, there’s things that are funny, embarrassing and clever. This is a programme with real prep put into it – and it shows.

4th – presenting style. Student radio shows with two boys are nearly universally awful. It comes from having two people who sound the same with ill-defined characters laughing at each others jokes. This does not suffer from that problem. The two hosts have particular personalities that are recognisable by a new viewer/listener and engaging to consume.

5th – effort. Overall they’ve really thought about this and executed it well.

Downsides – there aren’t many – I think some of the links are perhaps a little over-long and some of the bits work better on the telly than the radio – but these are minor gripes – it’s a great effort.

Clearly the guys are inspired by some of the YouTubers out there who are making great creative material and also people like Adam & Joe. The conceit of a radio show format gives it the structure to deliver the programme. There’s probably a question about whether it needs to be on the radio and whether it could just live online as video. It would be interesting to see it evolve to include more radio-like elements.

Overall though, I would much rather have this creativity (in part) on the radio, than not at all.

If the guys are reading this, it would be great if they could leave a comment about how they put it all together.


Student Radio Awards 2009

A quick post – no, really.

Just got back from the Student Radio Awards, a really lovely night. Well organised by the SRA Exec and well supported by the BBC and Global Radio. It’s not easy to put on an event for 700 people at the Indigo2 but they all did a wonderful job.

It’s 11 years, ugh, since my first awards and i’ve gone from being a new station member to winner to organiser to industry bod to judging helper. Tonight was a good reminder why I take part, and that it’s somewhat of a booster. It’s nice to be in a positive environment where people are striving for success and to be better. And it’s good that there’s a cermony to reward that.

I’m also pleased that it’s quite a collaborative effort. Helen, Chris and a bit of me arranged over 70 judges to trawl through the nearly 500 entrants – and they were all really pleased to be involved. In fact we couldn’t cope with all of those who wanted to be a judge. Especially as judges don’t do it for status – as there is none (!) they do it because they want to – and I think that’s the best reason of all.

There were lots of lovely moments tonight, I thought one of the best was Zoe Ball talking about and then presenting the Kevin Greening award for creativity. I knew Kevin a little and he ended up reflecting what much of the awards are about in his own personality – nice, charming, fun and creative.

It was nice that he still has a presence in some awards that really reflect his values.

It was also great to talk/talk at the students. Passionate people who, in some tough radio times, we need to think more about to ensure that we have an industry that has a vibrant future.

Student Radio and DAB

I had a really nice time at the Student Radio Conference in Bath last week. I was ostensibly there to chair a panel on future radio stuff, the natterly titled (by me) “is radio’s digital future the same as student radio’s digital future”. Alongside me was Ofcom’s Will Jackson, GCap’s Nick Piggott and’s Ben Perreau and about 60 students turned up to hear us babble on about the future.

It was a great session, not just because of the excellent speakers, but because of a really great bunch of questions. I think student radio is the first part of the industry to really grapple with its broadcasting future. Historically they’re been stuck on increasingly crappy platforms, either full-time low-powered AM and/or two months a year on FM. However, their audience is one of the most fleet of foot and now with most halls of residence LAN’d up – they probably have the highest internet penetration of any radio station.

Indeed much of the talks centred on the need for student radio to really grapple with the internet and build sites and services that put the internet at the heart of what they do. Nick did a great speech on harnessing Web2.0 but touched on the paradox that commercial radio faces, that the internet is great up to a certain point, but the bigger your audience gets the more it becomes cost-effective to have a broadcast platform (at least in addition to the internet).

In my speech, unsurprisingly, I talked about DAB and acknowledging that while full-time broadcasting would probably be outside of a student station’s budget, that the new podcast-over-DAB-style technologies that are coming later this year would provide some good broadcast opportunities. Looking back though, I think I fell into the ‘thinking inside the box’ trap by dismissing full-time DAB broadcast as a potential opportunity.

During the conference I caught up with some people from Xpress Radio in Cardiff, who managed to negotiate to get their FM RSL simulcast on DAB across Cardiff and Newport. They sounded genuinely chuffed about the response they got from listeners and how it really moved the perception of their station forward. In fact pretty much most stations said they would like to be on DAB, but ruled it out instantly because of cost.

Speaking to another station later we were talking a bit more about DAB and costs and then came to the conclusion it was actually, potentially doable to bring a station full-time to DAB.

Let’s look at the numbers. I think capacity for a full-time 64kbit/s station could be had for around £35k in most areas. This work out at just under £3k a month. Now, based on my student radio experiences I don’t think £3k/month is totally unachievable to raise from advertising/sponsorship. Indeed, let’s think about targeting just one advertiser, perhaps a big local employer, who’s keen to target graduates. In Nottingham, for example, this might be someone like Experian.

Lets say that for £3k/month Experian got total station sponsorship at three mentions an hour “URN with Experian” , some changing ads that talk about the company, alongside some web banners and connected events. But as well as reaching the University of Nottingham students they would also be reaching lots of similarly aged people (but maybe not graduates) across the whole of Nottinghamshire tuning in on DAB. URN’s a good student station, a good listen and in area that doesn’t really have a local youth radio station. I think it would pick up quite an audience.

I think £35k (over a year) would turn out to be an incredibly cheap way for someone like Experian to reach a specific audience and in the process URN gets county-wide digital coverage.

Now, naturally, there are some issues to overcome. You need someone good to ‘sell’ the idea to advertisers and you need to work out the relationship between the advertiser and the programming of the radio station. Indeed I think it would mean the station would really have to work out how to protect itself from changing their programming to appeal to advertisers.

Some people might argue that student stations, especially with the high internet penetration don’t need to be on DAB. That actually the platforms they’ve got are fine for what they are. Maybe. I remember when I worked in student radio I was just pleased when people listened. Being on DAB (or any other platforms) would bring the station to more students and more interested people across the local area. In fact, I think it would be a great thing for radio diversity if the local student station was available across the local area on an easily tune-in-able way.

So, how about a challenge? I’ve got six multiplexes launching and I’ve got relationships with most of the other multiplex operators too. If there’s a student station who’s up for having a go and raising the money to get them on DAB, they’re more than welcome to come and spend some time with us at Folder and we’ll help them raise the money and get on a relevant local multiplex. Any takers?

Student Radio Awards Judging

Student Radio Awards

For the last few years i’ve had a hand in judging the Student Radio Awards and i’ve just judged the first round of one of this year’s categories. Student Radio’s very important to me, it’s the reason I managed to get my foot in the door and I always try and help it if I can.

The Awards are very good too. The picture above is the award I won with my Insanity colleagues back in 1999. The gong has pride of place in my Mum’s hall. In fact, when I grabbed it to snap the picture this weekend (with her attractive cushion in the back), Mum sounded a little worried that i’d be taking it back to London. Bless.

Anyway, normally i’ve judged categories like Marketing and New Media, but this year they’ve let me loose on a presenter-led category (I don’t think we’re supposed to say which ones, in case we are influenced…). Each category has two rounds of judging, the first round to do the shortlist and the final round to do the winner. I’m a mere first round judge this year, but completed the task with my good mate R.

It’s quite fun to go through the entries (each with some audio and some written work) and it’s amazing the varying quality you get to hear. It is a bit of a slog though, we had 25 entries to go through, listening, reading and making notes. Last night we then compared our views to come up with the final five/six. The majority we’d both picked and then with the remaining ones we both had in our ‘maybe’ list we argued until we got the final couple sorted.

Having done all this, my top tips for entrants next year (and actually for anyone doing demo tapes etc) is:
1. If you’re a double act, make sure pretty quickly it’s obvious who’s entering – saying your name is a good start
2. Don’t include stuff where you and your co-host are talking over each other
3. Don’t read directly something out of the paper.
4. If you slag off the music your audience will always think “well why is he playing it then?”
5. Don’t include links where you make mistakes/fluff your words/speak over vocals etc
6. Include different types of links – not just ‘we’re all having a laugh’ stuff.
7. Presentation matters. Make sure the CD/docs are neat and professional – it makes the judge think your professional too.
8. Make sure your CD plays when you put it in a CD player.
9. Sound confident – you’re the presenter after all!
10. Remember you’re doing a show for the listeners not for each other.

Good luck to everyone who entered, I believe the shortlist is out on the 10th October and the Awards itself is on the 15th November.