RAJAR Q1/2015

60 and 40.

To me this RAJAR is all about what the 60 and 40 are doing to existing radio stations. Established stations are seeing the sand underneath them shift and change. It’s because of the 60 and 40

60% of radio listeners listen to some form of digital radio each week. This digital listening now accounts for nearly 40% of all radio consumed in the country.

That means a large proportion of the UK are using different devices to consume audio. This is making them consume more radio stations and change their old habits.

It’s not about which platform is best, it’s about technology enabling consumers to have a better listening experience. They are using everything at their finger tips, whether rotary dial, touchscreen or mouse to give them something a little more than they had in the past. To better scratch an itch. Or even find a new radio home.

Existing stations are definitely not going away, but they’re changing or having change thrust upon them. Oh, and¬†that’s even before we think about whether their programming is right and they’re firing on all cylinders.


In London, Kiss has maintained much of its audience growth with reach at 1,883 (vs 1,911 in Q4) and share at 4.6% (vs 4.8%). It’s also kept ahead of Capital which has had a stinker of a book, indeed it’s worst share ever at 3.8%

Kiss is now bigger at Breakfast whether you look at their own breakfast time-slot (6am to 9am) or Capital’s (6am to 10am)

Magic leads London’s commercial stations with a 4.9% share, LBC at 2 with 4.7%, Heart at 3 with 4.7%, Kiss are 4th with 4.6% and Capital 5th at 3.8%. A brilliant book for the yo-yoing in London Absolute Radio who are 6th with a 3.2% share.

In Global’s stable, Smooth has fallen back a little to 627k reach. Up year on year, but down on the last three books (781, 742, 760). A poor hours result for them too at 3,709m.

Capital Xtra still hasn’t found an audience in the capital, sliding further to 310k reach and its sister station XFM down to a disappointing 362k.

In the capital, digital-only station 6Music’a pulling in 612k reach and in the capital alone, Kisstory’s at 453k. AM and DAB’s¬†Gold’s at 262k whilst digital-only Absolute 80s is nipping at their heals at 255k.


It’s the same story nationally. With digital-only stations pulling in better numbers than those that have a dual analogue and digital footprint.

The XFM network’s slumped to 884k reach, now beaten by digital-only Kerrang at 919k and now way behind 6Music’s 2,064m.

The rumours of taking the spectrum that XFM sits on and combining it with Moyles suddenly seems a very valid idea, whether or not they still continue to call it XFM.

Absolute 80s 1.4m reach plays against Gold’s 1.0m and 1Xtra 838k is neck and neck with Capital Xtra’s 840k.

This is the first book measuring Magic nationwide as it’s now on DAB across the UK and it seems to have been great for them – pulling in 3.6m across the country. If we take away their London reach of 1.9m, that leaves them with 1.7m tuning in digitally outside the capital – an amazing success in a single quarter.

If we look at¬†the Kiss reach in its FM areas it’s about 2.7m, take it away from the UK figure of 4.9m – that’s 2.9m people listening to the brand on digital. Again – a stunning result. It’s sister station Kisstory continues to perform well with 1.1m listeners.

Bauer’s¬†Kiss network (the Kisses, Kisstory, Kiss Fresh and, oddly, Heat and Kerrang) total 6.1m listeners compared to the Capital network’s 7m. It’s amazing to think that Bauer can get to that figure without the need for anywhere as many FM stations as Capital and just use digital capacity instead.

With the successes the digital-only stations are making Рwhat does it mean for the valuation of FM licences? Whilst obviously nice to have, they are clearly no longer essential to generating large audiences.

Radio 1 will be disappointed as its reach drops below the psychological 10m mark to 9.69m – it’s lowest reach in a decade. It’s also now at, what I think, is its lowest share ever – 6.4%. Sadly it hasn’t had much of an effect on it’s average age either, which remains at 34.

Local Radio

There’s double-digital drops in reach and hours for much of Bauer’s 2 network. With results like Metro 2 (hours down 44%), Key 2 (hours down 59%), Radio City 2 (hours down 42%), it’s going to be a while before the local network sell of 1, 2 and 3 will help relieve the inventory pressure of their main heritage FM station. Those mammoth Bauer ad-breaks won’t be going anywhere soon.

Capital South Wales continues to be the black sheep of that family, with hours now at 827k Рa third of what they were in the Red Dragon years.


Radio stations seem to fall into three groups now. Firstly there’s the stations that are doing nothing. They remain on AM and FM with little investment into anything digital (The Breeze, Touch FM). There’s then the stations that are replicating their existing brand on some digital platforms (XFM, Key 2). And then there’s those who are taking what they’re doing and pushing it out to more places and on more platforms (Kiss, Magic, LBC).

The third group are on the offence and they’re using the changes in listener behaviour to eat away at the audience the other two groups have. Doing nothing means that you have to work harder and be more successful in a shrinking analogue pond and doing just a bit? Well, I’m not sure it’s going to be enough either.


RAJAR Q4/2014

Capital is no longer London’s Number 1 Hit Music Station.

Well done to Andy Roberts from Kiss who has finally managed to beat Capital on reach, hours and share.

Kiss has often been number one for different demos and every so often for hours, but looking at the past ten years it has beaten it on reach only once. This quarter though its the first time they’ve beaten it on both measures (1,911 vs 1,869 in reach and 9,965m vs 8,509m in hours). RAJAR bonuses all round!

The trick of course is whether it can be a sustained or if it’s just a one off.


I’m a CHR fan. I love tight, music-driven radio. And though I’m out of the demo, I hope that I can still hear¬†through the ears¬†of a young ‘un. I think one of the issues Capital faces is that the product’s just a bit dull.

Historically being tight makes CHR a winner. I think that’s changing. With youth audiences we have cleared out a lot of listeners who just want the hits to Spotify/Music TV et al.¬†I think this leaves us with a bunch of people who don’t mind a little non-music entertainment and that’s where Kiss is winning. It’s still tight but at least there’s some personality.

Case in point is poor Marvin off of JLS. He’s a good signing for Capital. He’s an ex-popstar, he’s married to a popstar and he presents the biggest show on Saturday nights with The Voice. He’s mates with the stars (or could appear to be) but you would never know any of this by listening to his show.

I¬†had it on the other week and it was such a missed opportunity, have a listen below. He spoke for less than 6minutes over three hours. I think he jocks it well, but there’s just nothing there. The Hits, Kiss and R1 are streets¬†ahead.

That’s not to say Global have lost their touch. Smooth and Heart are doing storming business.


As I mentioned last time round, Heart London’s bad book was¬†probably more down to Summer holidays than anything else. Well, whatever it was, Heart’s now gone number 1 in London for share – with a stonking 6.3%.

Looking at the new Hearts around the country (the old ex-Real Radios) they’re doing incredibly well too. Heart North East’s got the best reach and hours for three years, Heart North West’s got the best reach for 3 years and best hours for 5 and Heart Yorkshire’s got the best reach for at least 10 years.

The overall transition is a great success resulting in a best ever reach and hours for the network.


Smooth’s not too shabby either. In London Smooth was hovering in the 400s for reach, it’s now had three books in a row in the 700s. It’s getting solid 2 shares since the re-launch, something it previously only managed back in Q2/2006. The North West did well under the old regime, but under the new it’s gone up a gear, delivering 1.1m reach and 8.1m hours.

The network as a whole has hit an all time record reach at 4.7m people and record hours of 38.5m


Digital Radio UK have sent me their latest update on digital radio. Lots of positives:

  • DAB listening share has increased by 6% year on year (3% quarter on quarter) and now represents over a quarter of all radio listening (25.2%) and over 30% in home (30.3%).
  • DAB listening in car grew by 29% year on year and total digital reach in car is now 7.6 million people per week.
  • 48.9% of the population or 26 million adults now have access to a DAB digital radio, up 7% year on year.
  • Analogue radio listening is at its lowest ever level; 56.2% nationally and below 50% in London and the North West regions.
  • Digital radio listening in home (46.2%) has overtaken analogue listening (45.6%) for the first time.
  • Over half of the population (52%) or nearly 28 million people now listen to radio on a digital platform every week.

I think in-home listening being majority digital is a big shift.¬†If you’re not on DAB your available audience is just shrinking so fast its probably impossible to counter.

We’ve also definitely passed ‘peak digital TV’ it’s dropping quite significantly now, down 11% year on year.

I also think internet radio listening is massively disappointing. It’s increased at the same rate as DAB – 6%, but from a much lower base. This is at a time when listening to the radio through the internet has never been more accessible – high broadband penetration, 3G and 4G, smartphones, apps, infinite choice, higher quality – but it’s just not something that’s capturing people’s imagination. I don’t know why this is.

Internet radio and specifically app based listening gets the most platform plugs on any radio station and especially on station websites. But it’s not generating the explosion you would expect. As an industry, we should be lucky that we’re not relying on internet radio to be our only future. If we were we’d be stuffed!

It’s not just here in the UK. In the US, growth of internet streaming for regular¬†radio stations has massively slowed down too. Over there, it’s the pure-plays like Pandora that are¬†still seeing good growth. We’re lucky that we don’t have those sorts of competitors over here, if we did I think we’d be over the moon with our 6% growth.

If you want me to mention your RAJAR successes make sure you send me your press release.

Some other RAJAR thoughts:

Bidding for the Next National Multiplex

We’ve just announced our¬†involvement in bidding for the new national digital radio multiplex. I wanted to write a little history of how we got there.¬†There’s lots of people involved in the application – this is just my personal take, it’s not the¬†corporate line.

I’m very lucky to do the job I do. I’m a fan of radio and digital media and through our company, Folder Media, I’m able to explore many different ideas. We’re a small team but everyone has lots of different skills which means we can make a decent go at the things we put out minds to.

When we set up Folder it was to bid for some local digital radio multiplexes. It’s one of the things that we previously did for GWR/GCap. We were pretty good at it. We learned to combine the benefits of being part of a big group, creative ideas for digital radio and relationships with different organisations into winning bids. We were successful, but not incredibly happy. We thought that there were lots of new opportunities out there but as part of a big company we couldn’t do exactly what we wanted. We decided to therefore have a go at this bidding business on our own.

At that point (2007) DAB was going in the right direction, but not everyone was involved. The costs were too high for the smaller radio groups. We created MuxCo as a vehicle where the smaller radio groups were able to get involved, knowing that the larger groups would begrudgingly tag along. We were also keen to do transmission and management in a different way so we worked with National Grid Wireless, the competitor to NTL/Arqiva. They were hungry for the business, as were we!

So, how did it go? Well, we won 9 of the 13 multiplexes we went for, though our transmission partner changed to Arqiva as they had bought National Grid Wireless. But we had to pause our launches a little as the BBC and Commercial Radio were only keen to commit to roll-out when there was some policy statements and funding from the Government.

In the meantime we had the opportunity to acquire Fun Radio from Global who were keen to reduce their portfolio of radio stations. Initially we saw it as a shop window – the ability to run a radio station in a different way to demonstrate our skills to consultancy clients and also potential multiplex clients. A strange thing happened though. The station kept building and building.

I’ve learned more about the modern media world through Fun Kids than anything else I’ve ever done. We’re over the moon that it’s able to support itself whilst expanding each year. It really is a truly multi-platform business. The broadcast radio side is the business’s bedrock for audience and revenue. It’s supplemented by the streaming and the website (along with YouTube and Podcasting). In fact the online output is now a key product in its own right as we do over a million page views a month and hundreds of thousands of audio downloads and video plays.

Its main success however comes from DAB Digital Radio. Without it there’s absolutely no way it would still be in existence. Our London coverage and the high degree of DAB take up means we have a business of a certain scale that can be supported by advertisers.

It’s one of the reason I’m such a digital radio fan. I’ve seen first hand how a new radio product can delight listeners whilst creating a sustainable business for a new entrant. It takes a lot of work too of course. And a great deal of luck. But it’s all built on DAB.

It’s also why, with MuxCo now on-air in eight of our nine multiplex areas, that I’m proud we’re able to work out ways to broadcast a whole cross-section of stations. We have new entrants like Trash Can Radio, community stations like Pulse in Somerset, smaller commercial stations like Sunshine Radio, the BBC locals as well as stations like Heart, Smooth and Capital from big groups like Global.

Providing a platform for a variety of stations at a local level is great, but we’ve also been keen to see if it’s something that can do on a national level too. As such we’ve spent the last two years looking at different ways of doing a national multiplex and earlier today our work (and the work of many others) was able to see the light of day.

DAB is in good shape at the moment. 18million people listen to it each week and it accounts for around 25% of all listening. I think it’s important for the radio industry that DAB’s successful because the stations it provides, the ease of tuning and interference free reception means people get to like radio more. It helps the sector by giving listeners a good experience of our medium – it literally makes them happier customers. It also generates the scale of listening that means companies are able to invest in content – presenters, shows etc.

I think it’s great that those stations are then on DAB, Digital TV and the Internet. Really I don’t mind how people tune in – a pair of ears is a pair of ears – but I know that if they weren’t on¬†DAB, the lack of scale DTV and the Internet have¬†means none of them, that’s none of them, would be able to afford any real investment in programming and that would mean a poorer experience for listeners, and for radio as a medium.

The 18m people who listen digitally do so because it offers them a benefit – it might be a better radio, it might be more choice. That’s 18m people who would be less satisfied if it wasn’t there. I’m keen that we grow that 18m further. I want more listeners to get more enjoyment out of the radio with more things that are relevant to them.

The share of listening DAB gets (25%) is also a good measure. The more time people spend with their digital stations is a good proxy for satisfaction. If it stays flat it just means the new stations are competing with other. If it grows it means that more people have greater engagement.

We know that certain stations attract people to digital radio. 6Music, Planet Rock etc provide new reasons to tune in. Content-led reasons. I think many of the ‘Extra’ stations and spin-offs play to the established crowd, they’re mainly good for people who understand them and are already digital listeners. I know Smooth Extra will add more hours to Global Radio’s group total but is it distinctive enough to bring new people to digital radio?

It’s something that’s driven a lot of our thinking in the Listen2Digital bid. We’re going to broadcast 18 radio stations. Which is a lot. We’ve tried to create a line-up that has some mainstream formats and some specialist formats. The mainstream formats should provide alternatives to existing stations with solid programming teams and a varied output – definitely not jukeboxes. Our specialist stations are there to scratch individual itches. Whether it’s the Christian and Asian stations or RTE and Gaydio, we think these are stations that speak to significant audiences who rarely have a radio home that reflects their community and culture. Other specialist stations speak to particular music fans whether that’s jazz or country.

From a Folder Media point of view we’re excited that our two radio brands – Fun Kids and Upload Radio – will have a national home. The way that we’ve been able to set up Listen2Digital has created a cost-structure that allows us to broadcast these stations nationally. Up until now we would not have been able to do that – and stay solvent! I know that this structure has enabled many other stations on our bid to do the same.

Part of the reason we’ve been able to keep the costs down is that we’re predominantly using a different transmission company. Rather than using¬†Arqiva we’re opting for¬†Babcock International. They’re a huge engineering company who do a massive amount of broadcasting, looking after much of the military’s communications in the UK and also broadcasting the BBC World Service to hundreds of millions of listeners around the world. However, we’re unable to do it all without Arqiva, we’ll still be broadcasting the multiplex from their big sites.

I’m particularly excited that we’re broadcasting four stations in the new flavour of DAB, DAB+. From our Fun Kids DAB+ trial earlier in the year we discovered a large audience that was able to pick the station up on in-car radios as well as many home sets. It made us realise that we’re entering a phase where the number of DAB+ receivers starts to make commercial sense for broadcasters. But these things are always chicken and egg – you just need to get going with it! We’ve therefore come up with a way to support four stations in DAB+ in the early days to break that chicken and egg cycle. They’re also specialist stations that can really shout about what you need to receive their services in DAB+ – Gaydio, Chris Country and RTE Radio 1. Oh, and Upload Radio.

Upload Radio has been a big project for the Folder Media team. We’ve been building a system that will let anyone create a programme, buy a one hour slot, and have their show broadcast on DAB digital radio, online and mobile with listen again for 30 days. The local version is going to roll out later this year and then hopefully it will be nationwide on DAB+ if we win this bid.

It would be great to be able to paint our competitor for D2 as rubbish and terrible. But that’s not the case. We work closely with people at Bauer, UTV and Arqiva all the time. They’re diligent, committed and have some great ideas. If they win the multiplex their line-up will be a fine addition to digital radio in the UK.

However, we’re still pleased that we’ve done something different. We think there’ll be value for the whole radio industry in having these new stations from our new operators. DAB has great scale, there’s never been a better opportunity for new stations to make a success of it. The fact they’re not from big radio groups and that success is so important for them will mean they will work harder and shout louder to ensure their businesses do well. I’m as excited about their enthusiasm as I am about their radio stations.

I also think it’s time that a new multiplex operator is added to the fray. At the moment if you want to broadcast nationwide you have a couple of options. Option 1 you can broadcast on Digital One – which is owned by Arqiva. Option 2 is you can broadcast to a selection of local multiplexes. Right now Arqiva, UTV and Bauer control over 80% of the local¬†multiplexes in the UK and they have a shareholding in all but 2! I don’t think it makes much sense to add as Option 3 – Broadcast though Sound Digital (owned by Arqiva, UTV and Bauer).

I am, however, clearly very very biased.

What I would ask you to do is to read both the bids, make up your own mind about which is best and why, and then perhaps drop Ofcom a line to tell them. This is our public spectrum, we all should have a say in what happens to it and where it goes.

My multiplex colleague, David Lloyd, talks here about what taking Gem national means for them.

Suggestions For Steve Penk

According to a couple of articles on Radio Today, it seems Steve Penk can’t seem to find anything on commercial radio to listen to. ¬†He says¬†“Who the hell wants to hear the same few songs played over and over again by some boring bastard with nothing more than a nice voice?” and “Yes there are a few, and I do mean very few shining lights dotted around commercial radio (Bam Bam, Robin Banks, Christian O‚ÄôConnell, Geoff Lloyd) but there‚Äôs nowhere near enough.”

Therefore, off the top of my head, I’ve listed a few commercial radio presenters below for him to check out. As always, it’s personal opinion, but I quite like them.

Update: On Twitter, Steve’s re-affirmed it’s music radio, so I’ve altered the ordering:

Music-radio types:

Pete Donaldson, Frank Skinner, Howard Goodall, Alex James, Charlotte Green,  Jamie & Emma, JK & Lucy, Max, Tim Westwood, Jon Homes, Tim Cocker, John Kennedy, Rickie, Melvin and Charlie, Josh Widdicombe,  JD, Angie Greaves, Robin Galloway, Stephanie Hirst, Pete Price, James Barr, Steve & Karen, Adam Wilbourn, Sam & Amy and Boogie.

Speechy types:

Ian Wright,¬†Alan Brazil, Colin Murray, Hawksby & Jacobs, Jonny Vaughan (though great at music radio too),¬†Nick Ferrari, James O’Brien,

This isn’t exhaustive, it’s just my opinion from people I’ve heard, but I’m sure there are lots of others. Leave one in the comments if there’s someone you really like. #helpsteve

Absolute Radio’s Website and Radio’s Business Model

Absolute Radio have created a lovely new website at absoluteradio.co.uk. The design is great, but there also seems more of a focus on UX – user experience – delivering a website that concentrates on doing the things that listeners want, rather than what the radio station wants. It works very well on mobile and is probably the best designed radio station website in the UK.

The most obvious part of this is the prominence of the ‘Listen Live’ button. It’s big and in front of you when you visit the site. It’s there because that’s the thing that the vast majority of users want to do. If you look at the stats of pretty much any radio station website, the Player is either the number 1 (or number 2 to homepage) visited page. Often Home and Player’s use is a magnitude ahead of anything else.

The other thing that’s noticeable is that there’s no banner ads – no Leaderboards, Skyscraper’s MPU’s cluttering up the pages, the focus of pretty much the entire site is Absolute-radio related. That’s not to say there isn’t commercial branding at all. Sponsorships, like Wickes’ of the breakfast show have presence and the competitions are, I imagine, all paid for too. What there isn’t is run-of-site (ROS) ads that are usually there to generate incremental revenue.

Most websites that run proper online web banner campaigns are paid on a CPM ‘cost per mille’ basis on views. So, let’s say an advertiser says they’ll pay you ¬£5 for the display of 1,000 banners. This is quite easy to serve, you put up the code, the banners are delivered and the cash rolls in based how many you show. Therefore to increase the money you can do two things – 1. Increase the number of adverts you have on each page; and 2. Increase the number of pages that are viewed.

You’ll often see a minimum of three ad units on a website, this means that’s you’ll make three times a much money – as remember you’re paid per 1,000 views of the ad.

Increasing the number of pages a user views is tougher. The most sensible way to do this is to create compelling content that people want to consume and good navigation for them to find it. Unfortunately that’s very difficult to do. Instead it’s much easier to split articles into two (or more) pages, have image galleries where each picture is on a new page, launch multi-page quizzes and do othe tricks that will help you serve more pages (and ads) and therefore make more money.

Often revenue is more important than user experience and therefore the tail somewhat wags the dog. However, according to a discussion James Cridland had with the Absolute team, they came to the conclusion that with banner revenues under pressure and delivering less money per view, it had started to reach the point whether the benefits did not outweigh the cost (to users). When they removed the banners there was no longer the need to generate additional pageviews at any cost, so they can concentrate on building a site based on what users want.

For revenue generation they’ve doubled down on supporting existing show sponsorship and the in-stream audio advertising their online players allows them to sell. With their player they encourage users to login. This means they have demographic and location details so they can deliver more targeted ads. If someone wants to just advertise to 25 year old men in Manchester they can pay a premium and Absolute’s system will deliver that.

Providing there’s the demand from advertisers the yield they can get from these tailored ads should be greater than the one size fits all nature of traditional radio commercials. I understand that traditional broadcast radio ads may generate ¬£1.20 per thousand impacts of an advert, but targeted in-stream may generate ¬£5 to ¬£10 per thousand impacts. A significant premium.

Therefore why bother with banner ads. Just concentrate on making listening easier, increase the amount, and sell your premium targeted ads.

The thing that worries me about this approach is that Absolute is also doubling-down on the radio model, to the detriment of everything else.

As you navigate the rest of the website, other than finding out who’s on which of their stations, what music they played and the opportunity to enter competitions there’s pretty much nothing else there.

Since the change from Virgin Radio, Absolute have managed to make their main radio station have a decent brand with some actual radio content – presenters who have something to say, comedy and football. They’ve also extended it by launching the successful decades spin-off stations. The end result has been increased hours for the group. Now they’re owned by Bauer, with a large national sales team behind them they can better monetise those hours. In the past, when they were a stand-alone operator they weren’t getting a fair share of the money for those hours, now with Bauer they’re starting to do that.

It’s one of the problems with radio’s core model. Global and Bauer have created ‘share deals’ with most of the big advertising agencies. The ad agencies get a good price in exchange for agreeing to give a bigger share of their radio money to the big groups. So, Global and Bauer may have 80% of commercial radio’s hours but they do a deal to get 90% of the money.

There’s a fixed amount of money to go round, there’s now more stations and you have to work harder to get it. Other than significantly growing your hours it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to grow your traditional radio revenue that much. That’s why there’s more of a focus from radio stations on sponsorship, branded content and online – this is revenue that doesn’t come out of the share deals pot.

Also, the in-stream advertising money’s coming out of a different pot too. It’s coming from the sexy ‘digital’ pot that agencies are using to buy ads on Spotify or other websites. It’s shiny and new, so it costs more and publishers/radio stations can make more money.

To me though, the problem is that in-stream will eventually replicate the share model. Every radio station will run in-stream ads, that combined with Spotify, iTunes Radio and other streaming services will generate a fixed amount of supply and you’ll then get your share of the money. Fundamentally, it’s the same business radio’s always been in, we’ve now just got some more competitors.

I’ve always been of the view that the future for radio stations is to grow their footprint by increasing the number of touch-points they have with their users. As a business, the more time consumers can spend with our products, across as many platforms as possible, the better chance we have of growing our businesses. This could be websites, TV channels, magazines, live events, mobile apps, whatever.

If you don’t do this you’ll be left with a radio station that will find it harder and harder to increase its hours (there’s just more competition) and you’ll make less money from those hours (national CPTs are not going up). To maintain profit margins you reorganise the business, which generally means less marketing, less content and less people. This then has a knock-on affect to revenue and then you’re in a bit of a spiral.

Of course, expanding in other areas is not the easiest thing in the world for radio stations to do. Changing the relationship you have with listeners from a passive to active, encouraging them to do more with you is tough. Over time we’ve also trained our listeners of what to expect from us – music driven radio stations and ads.

The reason that the Listen Live button is the most popular user journey is that’s the main thing we offer consumers – a radio station. Well, of course we’re really good at that! We’ve been doing it for 40 years! Surely the real challenge is growing an expanding the things that consumers come to us for.

To me, Absolute removing most of the content from their website and putting the Listen live button front and centre is actually a statement that they’re giving in. It’s saying, you know what, we’re unable to broaden our relationship with listeners, we’re just going to make it easier to give them exactly what they expect and we’ll concentrate on trying to monetise that.

What’s actually surprising is that the entire commercial radio business is built on the idea we can get consumers to do something new – through radio advertising! Something that all the research shows that works – but that we’re unable to use this relationship with consumers to sell our own products and get them to do something that we want them to.

Partly it’s because as a content business we haven’t invested enough money into non-radio things. We’ve failed to use our scale and relationships to create a compelling website, or mobile property, or video series. We make some efforts at it but it’s an add-on. How many people work on your website vs work on the on-air output?

I think it’s interesting that the people who are making more of a go of it are those who do not have the analogue radio baggage. Team Rock seemingly want to be a rock content business that connects with consumers online, through magazine and on the radio. They’re building a content business that radio’s a part of. Premier Christian Radio and UCB have realised that one of the core models – direct debit donation – is best served by being on all platforms for their fans. Even at Bauer, Heat Radio seems to be something that his growing as a radio station but also supporting the brand. The brand’s also providing content and cross-promotion.

For our children’s¬†brand, Fun Kids, we know that not all of our consumers listen to the radio station. The use of the website, the YouTube videos, the podcasts have as much value as people tuning in. To be honest, I’m much happier that the revenue we generate is spread across all the platforms than just sitting in one. We can also use all of these touch points to create and market new products as the business develops. I definitely don’t want our consumers to just think of us as a radio station or that our website is just a Listen Live button. There definitely wouldn’t be any fun in that.

Funding Radio

I like radio. You may have noticed.

I like it because a small number of people can put effort into something that a lot of people can then hear.

Clearly the content has to be good, it needs to be relevant to a group of people¬†and they then¬†all need to know about it, but still… it’s something that’s very achievable.

I also like ‘digital’. You may have noticed.

Digital has democratised most things that it’s touched. A great deal of old media’s success came from big barriers to entry. You couldn’t be on television unless they agreed. Or newspapers. Or radio.

With digital, distribution becomes much easier. Yes, you’re now competing with the world, but digital’s also democratised marketing. Twitter, blogs, email has allowed a new generation of media (both amateur and professional) to flourish.

Fun Kids, our digital radio station, can only exist because a digital platform, for us mainly DAB (but also the internet) allows us to reach a large number of people. Also, handily, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to acquire digital space than it would an FM licence. To be honest, if I had and FM licence I wouldn’t put a kids format on it, I’d probably so¬†something more mainstream.

Digital has also meant that content creation is quicker, cheaper and faster and allows us to make audio, video and web content as well as market it, all at a fraction of the traditional cost. In other words we need less money to be able to create something brilliant that about 300k kids consume. Plus we get to pay people (some) money too.


Similar to digital radio, podcasting has grown steadily over the past ten years. It’s definitely democratised the production, for want¬†of a better word, radio shows.

A good idea, some skill, some marketing and some luck means that there’s been a flood of new entrants. Many of which have created new types of radio format (see Serial).

The funding of these is as variable as the content. Podcasting is generally free at the point of use. So people have to be more creative. There’s been tip jars, pay-for specials, attempts at subscription as well as advertising and sponsorship.

In the US quite a few podcasts have been crowdfunded using Kickstarter. In the UK, er, not so much.

I think fundamentally we’re less¬†used to paying for audio¬†content than they are in the States. The concept of pledging is also deeply lodged in the¬†up-market psyche of NPR listeners who hear the¬†regular pledge drives. Here, we pay for the BBC¬†and then¬†forget about it, and then they make excellent speech radio programmes. We’re not used to paying for quality radio, we just get it for free. Therefore when a podcast, even one we really like, pops up, as we get it for free I think we’re more reluctant to put our hands in our pockets.

This is why its so pleasing to see one of our own home-grown podcasters – Helen Zaltzman – be part of a successful crowdfunding drive.

Radiotopia is a podcast network that has¬†great, unique podcasts. It’s a bit of a collective of podcasters and they’ve just raised $250k to support the shows for another year. Their Kickstarter is still going and if they hit a stretch goal of $400k it will allow them to fund some new shows, including one from Helen.

Helen writes about the process here.

I think if you’re a fan of radio it’s worth supporting.¬†Even if you’re not, at the moment, a consumer of those shows.

I think radio is far more than just what’s on Capital or Radio 4. It’s about being a medium that has an amazing relationship with listeners. And there should always be more of it. Whether that’s commercial FM, community radio, DAB stations, podcasts or something else. The more radio there is and the more it’s enjoyed the better it is for all of us.

I also think it’s important that there are lots of different ways for people to get paid to do it. ¬†After all, people who aren’t hungry make better radio programmes!

YouTube, Moyles and Radio

Peter Robinson picked up on Chris Moyles’ YouTube channel last week, giving it a not entirely positive review. However, it was definitely more positive than the ripped off versions that the Mail and Mirror then followed up with.

The crux of the feedback is “Oh the mighty have fallen, he used to have 8million listeners and now he’s only got 10,000 subscribers”. I think fundamentally they have all missed the point and we should be celebrating what Moyles is doing rather than slagging it off.

Views & Subscribers

A lot of people’s understanding of YouTube is watching viral content, slip ups, cute animals or rips of performances/TV show segments. These, because they are viral hits, tend to have large numbers of views. What you’re watching is the hits. ¬†But that is very much just one side of YouTube.

To me, the interesting part of YouTube is the material that’s being created specifically for the platform. Rather than just using it to host some videos that you want to point to.

YouTube’s core aim is to make people consume more minutes of video content on the site. It wants people to keep returning to consume regular material rather than just the latest 1D video or see that lion jump into the arms of that man.

To get there, it’s funded quite a lot of channels from a variety of sources, to see what ends up being popular. That’s ranged from Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube to ITN’s Truth Loader and All3Media’s Daily Mix. At the same time, more naturally, kids with cameras have put themselves and their lives on the internet and become ‘YouTubers’.

Both types of content work for YouTube, the branded content working for slightly older audiences whilst YouTubers are providing a reach of 13 to 19 year old bigger than any traditional media platform.

YouTube’s focus on ‘subscribing’ to these channels encourages the content to more easily flow to fans and thus drives up the minutes consumed. You may have seen¬†YouTube’s outdoor advertising currently pushing Zoella, Slow Mo Guys and Vice News. All native YouTube content.


The YouTubers phenomenon, in particular, is fascinating. Fresh faced attractive youngsters in their teens/early 20s create light, fun videos that have massive resonance with teenagers. The number of subscribers people like Zoella, Alfie and Marcus have are in the millions with videos getting 1m plus views.

What was telling at Radio 1’s Teen Awards last weekend was that the YouTubers on show – Dan/Phil, Zoella, Alfie, Tyler – were getting much bigger cheers than many of the popstars and pretty much all of the Radio 1 presenters.

To be honest, this isn’t really surprising. Teens have pretty much no traditional media targeting at them any more. Kiss/Capital/R1 is broader and needs people in their 20s to listen, CBBC doesn’t appeal to 13+, there’s no T4 any more and E4/BBC Three/MTV again need to be broader propositions. For a mobile generation with laptops in their bedrooms, YouTubers are people like them. Funnier, more attractive people, granted. But they’re much more representative of a desirable teenage life than anything traditional media gives them.

Radio 1 has dipped its toe in the water¬†with Dan and Phil on Sunday and now its weekly one-hour YouTuber show, which is more than anyone else has bothered with. However I think we’ll start to see that ghettoising them in a 1 hour show is like early 90s Radio 1 just playing a few hours of dance a week, at a time when¬†it was a huge part of young people’s lives.

Mass Media and YouTube

Anyway, as the people who write the Moyles knocking articles use YouTube for viral hits rather than subscribing to content themselves, they misunderstand what it takes to make native YouTube content really work.

Indeed, you can tell the media organisations that are driven by one-offs vs regular subscribers by looking at the stats.

If we take¬†Key 103 in Manchester, they have around 3,000 subscribers, which is alright for something that clearly not a huge amount of effort is put into. Their YouTube homepage is, er, a little bare. If we nip into the video section, view counts range from 30 to 30,000. It, like many radio stations, give an incredibly confusing ‘subscriber-led’ experience. It veers from news, to breakfast show bits, to Esther Rantzen, to auditions for their girl band and from The Vamps to vandalised graves!

YouTube subscriptions and the ability to grow views for channels comes from consistency. Pretty much every radio station fails at delivering it and it’s no surprise that view and subscriber counts for the majority of radio stations are low.

One of their successes is an interview with The Vamps with over 10,000 views. I’d wager that pretty much all of that came from Vamps fans unconnected with the radio station.

YouTube should not be a dumping ground for station video of massively variable quality, with uploaders hoping that something will be a viral hit. For Key (and stations like it) just do the celebrity stuff and brilliant things like their Surprisal video – just be consistent. AND LESS VANDALISED GRAVES!

At the other end of the spectrum, Radio 1 are very proud of their 1.6m subscribers. They almost suffer a problem at the other end of the spectrum. The content they make is great and there’s lots of it. Amazing live lounge performances, viral stunts, interviews, features like Fire in the Booth and Innuendo Bingo. But I think they suffer from a consistency problem too.

They’ve worked hard to make sure that 1.6m people see their new videos in users’ feeds, but there seems to be very few views generated from this massive advantage. Of course not everyone’s going to like everything, but 6-7k views for film reviews or even 40k for a decent guest on Innuendo Bingo seems a low engagement rate when you think about the number of subscribers.

Live Lounges look and sound great with amazing stars, but like Key 103’s Vamps video how many of Taylor Swift’s 150k views for a performance of Love Story and 1.5m for her Vance Joy cover come from R1 fans rather Taylor’s own searching out that video on whoever’s channel it happens to be.

Now don’t get me wrong, viral reach is great. For radio it’s got the potential to be a great reach builder for a station, but it has very little to do with that ‘subscriber’ number – or what that subscriber number has the potential to deliver. Also – if you know a video has good viral potential because it’s with a celeb with a strong fan base – PLEASE remember to use it to plug your radio station. When’s the Live Lounge on? What station is it on? Who’s up next?

On this Taylor Swift video the branding in the performance¬†is all Live Lounge – there’s no BBC or Radio 1 mentions. No one in the video says it’s part of Fearne’s show or how to tune in. There’s top and tail R1 branding, but with no radio call to action – the only CTA is to subscribe. BUT WHY? Surely one of the central purposes of growing subscribers has to be¬†so that more teens then listen to the radio station?

To me, if I was trying to prove that my videos were working I would be looking at the view counts of non-viral videos. What is the content that people are coming to me for? How can I make them return regularly. It should be the same thing you think about with your radio content.

I’d also see success as the percentage of subscribers who go on to watch a video.


I wish I could point to my¬†radio station, Fun Kids, as having the answer. We definitely don’t. We need to be better at growing¬†our subscribers and recently we’re trying to be better at focusing content on music-based entertainment (that is after all what we do on the radio). We’re also experimenting with additional¬†channels that do different types of content – so we can maintain a core experience but still have the room to try new things. However, sometimes we still forget to plug the radio station properly.

Presenters’ Own Media

I’m always stunned how little of their own media radio presenters have. DJs build a relationship with their audiences on-air. If I wanted people to listen to me on that radio station more, ¬†I’d be doing all I could to continue that relationship on other media, so I could cross-promote back. Twitter is a good start of that, but it isn’t the be all and end all. Where are their YouTube channels, their blogs, their newsletters? If they owned more of a relationship with their audience they would become more employable and get a better deal come contract renewal time.

I’m particularly surprised why no DJs really do YouTube.¬†Especially the younger end. If I was on Kiss, Capital, Radio 1 or The Hits I’d be spending significant time on¬†weekly videos growing my relationship with a core part of the¬†audience.

[update: A commenter points out the success of Westwood with WestwoodTV on YouTube]

YouTuber Zoella has 6million subscribers and each of her videos get around 1.5-2m views. They are also mainly watching for her. She doesn’t have, or need, a viral video collaboration with¬†The Vamps or Taylor Swift to drag their audience in. She is consistent, entertaining and audience-focused. She delivers what they like and expect and she does it once a week so as not to overload their feeds.

Back to Moyles

This is why I’m a fan of what Moyles is doing.

He does not need to do YouTube videos. If he wanted to be back on the radio he could be there right away. If he wanted to wait a while for something perfect¬†to come up he could easily do that, quietly. If he wanted to be in the public eye, he’d be on Strictly!

I hope what he’s trying to do is to turn some of his large, passive broadcast audience into fans.

Our relationships with listeners is¬†a funnel. So for Moyles he had 8million listeners. They consumed him through a passive device – the radio. Super low effort. Lower down the funnel are his Twitter followers – 3m of them. A little more effort – pressing follow – and not all of his audience will be on Twitter, so of course it’s smaller. Of those Twitter followers, how many see his tweets in a week? Maybe 300k or 400k? You would need to be a regular Twitter to see them pop up occasionally. How many of the follower accounts are bots or dormant? Probably quite a few.

Then you take the ones who see it and count how many then click through to something. 20% perhaps? How many then do the next action – donate, read something, watch a video? How many links do you flick through in Twitter each day and ignore? Even from people you really like?

However, each person who does click through and watch? Well that’s engagement.

I¬†care much more about people at the bottom of the funnel than I do at the top. They’re the valuable ones.

In radio it’s your biggest fans who give you the bulk of your hours. As a station your job should be to create fans, to take them through radio’s funnel – awareness, sample, light listener, regular listener, fan.

Moyles’ YouTube

Moyles is getting 15 to 20k views per video from a percentage of his 10k subscribers and tweets/Facebook etc. I think this is great. His job is to entice people to watch videos for the first time and then get them to subscribe. Those subscribers should then be the base for a larger number of views of future videos.

He’s also encouraging subscription for an audience – 25+ – who aren’t native subscribers like the teens are. They’re the viral consumers rather than today’s subscribing ones.

It is not an easy task to do. But can you name any other radio presenters who have bothered to try?

The other thing I like is that he’s clearly making and editing it himself. One of the reason Moyles was so good on the radio was that he was a brilliant producer. He understood the theory, he was a brilliant technical practitioner and he was funny and ¬†creative – a perfect combination. I think he’ll have a much better chance of success with his videos as he better understands what works and how to put it together.

So far, he’s nine¬†videos in, he’s experimenting with form and content and that’s going to keep evolving. The hardest part is keeping up the enthusiasm to keep going.

14,000 people watched last week’s Innuendo Bingo on the R1 Channel, something supported by a broadcast radio station and 1.6m subscribers. 15,600 watched this week’s Moyles vlog on a channel with 10k subscribers and just some Twitter for promotion. I think he’s doing alright.






RAJAR Q3/2014

Where most radio programmers go wrong is that they forget they have different types of listeners who listen to their station in different ways.

If you want to increase your RAJAR figures, I’m sorry, but one size does not fit all.

If you don’t have any light listeners it probably means they don’t know about ¬†you, so you’ll probably need some reach-building mechanics and some external marketing wouldn’t go a miss. You also probably need to be explaining what you do better and (light) listeners need to know when to sample. Fixed benchmarks, travel every 20 minutes, 30 minutes non-stop – whatever – anything you can do to give them reasons to stop by. Light listeners are unlikely to be attracted¬†by changing elements in a programme – they’re not even there in the first place!

But these tactics won’t support growing hours for existing listeners. For that you’ll need to give opportunities to listen in other day-parts, have an hours-building promotion and perhaps change how often your currents come around.

For many stations they’ll need to do both those sets of things. At the same time. Your listeners are subsets of different groups and they need to be looked after in different ways.

The other mistake is the assumption that they’re ‘your’ listeners. They’re not. You share them with other people. You are in a war for their attention.

As stations’ figures fluctuate ever more, it’s easy to refer to RAJAR blips, I’d also argue whilst of course that happens, you’re also programming in the most competitive radio market ever. Your figures may be going down because what you’re doing on the air just isn’t as good as what else is on the dial.

But if you combine fluctuation, competition and detail about different groups of listeners you get Heart London.

Heart London

Top line for Heart London is pretty grim. Reach down to 1.4m (Q2 was 1.8m, Q3/13 1.7m). Hours down to 7.9m (Q2 was 11.5m and Q3/13 8.7m).

But when you dig in¬†it’s harder to lay the blame entirely at Heart’s door. The chart below takes all of Heart London’s Reach and then looks at ALL of their hours – both their listening to¬†Heart and to other stations.

It shows that listening to Heart accounts for a quarter of its listeners’ listening (down from 30% in the previous quarter). But the real thing is that Heart listeners have consumed a fifth less radio in total. Now, Heart’s borne the brunt of that (seeing a 31.1% drop) but their listening to Magic, Kiss and R1 is pretty down too.

What’s changed? Listening to Capital’s grown a bit and Radio 2 and LBC are pretty solid.

Q3 includes¬†July, August and September – a key holiday period with loads of changes in behaviour – not going to work, no school run etc. Now this¬†will affect many stations, but perhaps¬†Heart’s market has become an audience¬†¬†who’s radio habits really do shift around in Q3.

Q2 2014

Q3 2014

Change – ‚Äė000s

Change – %

Heart Listeners’ All Radio





Heart London





Magic 105.4 (London)





Capital London





Kiss 100 FM





BBC Radio 2





BBC Radio 4





LBC 97.3





BBC Radio 1





Smooth Radio London





BBC Radio 5 live





Classic FM










BBC London 94.9





BBC 6 Music





Gold London





Sunrise Radio





Absolute Radio London





Premier Christian Radio










1Xtra from the BBC





Absolute 80s





Planet Rock UK





Jazz FM





Capital XTRA (London)





XFM London





BBC World Service










LBC News 1152










BBC Asian Network UK





BBC Radio 4 Extra





Kiss Fresh (Was Smash Hits)





BBC Radio 5 live sports extra





Absolute Radio Classic Rock





The Hits





BBC Radio 3





Absolute Radio 90s





Absolute Radio 70s





Radio 1035 AM





Absolute Radio 00s





Radio 1458 AM





Absolute Radio 60s





Other Radio







Commercial audience share in London is always a hot button. Everyone’s very keen to fight over being Number 1. This quarter it’s: 1. Capital, 2. Magic, 3. Kiss, 4. Heart, 5. Absolute, 6. Smooth.

But when looking at the full list of stations below (below) you can also see the power of the national and specialist stations. Indeed, Sunrise and Premier Christian Radio are doing better than Capital Xtra and digital stations like Jazz FM and Kisstory have the same market share as XFM.

Share %
BBC Radio 4


BBC Radio 2


Capital London


LBC 97.3


Magic 105.4 (London)


BBC Radio 1


Kiss 100 FM


Classic FM


Heart London


BBC Radio 5 Live


BBC 6 Music




Absolute Radio


Smooth Radio


BBC Radio 3


Sunrise Radio


Gold London


Absolute Radio London


BBC London 94.9


Premier Christian Radio


BBC Radio 4 Extra


BBC World Service


LBC News 1152


Capital XTRA (London)


Jazz FM




XFM London


Absolute 80s


BBC Radio 5 live sports extra


Planet Rock UK


1Xtra from the BBC






Radio 1458 AM


Absolute Radio 60s


Absolute Radio 70s


Absolute Radio 90s


Absolute Radio Classic Rock


BBC Asian Network UK


Absolute Radio 00s


Kiss Fresh (Was Smash Hits)


Radio 1035 AM


The Hits


London is a market with lots of digital choice and a high degree of digital consumption –¬†what’s happening here will eventually happen everywhere else.

If Jazz and Kisstory can get the same share as XFM, then what real value does its FM licence have?


There’s actually lots of good digital stories in this book.

  • Digital’s share of listening is at a record high of 38%
  • DAB now accounts for a quarter of all radio’s hours
  • Over half the country (51.2%) listen to some form of digital radio each week.
  • 6 Music’s had a reach increase to 1.99m
  • Absolute 80s is at a record reach of 1.4m

Absolute 80s also has record breakfast figures with 462k tuning into the 80s version of the OC. I think its first figures since ‘Project Banana’ allowed¬†Christian’s Absolute Radio Breakfast show to be broadcast live, but with 80s music.


Heat Radio’s also had a very good book, it’s best ever. They’re ¬†now larger than The Hits with¬†965k listeners. These figures have come from good growth over the past few quarters and it’s nice to see its average hours are up too.

I think there’s a number¬†of reasons that Heat’s done so well. Firstly it’s a great brand –¬†you can guess what you’re going to get before you tune in. Secondly – it sounds like the brand. It’s a rhythmic AC station with¬†values that give it permission to play the odd guilty pleasure. It’s also got a great on-brand presenter in Ryan Seacrest (and his syndicated show).

Finally, it’s a fun, active station with speech and music content that reflects today. This afternoon James Barr had a Glee promotion, interviewed Nick Jonas and then played 30mins of S Club 7 songs. I bet not many AC/CHR analogue stations had an afternoon that was as engaging.

p.s. Sorry Adam for stealing your picture. So, why not read his RAJAR blog post!

Ofcom backs Capital Xtra’s Choices

Ofcom’s Broadcast Bulletins are always an interesting read. Well, for radio bods like me they are. They detail Ofcom’s decisions on major complaints and for people who want to understand the regulator a little better it gives quite a bit of background into their thinking.

Issue 264 has just come out and in amongst slapping Radio 1 down for Lily Allen’s swearing and resolving similar naughtiness on The Wright Stuff it also talks about the complaints Global Radio’s had over Choice’s rebranding to Capital Xtra.

Many original Choice listeners have been unhappy about the shift to Capital Xtra away from its Afro-Carribean roots and complained to Ofcom that it was deviating from its analogue formats:

A targeted music, news and information service primarily for listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the Brixton [or North London] area but with crossover appeal to other listeners who appreciate urban contemporary black music. The service includes 21 hours per week of complementary specialist music.

There were three issues that came up:

  1. Was the daytime music in format; and
  2. Was the specialist music in format; and
  3. Was it delivering a satisfactory news, community news and information service for listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the Brixton and North London areas

You can read Ofcom’s full response here¬†(PDF), but here are the main bits:

With regard to the station‚Äôs music policy, as set out above, we acknowledged that a greater ‚Äėdance‚Äô component had been injected into the station‚Äôs music mix. However, taking an overall view of the music output across both monitoring periods, and also taking into account the increasing overlaps between urban and dance music, it was our view that Capital Xtra‚Äôs music output remained compliant with the requirements of the Format. Nevertheless, we have reminded the Licensee that the Formats continue to refer explicitly to, ‚Äúurban contemporary black music‚ÄĚ. We consider that such music, including genres such as rap, hip hop and R&B, must remain the station‚Äôs core music offer.

In terms of local and community news, we noted that a separate London news feed is provided for the two FM licences which is different from the news bulletins broadcast on the (national) Capital Xtra DAB service. Consequently, a range of local London stories were aired, including some that would have been of particular interest to the African and Afro-Caribbean community. We noted that the local news bulletins broadcast by Capital Xtra were also compliant with the Format requirement to provide local news bulletins at least hourly at peak-times (which Ofcom defines as being weekday breakfast and drivetime, and weekend late breakfast).

We recognised that, in sharing most of the output with the national Capital Xtra DAB service, some of the previous local ‚Äėfeel‚Äô of Choice FM has inevitably been lost. However, it was ultimately our view that the station‚Äôs news and information provision was sufficient to remain compliant with the requirements of the two London FM Formats, and was consistent with Ofcom‚Äôs localness guidelines

The output of Capital Xtra has changed in some respects in comparison to that of the former Choice FM, and we acknowledged complainants’ concerns about these changes. However, on balance, we did not consider that the changes meant that the station had ceased to be targeted primarily at listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the areas of London stated (as the Formats require). We therefore concluded that Licence Condition 2(4) had not been breached.

Some would argue that this is another example of Global riding rough shod over people’s radio stations and that Ofcom is weak. I’m sorry but I don’t really agree with that narrative. There’s no question that these stations have changed over the time, they were licensed in 1990 and 2000 so no real surprises there.

And that’s the nub of it really. Should radio stations be preserved in aspic? When the first station was¬†licensed in 1990, there was no internet, no multi-channel TV, no digital radio, no mobile phones. Should, 24 years later, we be judging it the same way?

Have the Afro-Carribean community been ‘let down’ by the regulator? I don’t think so. Have they been ‘let down’ by business? Potentially more likely.

However, there¬†has¬†never been more opportunities for stations to be on-air. Licensed community radio, DAB across London, DTV, the Internet – they’re all options. Big ones. In Q1 of this year Capital Xtra’s share was 0.8 and 1Xtra’s was 0.7%. The idea that an¬†FM licence is the only way to cater for audiences is no longer true.

102.2FM in London was licensed as a Jazz station, Smooth is very much not one now. Radio 2 used to play¬†Mantovani. It doesn’t so much any more. Asian talk now comes out of radio tuned to 1035AM, it used to be Country.

The world moves on. It is a shame if you like the old. But there’s never been a better, and easier time, to build the new.

More Free Form Radio

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Challenge Radio today. It’s the Radio Festival’s pop-up radio station. It ran from 8am to 8pm and had a whole host of radio presenters from BBC, commercial and student radio, hosting shows together.

It was a bit of fun. Something nice to do whilst the Radio Festival is on and everyone is together. It was on FM and DAB around Manchester/Salford and some of the shows were simulcast on BBC Radio 2 and Fun Kids too.

With my Fun Kids hat on, that’s why I was listening to a lot of it. Interestingly it was our first ever live show on Fun Kids – which er, somewhat added to the Fun…

Anyway, listening along to it made me think about radio a bit. Sometimes you need to hear something different to remind you of what you know, or perhaps don’t know.


Firstly, it was a fun listen. The people doing it didn’t need to do it. They all have much bigger and better shows. They did it because they wanted to and as there was no real pressure they were relaxed and had fun.

Other than Ofcom ones there were no real rules. But that didn’t stop the presenters being presenters. They generally didn’t ramble on and they did ‘radioy’ things – teased ahead, reset and explained where they were are etc.

It certainly helped there were no ads to play (as it does the BBC) as it gave the presenters the room not to worry about hitting speed links etc. There were some lovely naturally paced stories and anecdotes and still room for plenty of tunes.

We live in an imperfect world, competition and ease of switching means that formatting is¬†a necessary evil. Total free rein would make it harder to gain audience and traction. R1/R2’s success comes from heritage, high value talent and no ads. Being Radio 2+ads (and slightly weaker talent) would sadly be suicide for any station. Sorry anoraks.

However, the trick is how you can create the flow in an hour that allows the format to hit but gives the presenters confidence to be relaxed and funny. It’s something that commercial radio particularly manages in Breakfast, it would be interesting to take the level of production – particularly around break and song placement in traditionally more music intensive hours.

In 10mins-of-ads-an-hour¬†commercial radio it’s probably still ¬†going to be difficult. However, if you’re on, or run, a station with a spot load of less than five mins – maybe a digital station – I think it’d be possible to win on music+personality (providing, of course, you have the right people and the right scheduling). Plus if you’re a more specialist station you’re closer to being replaced by Spotify – you might as well add something to your armoury. Perhaps that’s chat.

Anyway, back to Challenge Radio…


Quite a few of the shows had people thrown together – for fun! Some of these worked, others didn’t. The ones that didn’t weren’t because they hadn’t met – some of those were actually great – they didn’t work because the people doing them didn’t understand what they needed to do.

So much good chemistry comes from generosity. Enabling others to be fantastic. There’s also the improv trick of ‘Yes and‘ to move things forward. You don’t need to know your co-host, you just need to know the skill. Lots of stations, especially those who want to prep people for bigger shows should teach these skills – rather than “hoping they all get on”.

Visualisation enhances

The pictures are better on the radio blah blah blah. Yes, of course the benefit of radio is that it’s a multi-tasking medium and you don’t¬†need¬†to look at something. However, when there’s something you can look at, make it available. Challenge Radio had high value talent, guests, chat – this made it something I would occasionally lean forward to consume.

It didn’t need pop videos (especially crappy ones pulled off of YouTube), just having some camera¬†swapping based on mic levels and a smaller window showing metadata when songs were on was great. Streamed on YouTube, which I’m comfortable using on multiple platforms, was perfect. I think Challenge Radio had a Broadcast Bionics solution. It seemed to work fine!

Why bother? My hunch is visualisation like this¬†would be hours enhancing. I think I’m more likely to keep something on ‘in the background’ if I can occasionally foreground it.

Different can be exciting

Like Radio 2’s learned with 2DAY, what can you do to your existing station that rejuvenates the presenters and provides something that’s fun for listeners.

At Challenge Radio they broadcast from a sort-of Crystal Maze type studio. It was a talking point. It was engaging, you wanted to see what it looked like. What can be a surprise? What can be intriguing? What can be fun?

Anywho, well done to the people who worked on Challenge Radio, particularly Chris North who had to wrangle all the presenters to be on it and then find all the people to support it and broadcast it. It was fun to listen to and made me think. So hurrah for that.