More Confidence About Platforms

Hello from Malmö, which is hosting this year’s Radiodays Europe conference. There’s around 1,200 people here discussing radio, audio and podcasts.

I hosted a session with Linda Palmgren, the Bauer Media Sweden CEO, Sibyl Veil, the CEO of Radio France and Cathinka Rondan, the Head of Radio at NRK. Each gave a short view on the sector and what their own companies have been doing – and then we all sat down for a chat. It was quite a big room, thanks to Ann Charles for the pictorial representation…

The main thing that I noticed from the session, and from many of the others I saw, was that there was much more confidence in radio groups’ digital strategies. Particularly around distribution and third party platforms.

Five years ago the talk was far more about maximising distribution in places like Apple Podcasts and Spotify – going to where the listeners are. Now it’s far more nuanced than that. All the speakers in my session talked up the importance of their own platforms for data, increasing loyalty but also (for public broadcasters) the importance of getting attribution from the audience for the broadcaster’s work. Cathinka from NRK talked about many people not realising the material they’re consuming on Spotify is coming from NRK.

I think it also suggested far more confidence in their own app performance and being able to build real value for their audiences.

It wasn’t particularly about ignoring third party spaces, just being more strategic about how they’re used in a distribution/marketing mix.

Talking to other broadcasters on the sidelines I could clearly feel that their experience around digital audio, the data they’ve collected and also the research that they’ve conducted means their much more comfortable in their plans with far less second-guessing than I’ve previously seen.

It also suggests a movement away from some of the wild west attitudes to podcasting and digital audio. For many established broadcasters there’s definitely a more measured, considered approach. It will be interesting to see if this translates into more success.

Apple Podcast Subscriptions

The previous day I was on a panel discussing the future of podcasting. We talked about subscription opportunities for publishers and I said that I thought it was all a real mess. Apple’s options have the potential to be pretty good, but there’s limited merchandising meaning it’s difficult to explain and make your deals look attractive plus the content management with them is a chunk of extra work for podcasters (as you have to publish your podcast normally and then add extra audio and metadata on Apple’s own platform).

Particularly though, with different options for Apple, Spotify and other third parties, it makes it incredibly difficult to explain to listeners how to use it. With every platform being pretty different, the payment issues and the work arounds some require, means that for many publishers it’s all too much hassle than it’s worth.

In the podcast sessions most of the publishers that discussed taking part in Apple’s subscription system said they did it because it gave their shows more promotion rather than any real focus on generating paying subscribers.

However, perhaps that will start to change as Apple announced yesterday that they will be working with some podcast content management systems (Acast, Omny, Buzzsprout etc) to build in the ability for them to control the audio for publishers subscriptions feeds. This is eminently sensible. These enterprise solutions were always the best place to build the piping to enable easy deployment of the different audio/release times etc that the subscription products were built on.

More importantly though, it means that potentially these systems can send the premium audio to other subscription platforms too, like Spotify etc. This will greatly enhance the likelihood of publishers launching a subscription offer – as the CMS will end up reducing the complexity and friction.

There are still lots of issues around subscription – particularly the communication to listeners – but at least this is one development that’s good for publishers.


It’s been really great talking to lots of people here at Radiodays who are Media Podcast listeners. As some of you know, I’m pretty busy with the day jobs, but I really like doing the podcast and the newsletter, so having people say they read it or listen, does massively help me keep motivated to do them each week. Me and producer Phoebe are here recording some bits and pieces for next week’s show too.

Speaking of which, the latest episode of the Media Podcast has a good focus on streaming services, particularly Disney+, Netflix and C4’s YouTube deal. I talked with Heat Magazine’s Boyd Hilton and media consultant and writer Kate Bulkley all about it. I also caught up with Arlie Adlington to discuss the Multitrack initiative. Listen and subscribe here.

The big discussions at Radiodays Europe

Selling Audio and Radio

I was asked to speak at the inaugural event for the new Radiocentre Ireland last week. The organisation has been set-up to “promote strong, successful and brilliant commercial radio”.

Whilst independent radio has a well-established trade body in the IBI, Radiocentre Ireland brings together all the broadcasters that have advertising – so, yes, the traditional commercial sector, but also RTE, the public broadcaster – which takes advertising too.

Having a singular body promoting the benefit of advertising with its members is a good idea. Each group has its own unique properties it takes to market, but a good united body can sell the benefits of the medium.

It’s an interesting time for a new body to be set-up. Firstly it gets to sell the benefits of audio advertising across its members many properties. Yes, they are over-the-air broadcasters, but there’s also a digital audio offer and a mix of new media and experiential opportunities too.

But there’s also work to be done to sell the scale of commercial radio’s activities and the value of the market. Interestingly, up until now, no one knew how much revenue Irish radio took. If you’re an advertiser or an agency, are you spending more or less than your competitors? What would be the impact, positive or negative, of changing that? Without a shared understanding it’s hard to build. The first data should be released soon, and the expectation is that it’s going to be quite a bit higher than the market currently believes – which should help drive confidence in radio and digital audio. I was asked to do a turn about audio developments around the world, which ended up trying to reflect different organisations’ thinking and delivery. Most nbusinesses activity result from some form of market gap + internal skill + execution. There is rarely one size that fills all – even for companies that exist in different markets.Of course there are some over-arching themes, particularly that commercial broadcasters with strong sales relationships and large audiences can be well- placed to create significant digital audio businesses. Now, heritage businesses can sometimes be too late to the game, or have to spend to catch up, but their underlying activities put them in a good position. In the UK, Global’s DAX has become a key digital audio sales point and in the US both iHeart and SiriusXM (particularly through acquisition) have created strong integrated digital audio businesses. Whilst they may sometimes lack the sexiness of their Spotify-style competitors, they are good at creating new audio operations.

Ireland’s radio market has developed from one focused on strongly regulated local radio stations to something that added two national stations and a round of regional licences. Whilst there’s always been some corporate ownership, that has come more to the fore in the last few years with Newscorp owning seven stations across Dublin, Cork, Limerick and other areas and Bauer Media Audio Ireland now owning national stations Today FM and Newstalk alongside Dublin’s 98FM and two regional Spin stations. There also continues to be a range of local stations (some with common shareholders) and the public broadcaster RTE.

Bauer Ireland have developed an interesting digital offer, with a strong multi-platform sports product in OTB Sport, a digital ad-network AudioXI and a growing podcast operation with app Go Loud alongside a growing podcast network. Newscorp are using their radio stations to promote Irish-streams of Premier league matches with a version of talkSPORT as well as a Sun-branded true crime podcast. Local stations continue to own their areas, a strategy UK commercial radio has moved away from.

RTE, like many public broadcasters around the world, grapples with government funding unpredictability, a raft of new competition and a need to change and adapt faster than it is used to. For RTE which has commercial funding as part of the mix, it struggles with developing its offer whilst balancing its public position and commitments.

Having skipped DAB, which in many markets provides the learning slope to develop digital businesses and thinking, the challenge for Irish broadcasters is to scale up their digital ambitions (and reach) whilst growing their commercial radio business and fighting off new media competitors.

If they are successful with doing that, Radiocentre gives them a great platform to tell advertisers of their successes and the benefit of working with commercial radio broadcasters.

Irish Podcast Awards

One thing Irish audio creators, from commercial radio and further afield can do is shout about the great audio that they’re making. The inaugural Irish Podcast Awards allows them to do just that. It’s currently open for entries with a range of categories around content, sales and marketing.


On The Media Podcast this week, I caught up with Scott Bryan and Trevor Dann to talk about the latest on Channel 4, the ARIAS winners and the changes at the top at ITN and BBC Radio. Listen and subscribe.

Ireland’s new Radiocentre

TalkTV’s First Week

I’m intrigued by the Talk TV launch. News UK have taken the output of their digital radio station – Talk Radio – and used that for the basis of a new TV channel. The TV investment comes in prime time where they, currently, have three shows – a news programme with Tom Newton-Dunn at 7pm, a Sharon Osborne-led panel show at 9pm and their big signing Piers Morgan at 8pm.

As part of the launch the Talk Radio output has had a bit of a tidy up, with a re-jig of the presenters and a refreshed look.

For Piers Morgan, his TV show is also syndicated to Sky News Australia and Fox News’ streaming service – Fox Nation – as well as now appearing on what was Talk Radio.

I say what was, as the branding of the radio station is still a little confused. It seems to be referenced on-air by the presenters as “Talk TV from the Talk Radio studios”, in the jingles as Talk Radio, but also lots of Talk TV references too. As part of the re-launch the radio station has lost its website and had its social media rolled into Talk TV’s too.

For the radio station there’s a core gamble – will giving up the control to be subsumed into a new TV brand generate more awareness and audience than going alone? Or will the TV elements turn off the radio listeners?

I think all the constituent parts of Talk TV are pretty good. The radio has been visualised for a couple of years now, so they’re pretty well-practiced. The combination of Zoom’d in guests plus regular phone-in callers means the output is pretty content-rich. The new TV shows – Tom Newton-Dunn’s The News Desk, Piers Morgan Uncensored and The Talk with Sharon Osborne are well produced, easily outshining what something like GB News is doing.

The challenge for the TV channel is defining what it’s there to do, and who it’s for. The News Desk is solid and it has a good story count. Tom Newton-Dunn, without much hosting experience, comes across assured with gravitas, and as he gets more comfortable will likely relax into it and ‘own’ the programme more.

It does though lean into its own journalism (or that of its sister newspapers and radio stations) and that does question whether you’re watching the ‘real’ news or not. On the first day, a version of The Sun’s “Prince Andrew Lunged at Me” interview played out – something no other outlet chose to report on.

The Talk, notionally a Sharon Osborne fronted show is a little odd. Sharon seems to have a carer each night who does most of the difficult TV bits and is then dragged into the discussion at junctions. The rest of the panel rotates.

Sharon didn’t quite make a week as she had to return to LA to look after Ozzy who’d contracted COVID. When Vanessa Feltz covered it had far more zing.

In the US Fox News has The Five, a very successful panel programme – a big part the appeal comes from fixed characters who appear most nights. With rotating hosts its hard to care what their opinions are as you may never see them again.

In their prime slot is Piers Morgan. I think the clever thing about Piers is that with his editorial background, he’s pretty good at finding the right angles for stories, deciding when to go with the majority, or against it. He’s a controversialist, a personality and generates a response (good or bad) from the audience. A Marmite character like Piers has much more chance of ratings success than a vanilla one.

However, his success on GMB was also down to having a foil in the form of his co-host Susanna Reid. GMB, like radio, has learned that on breakfast shows having a cast of characters who different audience members can back, can be very useful, and keeps a whole family tuned in. Marmite personalities on their own can draw people in, but they’re easy to switch off too.

Watching his first week, I think there’s elements of gold, but what’s interesting is when he gets into specific subjects. The rallying against the woke brigade etc just gets a little repetitive.

What I was surprised by, again, was some of the story choices. We had about three mins on Disney’s (minor) campaigning against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida including a follow-up 5mins on it with US right-wing commentator Megyn Kelly. This is a very culture-wars topic, relatively complex to understand if you’re new to it, and something that hasn’t really cut across to the UK.

Similarly there was a chunk of Piers’ Trump interview about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Now as a tactic for engaging with the orange-one I can see why you would bring it up, but it was referenced again a few times in the week.

Perhaps it’s there to appeal to the US audience, but it shows up part of the tension of that show in having to appeal to multiple territories. When interviewed, Piers said that many stories, because of Twitter, are much more internationalised and therefore relevant to everyone. I’m not so sure.

The first week of ratings I don’t think would have surprised anyone. A strong-ish start, driven by Piers and then a drop over the week. The true thing is understanding where the base for the TV channel is, and that might take a few weeks.

As is the case now, digital numbers are squawked about:

Already as a radio-TV hybrid, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with News UK thinking about all the different touch points for their material. Indeed, the idea of ‘Talk’ being a content creation engine (as well as cross-promoter) is a sensible one. What it lacks at the moment is a real digital operation to support the material that it’s generating.

There’s some social clips, and YouTube catch-up, but if the desire is for the brand to be owning part of the zeitgeist, it needs to have a better way of flagging up what its doing. A content website would be a good start.

There’s a good three-part investigation into Tucker Carlson, and what has led to his success in the NY Times. Much of it is pretty depressing, but there is a good insight into how Fox News thinks about its brand and content. It has a very analytics-driven approach, looking at the minute-by-minute ratings and what resonates and particularly uses its own news-making content as features on other shows. In fact they have a whole department – Fox News Flash – that turns these stories into articles and social. Alongside this post-game content, there’s a planning producer looking over show content to help better create storylines across their main shows. You don’t have to agree with what they do, to understand the benefits of some of their structure and strategy.

One of the main challenges that radio, and TV channels like this face, is that the focus is on making the output and ensuring there is some – 24 hours a day! The hamster wheel means that the right amount of effort isn’t put into making the content travel or to turn occasional viewers into fans of the whole station.

As Talk TV settles down to what will initially be low ratings, the question will be whether it can rise to the challenge of both making and marketing its content and creating a coherent brand across the schedule. Can it create passionate viewers/listeners and extract maximum benefit from the efforts it’s putting in?

Useless Digital Operators, Part 3

News from Bloomberg’s Ashley Carman as Facebook’s pulling its podcast integration. It didn’t manage a year.

It’s something I’d written about last year where I finished by saying:

Like anything, success is in the execution. I’m yet to be persuaded Facebook will get the execution right. I guess we’ll see.

I think it’s a shame that they couldn’t get it together. Facebook would have been a great place to reach non-podcast listeners, particularly older ones.


A really good episode of The Media Podcast this week. I catch-up with The Guardian’s media editor Jim Waterson and City University emeritus professor Lis Howell to talk about the misogyny in the Westwood and Angela Rayner stories. Great insights from both, including Jim’s time in the parliamentary lobby. I also talk to journalist James Ball about Elon Musk’s Twitter take-over and free-speech. Have a listen.

The road to building a compelling brand

Tech Trying to Do Radio & Consistency

I mentioned a few weeks ago my frustration about big tech’s inability to work out what radio is, and their lack of success in making it better.

The short version of that is that they seem driven by their own knowledge and seem unable to do research into what audiences want and they also fail to bring in people who’ve been successful in that medium, for any of the 100 years that it’s been around.

The piece took to task Amazon’s new Amp service, but the same arguments work for many of the others too. Oh, on Amp, there are currently 82 jobs available, my quick tallying made that 70 roles in tech, 3 in marketing, 3 in monetisation, 2 in customer service and just 4 focused on content/creators.

Over at Spotify they’ve moved their stand-alone app Greenroom, previously called Locker Room, into the main Spotify, re-branded as Live on Spotify. This is the evolution of their version of Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces (as well as all of the similar copycats).

The purpose of these was ‘anyone can do a live show!’ Unsurprisingly the UGC nirvana never came. Clubhouse has disappeared off everyone’s radar, Twitter Spaces limps on and, probably sensibly, Live at Spotify is now (mainly) Spotify podcast talent doing livestreams.

The Spotify audio talent, including people from companies like The Ringer, which they acquired, are now spread around doing Podcasts, Video-enabled Podcasts, Music+Talk Shows and now Live at Spotify. No matter how good the content is, this output is hard to find, and doesn’t link very well to each other.

For example, Nate Duncan’s podcast – Dunc’d on Basketball, doesn’t have any obvious connection to Duncan and Leroux Live. I couldn’t hear any cross-promo (though it might have been in the middle somewhere). Also content-wise, the material touches on similar topics and as ‘Lives’ are available on-demand as basically unedited podcasts, I’m not sure what I should really be listening to?

Additionally the pre-roll explainers of these older Lives all refer to the service as a different name, and a different way to get it.

Meanwhile many of the Music+Talk shows produced by Spotify have fizzled out. Key Notes (from the Dissect podcast and Spotify Studios) ran for 7 eps, Soundtrip with Jugs and Teddy did 14, No Skips with Jinx and Shea stopped last month, as did the LATAM show La Cima and The Ringer’s 60 Songs That Explain the 90s completed its 60-ep run. There are some things that are still going like Bandsplain and Black Girl Songbook which have been running weekly from launch.

I point at this, not to point fun, but to point out that content is hard. And that’s both the creation of the content – the shows – as well as devising the right packaging and messaging for it.

Facebook was going to become the home of podcasts, but barely a year on they’ve moved their team to work on metaverse initiatives. Spotify, themselves has closed its Live creator fund, before it gave out any money.

The idea to “move fast and break things” in the app world may be the way to go, well at least initially, but in content it’s all about consistency.

The vast majority of radio’s success comes from consistency and I’d argue that most successful podcasts are consistent too. If you take out the short-run documentary series, the vast majority of podcasts at the top of the Apple Podcast charts are long-running shows (and that’s with an algorithm that focuses on new).

In radio, the most successful shows are the ones that have been on air forever. Ken Bruce on Radio 2 is the best performing show on the network – he’s been there since January 1992 – 30 years! The mid-morning current affairs show has been running since 1973 (nearly 50 years), and has only had two presenters in that time – Jimmy Young and Jeremy Vine.

Now, of course, you need to know when to move things on, but most listeners are habitual ones. They find media that they integrate into their life. Appointment to listen content (either live or on-demand) aligns with someone’s routine. Whether that’s arranging getting up and showering around a benchmark feature of a breakfast show, or always listening to a particular set of podcasts when walking the dog, the best audio becomes a fixture of people’s lives.

Whilst the content needs to be good, it also needs to be there! Always there, doing similar sorts of things. If your favourite breakfast DJ wasn’t on, on random days, or their playlist suddenly replaced pop with jazz, it’s something you would notice – and annoy! Consistency is as much the little things, as the big things. As Dick Stone says, the boring is important.

Alongside appointment-to-listens, there’s some media that becomes the top choices for background accompaniment. A music-intensive radio station or even an updated streaming playlist. These can become the go-to in people’s lives because they constantly, and consistently, deliver on a promise to listeners. Of what they are, when they are and why they are.

In amongst all of consumers’ consumption of course there’s room for ‘new’, for searching out new ways to scratch an itch, but for most listeners that occupies the smallest part of their consumption, otherwise it’s the regular, the consistent that they return to.

If you’re trying to establish a new audio product, on whatever platform, yes it has to be interesting, and attractive. New and shiny is also fine. But to get any repeat use, to get people to fall in love with it, to allow it become part of people’s lives, well, it needs to be consistent.

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Why consistently is audio’s superpower

Is Talent In Control?

Another week and more news of talent transfers. This morning Dan Walker, erstwhile host of BBC Breakfast is leaving the sofa for Channel 5. Over in podcast land, the BBC’s not having better luck, with departures of That Peter Crouch Podcast and Kermode & Mayo.

The BBC, particularly, are being squeezed from two sides. On one side you’ve got less money and more scrutiny, as many in-front-of-mic performers are having to publish their earnings and on the other side, there’s significantly more interest from an emerging suite of competitors as well as the ability to ‘monetise’ their talent directly.

The challenge for the BBC (and other established broadcasters) is that they have been slow to realise that the balance of power has shifted and they are unable to change their own structures (and thinking) fast enough to stem the bleeding.

A common complaint I hear from BBC podcast talent, and something that seems to have been a key issue for Peter Crouch and Co are the touring rights for shows. The BBC’s inflexibility to create easily manageable ways for talent to profit from their shows makes it hard for them to stick around.

What the BBC (and other broadcasters) have not been used to doing, is creating dynamic businesses with their talent, rather than just employing them. In Netflix’s world they’ve signed output deals with talent like Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy and Adam Sandler – to keep the hits coming. Closer to home, many agents have created companies with their talent to help them develop podcast, and other, programming that they all have a stake in.

Kermode and Mayo have been two of the UK’s longest serving podcasters, producing notionally a film podcast, but at the same time creating a large audio community. They’ve decided to bring the radio programme to an end, but keep the show going as a Sony-produced podcast.

The Megaphone-hosted show will allow the production company, Sony Music’s Somethin’ Else to sell sponsorships and live reads directly. There will also be a second weekly episode for Apple Podcast paying subscribers.

Both Peter Crouch and Kermode & Mayo re-launches have found themselves at the top of the Apple Podcasts charts, as listeners subscribe to their new feeds. However, it’s interesting to note that the same can’t be said over on Spotify. There, K&M have only jumped to 28 in the TV chart, and Crouch is nowhere to be seen. Just an algorithmic oddity, or recognition that the shows appeal to that older core BBC/Apple demographic?

The challenge for both shows will be to build beyond its historic BBC-derived audiences. Without broadcast plugs and BBC Sounds pushes, the shows themselves will have to join the podcasting marketing fray to keep their audiences growing.

Indeed, for Peter Crouch, the BBC allowed an incredibly generous final episode, 11 months after the last one, which talks about the new series starting and that ‘due to gremlins’ listeners will have to re-subscribe (to what will be their ad-funded operation). Over on Kermode and Mayo’s BBC Film Review, Jason Issacs plugged that their show was carrying on too, with many more hints carrying on throughout. Whilst both may feel that the BBC owe them as much, I would suggest the cool winds of the commercial sector would not have been so generous.

The more competitive nature of today’s audio sector makes what was a somewhat staid world into more of a replica of television, where format-owners, be they talent or production companies, move shows network to network.

In the case of Kermode and Mayo, the rights to the show is relatively difficult to determine. A relationship between the two hosts that started on Radio 1, became a feature of Simon’ Mayo’s Five Live show, and then when Simon left 5 for 2, a re-birthed film show on Five was something tendered and commissioned to Somethin’ Else in 2011. They now will continue to make, and commercialise, the programme in partnership with the hosts.

Does this activity harm Somethin’ Else’s relationship with the BBC (they’re the corporations biggest producer of independent radio programmes) or would the Sony Music subsidiary sooner be making programmes that it owns or co-owns the IP of, anyway?

For me, all of this is a good reminder that celebrity-led programmes are great short-term for any organisation, but their ability to move from outlet to outlet, makes it hard to build a sustainable business on top of them. As a comedy agent said to me “we keep all our talent with podcasts on one year contracts, and just keep jacking up the price”.

To build reliable and long-lived audio businesses, owning the IP of the idea and its execution is key. I would much rather have a show built around an idea, than one solely built around a person.

Channel 4

News last night that the government is going to try, again, to privatise Channel 4. Notionally to “help Channel 4 compete with Netflix and Amazon”, it will also happily allow the government to give a kick-in to a perceived enemy. When 60,000 viewers write in saying that they want it kept as is and all TV production companies and advertisers agree, it is a bit of a stretch to say Nadine knows best.

The likelihood is that an American company, perhaps Viacom (owner of C5), will probably get it, alongside some PSB-ish commitments that will be watered down in time. A model that takes no profits, doesn’t make it’s own programmes, and lets producers keep rights is unlikely to be a new owners core strategy.

The current owners – us – are unlikely to get a better deal than the one we get at the moment.

Personally, I think the best owner for the UK would be BBC Studios who already run the commercial UKTV operation. A BBCS-owned C4 would mean that any profits would be reinvested into either C4 or the public-service BBC. If the government truly wanted competition for Amazon and Netflix (whilst helping build UK production) that would be the way to do it. Of course, they dislike both, so I doubt we’ll be seeing that anytime soon.


On The Media Podcast this week, Edelman’s Karin Robinson and the Press Gazette’s Charlotte Tobitt talk to me about the big media stories of the week. Plus Dan Taylor-Watt runs through the latest streaming news. Get it on your podcast app!

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Another week and more news of talent transfers. This morning Dan Walker, erstwhile host of BBC Breakfast is leaving the sofa for Channel 5. Over in podcast land, the BBC’s not having better luck, with departures of That Peter Crouch Podcast and Kermode & Mayo.

The TalkRadio/TalkTV Combination

News UK announced yesterday that it’s launching TalkTV in four weeks time on Monday 25th April.

Most of the news is things we already knew – shows by Piers Morgan, Tom Newton Dunn and the recently announced panel show presented by Sharon Osborne.

There had been a few questions about how it would work with TalkRadio, what would be shared, what would be separate etc. However, at the end of the release it says that the new TV channel will carry TalkRadio (visualised) programming in the daytime (Julia Hartley-Brewer, Jeremy Kyle, Iain Collins etc) but that the radio station will also now carry the TV’s prime-time output live.

In effect, TalkRadio and TalkTV will be the same product whether you listen or watch it. Generally, I think this makes a lot of sense.

There’s always some discussion about whether radio loses out by re-broadcasting a TV feed. But it isn’t something that’s new – the Today Programme was broadcast on TV for a bit, and now GB News is simulcast on digital radio too.

Of course, in an ideal world you would create radio-specific programming all the time, but given the choice between having Piers Morgan on my station with a large production team generating guests and content, or having a good radio show, I’d probably go for the former (no matter what you think of Piers). It’s also something that makes sense from an audience point of view.

Below is a chart of an average Monday of TalkRadio’s listening. It has a strong morning, but that drops off in the afternoon, and then dives pretty precipitously at 7pm.

This isn’t something particularly specific to TalkRadio, it’s standard for all radio.

…so being able to opt into some high quality content that’s already been paid for, would seem to make some sense.

I guess my one question is around branding. You’ve got TalkTV, and I imagine the earlier shows will be branded TalkRadio on TalkTV. In a world where cut through is really tough, and where especially on the telly side they’re trying to establish something against lots of competition, does it do a disservice to both by having two brands?

If you’ve got a viral clip of Julia Hartley-Brewer, in a Talk-branded environment, what’s the best brand to promote? Is she the radio station breakfast host or the breakfast show on TalkTV. Is it a waste to try and explain she’s both? Should there be a single brand, simulcast across radio, television and online?

TalkRadio has certainly built some brand equity in its six year life and is currently riding high on its best figures – 542k reach – but it is still a smaller radio station than competitors in the space. So should it be rebranded?TalkTV on the other hand is still a relatively unknown quantity. Is it a danger to throw the baby out with the bath water? If it was your radio station, would you want to wait and see before moving them closer together, or have it as a big bang multi-platform brand from the get-go?

These are, of course, all very modern challenges to face.

After GB News’ rocky start, the combination of TalkRadio’s well practiced video operation alongside some impressive prime time talent gives TalkTV a great chance of success. Its challenge though will be to remain noisy and get people to sample its operation.

Over at Leicester Square, LBC’s taken a different route. Oddly in amongst the BBC speech networks, Talk Radio and GB News, it’s ended up pretty middle-market and Daily Mail. Not a bad place to be, the Daily Mail is the biggest paper after all, but its recent BBC hires has definitely made this, the most up-market incarnation of LBC for a long while.

On the video-front, after being leap-frogged in the video stakes, Global now has a great TV-like operation at LBC – but seemingly no desire for that to be a competing TV channel – or even just a round-the-clock YouTube stream. Perhaps with the expansion of TalkRadio on TalkTV that will prompt them to change it up?

I guess we’ll see. Or just hear.


On the Media Podcast this week I had a great chat with Lord Ed Vaizey (extended chat for the Patreon-ers) about Ofcom, regulation and being a Conservative. Also joining me to talk over all the media news were Ann Charles and Maggie Brown. Listen and follow, to get all the future eps.

You can also hear me in a not entirely fulfilling three and a half minutes at the end of the Today Programme. I’m not really sure what the subject was, and I was in it! But I think it was something along the lines of whether we’ve reached peak podcast.

Are multi-platform brands the future?

Why Podcasters Will Be Stuck Doing Video

There is a battle brewing and traditional podcasters are not going to like it. By the end of the year, it’s going to be essential that podcasters are creating proper video versions of their shows.

A lot of podcasting has, in one way or another, come from radio. Whether that’s radio shows that have become podcasts, radio people who’ve jumped to the podcast sector or just hosts inspired by what they’ve heard before – radio has helped incubate podcasting.

However there’s a new wave of podcasters who don’t have radio as their progenitor but instead have YouTubers.

The super-spreader for this is probably Joe Rogan, but YouTube performers have often grown podcasts off the back of their initial channels. Channels like H3H3 Productions have the H3 Podcast, Rhett and Link (from Good Mythical Morning) have Ear Biscuits, Cal Freezy developed The Fellas and Jaackmate created Jaackmate’s Happy Hour.

These YouTube-native folks have, unsurprisingly, made sure that their podcasts exist as videos too. Also the nature of these shows are all very similar – a pair, or gang, of people chatting – sometimes with guests. There’s no fiction, or documentary, no real out and about recording, no sound design, no scripting. They are all a very particular type of chat podcast.

The scale of their YouTube publishing has resulted in a lot of their audience thinking ‘podcasts’ are what these people are doing. It’s also why nearly 20% of podcast listeners regard YouTube as their main podcast app. In another article, Tom Webster from Edison Research, warns podcasters to be careful saying “get this wherever you get your podcasts” if they don’t put their show on YouTube.

This group of creators and listeners are helping to redefine what podcasts are – in form, content and platform.

Spotify’s podcasting operation has also been leaning into this podcasts-from video-position.

Spotify is the podcast home of Joe Rogan, Jaackmate and The Fellas. They have also re-architected their app so listeners can choose to become viewers at any point by pulling up the scrub bar. Below is an example from The Fellas.

This is something that Spotify has opened up for some users of its podcasting hosting service Anchor, but they’ve really been rolling it out for many of their originals. There is no current way for third parties to provide video to Spotify.

What Spotify has recognised is that YouTubers do good business as podcasters, but their split loyalties to video means they’ve got to service that. Plus, they’re scared that YouTube (which also has a successful subscription music service) could eat their podcast lunch.

Over at YouTube, even with 18% of users using it as their main podcast app, there is no actual podcast-specific functionality at the moment. That’s expected to change pretty soon.

They’ve hired a head of podcasts – Kai Chuk and have also been offering US podcasters and networks grants of up to $300k to start filming their podcasts to deploy on YouTube. We’ll probably hear more about their plans at the end of the week as Chuk gives a speech at Podcast Movement Evolutions in LA.

For podcasters keen to grow their audience, YouTube – already the world’s second biggest search engine – is going to be an important platform to program for, as it tunes its product to look after podcasters.

Its algorithm will likely follow how it surfaces videos – watch-time and engagement. Just slinging up an audiogram so there’s some moving video whilst your audio plays is unlikely to garner much distribution.

Of course the chat-casts of Joe Rogan and The Fellas are pretty easy to film, but a documentary series or a narrative drama are going to be much more difficult.

The issue for audio-native podcasters is that YouTube is already one of the most successful podcast clients, even without the vast majority of shows on it. As the platform advertises itself as a podcast destination and as its fellow chat-casters start shouting about it, it’s likely to grow even bigger.

There’s no reason why this initiative won’t bring a large number of new people to ‘podcasts’ but could also realign the Apple Podcasts-Spotify hegemony that exists at the moment.

If you’re making a podcast now, I’d get ready to produce that video version. Whether you like the idea of doing it or not.


I appeared on Radio 4’s Feedback last week talking about podcast exclusives and the BBC’s decision to ‘window’ some of their radio show on BBC Sounds. I’m on from 19mins 40s here.

On The Media Podcast I talked to Times Radio’s Matt Chorley and City University Professor and Author Lis Howell. Subscribe in your audio podcast app of choice.

The British Podcast Awards are currently open for entries. You’ve got just under three weeks to get your podcast in.

If you’ve been forwarded this, or clicked thru from social media, you can subscribe for free and get it in your inbox. That way, next time, you can say to your boss “yes, I’ve already read it”.

…whether they like it or not

Big Tech Always Fails at Doing Radio

News last week of a new launch by Amazon – Amp. As they describe it:

A new app that will give you a way to DJ your own live radio shows.

The short version is that anyone (well, provided you’re in the US and on iOS) can make a live radio show that combines the large music catalogue from Amazon Music with presenter links and the ability for listeners to call in.

It seems they’ve done a pretty good job with the app and the interface for producing, but, and it’s still very early days, the discovery of shows and things is a bit shonky. Potentially all fixable of course.

It’s not dissimilar, but perhaps better executed, than Spotify’s Music+Talk. That was their similar product that allowed users to create on-demand radio-style shows using Spotify’s catalogue. It’s been around 18 months but has yet to set the world alight.

Over the past twenty years there’s been many attempts at “improving radio” by start-ups and larger firms alike. They have pretty much all been unsuccessful.

Why? Arrogance mainly. Radio looks simple. “It’s been around 100 years, how difficult can it be” says another tech head who’s merely a listener, not an expert.

Every time they launch these types of services they fail to hire one of the many bright people from the radio sector who could actually explain the appeal of radio – and even perhaps suggest how it could help make these services work. Instead they try and reinvent the wheel and failure ensues.

In Amazon’s press release, the head of the service, John Ciancutti says:

Radio has always been about music and culture. But imagine if you were inventing the medium for the first time today. You’d combine what people love about radio—spontaneous talk, new music discovery, diverse personalities, and broad programming—with all that’s made possible by today’s technology. You’d make it so anybody with a phone, a voice, and a love for music could make their own show.

Anyone who’s actually worked in radio, or talked to listeners will tell you that what people love about radio is not “spontaneous talk, new music discovery, diverse personalities, and broad programming”. Some of these things are absolutely properties that work at individual stations, but radio as a whole is not like that. Radio is about familiarity. It’s about trust. It’s about company. A very large proportion of it is about background entertainment and another chunk is very much about news. The most popular radio stations in most markets in the world are low-talk, repetitive adult-contemporary music stations.

The percentage that’s “spontaneous talk, new music discovery, diverse personalities, and broad programming’ is a very small proportion. It’s also the format that’s hardest to execute and deliver and it requires very talented people to do this very difficult type of programming.

I’ve always been a supporter of empowering anyone who wants to get into radio presenting – but it’s a skill, that requires practice and understanding. Radio is not about the producer. It’s about the listener. Great radio is focused on them. It’s easy to be distracted by a motormouth DJ when it seems it’s all about him (and it’s usually him), but the best ego-driven hosts are the ones who are performing not for themselves, but for the listeners the other end.

If I was building radio from the ground up I would not be concentrating on “anybody with a phone, a voice, and a love for music”.

Looking at his LinkedIn profile, Mr Ciancutti is indeed a very talented chap. VP of Product Engineering at Netflix, Director of Engineering at Facebook, then Director of Product Management at Google, before joining Amazon. He seems exactly the right person with the skills to build a digital product. Great radio though, is not just a digital product.

The other problem for Amazon, or Spotify, is that radio works well when it’s unencumbered by platform. People are used to being able to get radio content any way they wish. Just has Apple has found that seemingly locking away Beats 1, now Apple Music 1 in a single app means that one of radio’s core successes – sharing and common consumption – is almost impossible to achieve.

Radio’s long-running success partly comes from a broadcast mentality. Stations are after listeners everywhere. In the UK radio has rushed to be on FM, DAB, though a Digital Television, online, on mobile, in smart speakers – anywhere that will have it. Station operators get annoyed when they can’t get their stations into more places. It is the polar opposite of an app-driven culture. Why? Because it’s essential to go where listeners are. You go to their party, you don’t demand they come to yours.

A service being both only available to a subset of people and then with so much choice in it means dilemmas around discovery and the opportunity for these digital shows to get any salience with listeners almost impossible. Globally there are few linear internet-radio stations with an audience – being niched and with limited distribution means its hard to connect with a large number of people. This will always be the killer for talent too. Why put that effort in to something that can’t generate a meaningful audience?

The lure of user-generated content is strong for all digital companies. It’s cheap content creation and the hope is to let a million flowers bloom, with the good stuff rising to the top. Everyone wants to be a YouTube for… whatever. It is almost impossible for this to happen.

YouTube got to mass market video first. Mainly by ignoring any rules around rights! It was free to use, accessible by everyone, and it was built on the open, desktop web, pre-smart phones. Now it’s cross-platform which has certainly helped it maintain its lead, but it’s basically broadcast. Open to all.

Attempts like Clubhouse burned brightly before most people realised the content was a bit crap. It was hard to find things to listen to that didn’t end up being a 90 minute panel session at a conference. There were no mass market hits because it was hard to integrate Clubhouse into your audio ear time, and the participants were in it for themselves rather than you listening at home.

All digital radio products are challenged by strictly held music rights deals. Logged in users, content restrictions, country by country rules. And expensive to license. The music battle between Amazon, Apple, Spotify and Google has also balkanised user access. For god’s sake even playlists aren’t transferrable between services. Building platforms on top of platforms is not consumer friendly.

Radio is ‘one button’ entertainment, it’s a background listen. Searching out an ever-changing list of shows is a different user experience. Even in the streaming world the average number of artists a user streams is 40. That’s the average! That means there’s as many people listening to less than that as there are more. The vast majority of people do not have the time to spend auditioning variable quality content to replace the radio they consume at the moment. It is almost impossible to get people to switch from one professional radio station to another – and that’s with talent, marketing and universal distribution!

Knowing all of this, perhaps it’s not a surprise that the only thing that’s made a dent in radio – in audience scale or content style – are podcasts. I think so much of it is down to being a product that’s built on broad distribution. No lock in, lots of choices of how to get it. They appear in lots of places – apps, the web, smart speakers, in-flight entertainment. Big shows grow from being easily accessible (hey, they might be acquired and become an exclusive afterwards). There aren’t many examples of successful shows that start as platform exclusives for a reason.

I’m not a luddite. I think there’s lots of positives in having UGC services that allow people to play around with music and be a DJ for their mates. A modern version of sharing a mixtape with your friends. However its rare that any of those mixtapes would have been popular enough to be sold in HMV.

If digital companies truly want to create the radio of the future they need to understand the medium, how listeners interact with it and why it’s successful. What won’t work is assuming how you and your colleagues consume radio, and the fact you’ve heard a load of radio shows over your lifetime sets you up to be able to re-invent the medium.

There’s a further quote from John later in the article:

When I was a kid, radio was really different from how it is today. DJs were local to their markets. I used to move back and forth from San Francisco to Miami between parents, and radio sounded completely different in each city. Not the music, but the sound, everything. DJs would play local music and emerging artists, they were kingmakers, and they drove local music culture. I felt a connection to those DJs…. I’m excited for Amp to bring that opportunity to listeners.

It seems John is saying that moving away from this local/DJ-centric world is where radio went wrong and that’s what Amp is trying to bring back. Firstly, it’s a rose-tinted view of the past. Local radio’s existence was often a quirk of licensing and distribution more than anything else. It also existed in a world where there wasn’t the internet, hundreds of television channels and services like Spotify and Amazon Music. Anything can do well when there’s little competition. That’s not today’s world.

Successful radio groups understand consumers and the material that responds well to their need states. These are billion dollar operations, all around the world who understand their listeners. The arrogance to say that you’re in a position to re-invent radio without having learned the basics makes me, as you may have worked out, a little cross.

What I think is so surprising is that it’s Amazon that have ended up creating a product so similar to other unsuccessful ones in this space. I think they’re such a great company with an amazing history of innovation. And so often their success comes from understanding consumer behaviour. Whether it’s the initial Amazon store, AWS, their logistics business or the idea of Prime – when they’re focused on fixing something and innovating they do incredibly well and are pretty unbeatable.

The danger, of course, is that in writing this I’m seen as the man from Kodak explaining why digital cameras aren’t go work. Or Nokia laughing at the iPhone. But my anger isn’t that I think ‘radio’ is doing a perfect job – I don’t think that. It’s not even that I’m against digital audio evolution. I’m a huge fan of podcasts and I would love there to be a sister product that was music-driven, there is absolutely a gap in the market for it.

It’s just that every time a digital company wades into this area they say the same thing – that they’ll be reinventing radio. Every company that has a go then does basically the same thing. And they all. All. Fail. It’s because they’re always focused on re-inventing the transmitter, but forget that it’s just a tool that brings the actual product to listeners.

Either that, or the product managers are all just frustrated DJs who couldn’t get on the radio and now want to wreak revenge. If so, why you didn’t get on, is the same reason that you’re unlikely to be successful now. No listener focus!

Why Amp is the latest attempt that misunderstands listeners.

Formatting the News

The war in Ukraine, Partygate, Coronavirus, Brexit – big stories have been somewhat non-stop over the past few years. At the same time, social media has never brought us closer to the participants.

Josh Marshall, from Talking Points Memo has curated a list of journalists covering the Ukraine story – 2022 Ukraine Crisis. Pinned to my Twitter home screen, I can flick between my regular followees and up-to-the minute Ukraine news. When I hear a news bulletin its rare that I’m not ahead of the latest moves.

The challenge to broadcasters is their well-oiled machinery of news, checking, writing and reporting is somewhat short-circuited by the public having access to the world’s correspondents and news makers. Of course there’s the fringes and the fog of war – but just following ministers, diplomats and trusted sources gives a pretty accurate insight and the latest developments. I think for podcasters it’s even more of a challenge as their turnaround time is, generally, much longer. Though as I talk about below, some are trying to change that.

In the UK, the grammar of news hasn’t really changed since the introduction of news channels. In the US, many of the news channels have changed to become personality-led comment channels. I’m no Fox News fan, but looking at Friday’s US TV ratings for total viewers, its show The Five was TV’s 4th biggest show and Hannity the 6th – beating all of NBC and the regular Fox’s primetime line-up. They were also still both in the top ten for the more attractive 15 to 49 demo. Fox News has certainly found its niche and audience, driven by a very formatted, focused approach.

This came to mind as I listened/watched, last night, to the first edition of Andrew Marr’s show on LBC. It’s never particularly fair to review first nights, as things are likely to change, evolve and settle over the next few weeks. However, there’s some broad thoughts that struck me.

Firstly, it was very televisual in structure and content. Perhaps no great surprise with a TV presenter, and producer (Rob Burley) at the helm. They squeezed a lot in – what seemed like an autocue’d opening, a conversation with Camilla Tominey at the top, perhaps the first guest Michael Gove was a little late, a round-up with LBC’s political reporter, a two-way with John Sweeney in Kyiv, an interview with International Rescue’s David Miliband, the UK ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward, plus three news/travel/ad breaks sort of on the quarter-hour before an autocue’d closer.

It was a pretty packed show, which did mean Marr was speeding through questions at the beginning with Gove and then having to cut off potentially interesting responses from Sweeney and Miliband later on. The Gove interview would have been very different if tackled by fellow LBCers Nick Ferrari or Iain Dale. The core political question of the day around refugees was very lightly touched, whilst there seemed to be more of a desire to get to a potential (pre-prepped?) news line around likely money from the Chancellor to help with the cost of living.

I guess the big question for this show, or any piece of current affairs, is what’s its purpose? What’s unique about that show? Also how does it cut through to drive awareness and audience?

The pre-written opener sold the idea that they were going to connect the Ukraine invasion with the effect it has on you, the British public. The pre-written closer referred to this too, but I’m not sure much (except the Gove line) had much to do with that, so it seemed a little odd.

The benefit of Marr is the contacts he has and the ability for his guests to push on the stories that have evolved in the day. The aim should surely be for the papers or late news bulletins to have a report/clip of someone important telling Marr something new. I’m sure they’ll also settle in to being comfortable with less guests.

Marr worked very well as a TV programme. It’s from Global’s Westminster studio, angles and graphics all work great. Getting to watch it is a little tough. It was only on Global Player – where you select LBC and then wait for the video box to pop up, which you then click for the stream. There’s no real reference to watching anything from the LBC website. Sometimes LBC live video is also on YouTube/Twitter, this wasn’t. So as a viewer its quite hard to know where you’re supposed to get it – particularly if you want to be ready before the start. The end of the show was also cut off on the app, so no Iain Dale sell for me!

I think LBC is clearly going towards being a live 24hour video stream at some point, but right now the half and half nature makes it all a little confused.


Playing with the form of news is something that Spooler Media has been doing. Its tech powers the new podcast from Insider call The Refresh.

As they describe it:

Spooler is a new CMS for publishing audio that gives creators the unique flexibility to edit and re-edit podcasts quickly and easily, making timely updates feasible in a way never possible before.

It’s a modular CMS that allows the user to insert/update/replace segments in a podcast easily. In other words have a news podcast with the latest information rather than users listening to something that was perhaps published over 12 hours before.

The Refresh is the first podcast to use the tech. I think it’s a neat idea and I imagine works particularly well for podcasts that are listened to streamed (a la Spotify) than downloaded, where this updated file concept is likely to cause variable issues depending on which app you use.

What is an interesting challenge is whether you can train listeners to understand that when they hit play they get something up-to-the-minute, when in that medium they’re used to something being more edition based.


On The Media Podcast this week, Podnews’ James Cridland and the Press Gazette’s Charlotte Tobitt join me to talk Britbox, ITV and the BBC, Ipsos Iris news rankings and Peter Crouch moving his podcast to Acast. Plus Warren Nettleford tells me about the recently re-launched youth news service Need To Know.

Listen by searching for The Media Podcast on Apple, Google and Spotify or click here.

Marr and more

More Talent Transfers

An amazing coup for Global as they sign up the BBC’s Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel for “a major new podcast for Global Player, as well as hosting a show together on LBC and providing commentary and analysis for

I imagine it’s a blow to the BBC, well at least to staff morale, as there has been an exodus of news staff from a combination of cuts and the re-location of departments around the country.

The Times’ Jake Kanter talked about the worry about whether this is starting to affect output. I imagine not entirely, there’s still a huge number of people there, and cock-ups can always happen. However it does all play into a narrative of decline. The Guardian’s Jim Waterson and Caroline Davis quote an unnamed person: “Sources said there was a sense that BBC [news] had not grasped how big podcasting was becoming because it was still fixated on servicing its old broadcast channels, and could not compete on money, talent and editorial freedom.

Talent-development in a fast-changing media sector is more and more important. The rise of digital media opportunities, and the difficulty of cutting through with new products means the potency of talent is hard to ignore and looking after them becomes even more important.

That’s problematic for BBC talent who are assailed from all sides and get caught in the cross-fire of national newspapers/politicians lobbing grenades at Auntie, having to follow stricter guidelines than any other operator, and get their salaries published too.

Emily Maitlis has been harangued a number of times over scripts and social posts and I imagine if Jon Sopel’s desire to be political editor was going to be overlooked, it’s perhaps not surprising that they’re off to do something else.

The hiring by Global follows hot on the heals of them snaffling Andrew Marr and Eddie Mair.

At the BBC they all earned around £350k each, the Global deal will be generous, but it also frees them up to do other things too. However to encourage them to give up plum jobs there will have needed to be both a cash and creative incentive.

Other than broad outlines, Global have been non-specific about what Andrew Marr, Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis will do on LBC. If they’re paying top dollar they will want their pound of flesh. Looking at these hirings it would seem mad to me if they’re not planning on launching a TV station around LBC. They have already upped the visual elements on the channel, but with competitors like GB News and talkTV getting into the news/opinion business, why wouldn’t Global, with already some of the best talent, not be readying themselves to do that too?

Also joining Jon and Emily is their old podcast producer, Dino Sofos. Previously looking after some of the successful BBC News podcast launches, one of his key skills seems to be talent relationships – including putting together Emily and Jon for Americast.

In one of my previous companies they hired a firm to map all the relationships in the business, irrespective of reporting lines. There were a few, but powerful, supernodes. People who were the connective tissue to much of the smooth running of the organisation. The names were quite a surprise to the business’ bosses, they often weren’t particularly senior but they were essential for information flow and belonging.

The danger with a lot of restructuring is that its hard to know the knock-on effects of the changes will be, relationships are often non-linear. It’s easy to lose a supernode. Who was responsible for fighting to keep Emily or Jon? Or did it partly get lost in the wash?

The appointment of BBC political editor has been notable by how many people have ruled themselves out. Looking at the grief Laura Kuenssberg got on social media, the pressure from other media and the perhaps lukewarm defence from the bosses – why would you want to say yes to that? Particularly now for talent enjoying success, and with an energised market for those skills, being cared for and looked after has never been more important.


I caught up with ex-Times Editor and ex-Head of BBC News, now Founder and Editor of Tortoise Media, James Harding, on last week’s edition of The Media Podcast. It was fascinating to hear how think about slow news, membership and their new focus on audio.

Also joining me was the Guardian’s Media Editor Jim Waterson and CEO of Nine Lives Media Cat Lewis.

Listen on your podcast app of choice or by clicking here:

Global swoop in for Maitlis and Sopel

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