Two Radio Podcasts I’m Enjoying

Two radio podcasts I’m really enjoying listening to at the moment are David Lloyd’s Conversations and Craig Bruce’s Game Changers: Radio.

David‘s the Group PD (in old money) of Orion Media and somewhat of a radio historian. Now, to be honest, radio nostalgia isn’t really my thing. I’ve always been an anorak of now, rather than then.

However, I am interested in radio people. I’m interested in finding out what they did and why they did it. It’s hard to do this for things happening today as people are often worried about letting their guard down or revealing some commercial confidentiality. As you drift back through time, it’s less of an issue, but often the decision making and thought it still very relevant.

I think Conversations as a title is a bit of a misnomer, as David clearly works hard to edit as much as himself out as possible. What’s left is a beautifully produced part-history, part self-analysis of some people who’ve had a significant effect on radio.

Many of the people are ‘famous’ for their roles in later management, it’s lovely to hear the real radio roots.

Craig Bruce was, up until recently, the Content Director for Australia’s largest radio group Southern Cross Austereo. He’s worked with some fascinating people and what I’ve read about him and what I felt when I spent some time with him, is that he’s incredibly focused on delivering great performances – be it from talent or teams.

His podcasts are long-form interviews with some big Australian radio talent from in front of, and behind, the radio mic.

As a Brit, it won’t be a surprise if you don’t really know who these interviewees are. I actually think it makes it more interesting. If you’re fascinated by the craft of radio and how brilliant radio folk think and work, this is a great podcast to give you ideas and to re-think how you approach your radio work.

  • A good place to start is the episode with Hamish and Andy’s producer Sam Cavanagh.

Commercial Radio to Join iPlayer?

News in the MediaGuardian today about the BBC’s olive-branch to commercial radio with the potential creation of Listen Again for all of UK radio (commercial and BBC).

At first glance this seems a good thing. Listeners do love the BBC’s Listen Again/iPlayer for Radio services and are keen for commercial radio to provide the same (yes, I know some stations already do). However it does raise some interesting questions, and i’d counsel both sides to think about some of the issues this will create.

Consumers love on-demand listening, it suits them, and is absolutely something all radio stations should do. At the moment consumers come through radio station websites to do this. For commercial stations this generates lots of banner impressions and allows the showcasing of other content, both commercial and non-commercial to listeners. Indeed, it’s this premium content that pulls in listeners so they see some of the the er, less premium content, that we put online.

If however you create a new space where they go to consume this content, they no loner need to come to your station’s website – they’ll go directly to the portal. My hunch would be the BBC’s radio station websites have seen their usage drop since the emergence of iPlayer.

If there is a portal, will it be co-branded with the BBC? Will the BBC want to limit the commercial messaging within it, they are paying for it after all. Maybe you’ll get a pre-roll ad away, but what about integrations? Will you be able to brand the whole player? Will you be able to run a video-pre-roll instead? Will there be room for data capture? Can you run an MPU or an expandable?

For me the interesting things about the BBC being invovled is that they get to donate:

  • Bandwidth
  • Underlying Technology
  • Cross-Promotion

Personally I wouldn’t want to make the de facto place you consume my content on someone elses website. Whatever the good intentions.

What I would like is the UK radio industry to operate something (on their own sites) that has similar functionality and design values so that UK consumers could easily find and use it. How it’s dressed and integrated should be left to the broadcasters.

I’d also like integration for opt-in cross-promotion.

I’d like anywhere that the BBC suggests other content to include commercial radio, if relevant, as well. A funk show on Radio 2 should cross-promote a funk show on Jazz FM – if there’s value to licence fee payers. I’d also hope that commercial radio station could use it to cross-promote other inter-brand content, so Global could promote Galaxy programming next to Capital’s Dance Anthems.

I think some commercial stations would even cross-refer back to the BBC. I know for us at Fun Kids, we’d like our station to be the tap you turn for when you want children’s radio content. To that degree i’d probably be happy to link to the BBC’s excellent children’s content as well – especially if they were linking back.

There’s a great opportunity to work together for the good of UK radio, lets just not lose sight of how both sides’ organisations operate.

Bof! Digital Radio in France

Uncharacteristically (!), France has been somewhat late to the digital radio party, but now that they’re in, they’re really going for it.

News today from WorldDMB that the French Government are mandating that all radios must be digital ones:

The law sets out a three step programme to integrate digital radio into all radio receivers:
– 1st September 2010 – radio receiver which can display multimedia content will have digital
radio reception enabled with the exception of in-car terminals
– 1st September 2012 – all new terminals will be dedicated to the reception of digital radio and
multimedia with the exception of in-car terminals
– 1st September 2013 – all radio receivers will be digital

It’s quite a rapid roll-out and something that will ceratinly help generate a more speedy appearance of digital radios in UK cars too.

New Heart Network – Day 1

Today, the first wave of the Heartification process kicked in, with Radio Broadland, SGR Ipswich, SGR Colchester, Hereward, Chiltern Bedford, Chiltern Dunstable and Northants 96 (update: oh, and Q103) moving from the One Network to the Heart Network. Whilst the change is significant, the stations have been runnning the Heart music log for some time and have gradually moved to the Heart positioner – More Music Variety.

I thought it would be interesting to have a listen and do a programming log of a new local Heart in the 10am hour this morning. This is the first hour of the new networked Toby Anstis show.  It’s a bit mean to look at a first day, as there’ll naturally be teething trouble, but I thought it would be a good to get an insight into their thoughts about how the network progamming will sit with the local programming. I caught it at about 10.03 this morning.

Toby Anstis, 10am, A Heart East Station

Music: Atlantic Star – Secret Lovers
Production: More Music Variety –  This is Heart
Music: Leona Lewis – Run
Music: Blue – All Rise
Production: More Music Variety –  This is Heart
Music: Jordin Sparks – Air
Production: Dream Destination (on Heart) promo
Music: Tracy Chapman – Baby Can I Hold You Tonight
Music: Take That – Rule the World
Production: More Music Variety –  This is Heart
Music: Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
Production: This is Heart
Music: Fergie – Big Girls Don’t Cry
First Link!: (around 40secs) A music back-anno – stick with heart – generic weather – (talks about snow in some places) – reference to kids going back to school – mention of a listener stuck in bed with a cold – plug to get in touch using – text 82122 (start with heart) or get on the phone (though no number mentioned) – then a music promote before a but of ‘this is heart’ production
Ad Break: 30sec gap (I imagine where first ad should of gone) then a workdays sponsor promo in what would have been the second ad
Production: This is Heart
Music: Wet Wet Wet – Goodnight Girl
Production: Contest Trail
Music: James Morrison – Broken Strings
Link 2: Back- anno – more music variety on heart – song played for Jason at Asda – appeal for first day at work stories – 82122 start with heart – promote for listeners to call when they hear the BA boarding call (but no explainer of what that means) – timecheck – forward promote of music
Ad break: – no problems – workdays sponsor promo as second ad
Production: This is Heart
Music: Flashdance –  What a Feeling
Production: More Music Variety – This is Heart
Music: Jamelia – Superstar
Link 3: Speedlink to promote Mariah up next
Ad Break: normal ad break
Link 4: Into news “mention of on fm, digital radio ad online” (not so good for stations who aren’t on digital) News: 1minute national news, sport, entertainment with a more at plug
Production: Local Heart Breakfast promo (30secs)
Production: Dream destination promo
Push for Dream Destination (across the Heart network) – uses the national 0845 number
Production: This is Heart

Overall it’s a tight commercial radio hour, adopting, without mentioning it,  a 30minute non-stop sequence out of the 10am news. There was then Four links across the hour, getting through 11 songs.

I guess the thing that I was most surprised about was how little local drops there were in the hour. I would of expected local promos at least out of ad breaks and thought they would have localised the production with town mentions etc. This is very easy to do, so is obvioulsy a strategic thing. It will be interesting to see if in the local hours it follows the same pattern. (Update – apparently London has ‘London’s Heart’ production)

In the presenter links, there was the standard network practice of generic mentions of people and places without locations. I’d be interested to see if there’s any split links for London.

A few catch-all errors, like mentioning digital, when half the East Anglia stations aren’t on it and speaking about a competition as if people have heard it before – but really that’s a but nitpicky.

Toby sounds good and slick, allthough I thought they could have done with some early links in the hour, at least for today, providing some context for East of England listeners. Especially as for many listeners, tuning in for the first time after Christmas, the whole Heart thing may have come out of no where. Therefore using jocks (networked or not) to hold their hand is important.

Give It Some Heart

As has been discussed elsewhere, Global Radio is about to begin the Heartification process to convert Radio Broadland, SGR Ipswich, SGR Colchester, Hereward, Chiltern Bedford, Chiltern Dunstable and Northants 96 to Heart (insert frequency).

It’s an interesting challenge. Dumping 20 years of heritage is brave, but the hope is that a unified brand will help get more listeners and make more money. The new Hearts will have local Breakfast, Drivetime shows and Weekend mid-morning and the rest will be networked with Heart 106.2 in London, which means the stations get new presenters like Toby Anstis (mid-morning), Matt Wilkinson (evenings) and Simon Beale (late nights).

The re-brand is getting some heavyweight TV support. Indeed, the first stations have been chosen because they’re in a TV region – Anglia. The ad is this one…

I think it’s interesting that the main two stars are Jason Donavan (the Sunday evening show presenter) and Jamie Theakston (who I don’t think will even be on any of the new stations). I imagine the people on the sofa are the local presenters from each station – which I guess is one way to get around that delicate problem of who to show. I note that the liner is ‘your brand new radio station’ and that the end credit is ‘new to Anglia’.

I think one of the difficulties with the new campaign is that it never mentions the frequencies of the stations that are becoming Heart. I think it’s actually easy to dismiss the ad as thinking it’s for that, there Heart radio station in London rather than my local station that used to be Northants.

TV’s one aspect of the rebrand, i’ll try and write another post on some of the other aspects soon.

One Radio Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journalism Fail

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

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

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

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

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

Conference Fun

I’ve had a busy few weeks so have been somewhat neglecting my blogging. Apologies reader.

At the moment i’m just on the train back from Bradford where i’ve been speaking at the National Media Museum’s MediaFest08 event. I’m a very occasional speaker at things like this, but it’s actually the 2nd such appointment in a matter of weeks.

The first was at the BBC’s Audio and Music Festival. It’s a great event, a sort of internal Radio Festival for the staff who work in the radio and music departments. By the looks of it they have  a mixture of sessions with a cross-section of internal and external people.  I was asked to appear  on the ‘You’re Breaking Up’ a session that looked at “how new technology is being used to interact with people and what boundaries need to be crossed to make sure the BBC’s output remains relevant and accessible to increasingly fragmented audiences.”

The panel consisted of the BBC’s Controller of Multiplatform and Interactive, Mark Friend, technology critic Bill Thompson and me. We were quizzed by the always brilliant Julian Worricker. I think a key part of my role was to give ‘commercial radio’s’ view of the BBC and their take on technology change. Whilst it’s very hard to give a definitive view, my broad opinion was that commercial radio’s got enough to worry about without trying to second guess the BBC and that it’s basically in such a bad place and that everyone at the BBC should feel lucky, relived and pleased where they are.

I also talked a little about the danger that the BBC can inadvertently crush smaller players as it bounds off to its next success. Whilst Bill made some excellent points that the BBC should be less hung up on control as it’s basically already been taken from them , my view was slightly different. I’m much less bothered about BBC content appearing on bittorent than I am about the BBC building themselves a system that ruthlessly promotes BBC content to the detriment of commercial operators who are locked out of an ad-free, high quality audio-visual portal. If iPlayer suggests other rock shows for licence fee payers to discover, why shouldn’t these be ones from XFM and Kerrang!?

There was a question from a producer asking whether all of this talk of platforms got in the way of doing the main thing –creating great content. My view is that content is King providing that there’s perfect information in the market (something that rarely happens). If you make some amazing content surely it needs to be accessible by the audience (i’m sure there’s an analogy about if a tree falls an no one is there does it make a noise).

One of the things i’m getting passionate with our clients about is ‘awareness’ for new stations. How do you create relationships with potential and new listeners and leverage this to grow audiences.  I think this is as relevant to BBC6Music as it is NME Radio or Planet Rock.

In the conference in Bradford I was speaking with Ofcom’s Head of English Region’s Damian Radcliffe where we merely had to cover the last 25 years of radio and the next 25 years too. Eeek. This different angle, however, promoted a different type of radio discussion to many of the existing conferences and perhaps there’s something in doing it that way for the more established events

The Media Museum has also just opened an exhibition of 50 years of Blue Peter, so I got to spend the evening before the conference with Biddy Baxter and the current and recent Editor of Blue Peter, something that was very interesting and a bit different.

In other conference news, if you like the stuff that I write about you’d really like the Radio Academy’s Radio at the Edge conference, next month. It’s got a great line up, is good value and i’m sure you’ll learn something. I’m also on the committee so you can look at my endorsement either way!

So Long C4 Radio, We Never Knew You…

So, Channel 4 to pull out of radio. It’s a shame. Their entry into radio, and digital radio specifically would have been a good thing. New content from a new operator would have been good news for consumers and some promotional firepower for DAB on C4 properties would have been good too. However, it’s not the end of the world.

Through Folder we help stations find a berth on digital radio and we’ve never had as many queries from new operators. Larger groups are developing stations as well and this year we’ve already seen the development of NME Radio, Q and Jazz FM. We, ourselves, have bought Fun Radio as we think there’s a solid opportunity to make money (primarily from its DAB coverage in London).

What I do think is a shame is that C4 have messed everyone around for the last two years. Looking back it’s been a distraction that’s wasted the time of the real radio industry who could of got on with their own radio and digital radio projects.

DAB listening still represents 11% of all UK radio listening (over double digital television and internet listening combined) and we’re nearing 10m sets sold. And what’s important to remember is that this is all based on what’s on air today. Lets not get distracted from the consumer story by the apparent industry story.