Tuesday, 27 February 2007

"We Are Fam-i-ly..."

LBC are getting a little bit of a marketing push it's been announced this week. There's going to be a couple of weeks of print ads, and some viral stuff. So what?

Well, as part of a helping hand for LBC, their friends on the other floor at Chrysalis Towers, Heart 106.2 have said... "We'll run some promotion for you too!" How very nice!

Many of us remember the days in the late 80's where you'd tune to a heritage ILR station, and you'd hear the immortal words "And for full commentary on that game, re-tune to our sister station... " etc. Lovely!

Cross promotion was usually for sport, or occasionally to remind old ladies of the location of that rather crusty Sunday morning DJ who'd been shipped off to AM at the first opportunity. "Don't forget, you can now here (insert suitable old school name here) on our sister station..." etc. (But not for long as we're about to ship him off to somewhere we hope he'll never return from... the BBC Local station)!

Then, sometime in the mid 90's, commercial radio decided that it was terribly uncool to cross promote. "Why do I want to send my listeners somewhere else? What if they can't find their way back?" Hmmm.

It seems those days are gone and Chrysalis are taking a sensible portfolio approach. Better to have a Heart listener try LBC for news than go to say, Five Live.

But how far could you take this?

After playing a particularly hot Hip hop tune, will a Capital DJ say "And if you're loving the hip hop and RnB, check out our sister station Choice FM for all the big tunes... or should I say 'flavas'..."

And after playing a particularly raucous rock song, will the DJ on Key 103 say "And if you like your rock loud and your hair unwashed, then Kerrang! Radio on DAB is the place for you my smelly, deodorant-dodging, rock loving satanist friend... This is Key 103."

Hopefully not.

I think we need to credit listeners with the fact they've made a choice. They're listening to the station they are because they like it. If they wanted to listen to another station, they'd probably find it. I don't think commercial radio should start selling their listeners something else... another radio station owned by that company. There's enough over selling going on on some networks already!

Heart are only running ads for LBC it seems, which is a step back from the DJ live read admittedly... but we'll hear how it sounds in context.

"Meanwhile, if you want to read another radio consultants blog, re point your browser to...."

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Bam Bam on Capital Radio?

Is Bam Bam bound for Capital?

That was the claim made by an article on Media Guardian this week.

"Capital bosses are currently in negotiations with the DJ about fronting a high-profile show on the London station." according to John Plunkett, who penned the piece.

Having more than just a passing interest in both Bam Bam and Capital, this is a story that got my attention!

Capital's move back to a 'hit music' position to attract a younger audience is well underway and it's no great industry secret that Bam Bam attracts younger listeners in their droves. You only have to look at the success of Kiss 100, and when the station was at it's peak, and delivered 1.7 Million listeners a week, his show was on fire. We can't underestimate the role that Bam Bam's show had in the success of building the Kiss brand.

Yes, it all went a bit wrong at the end... record fines for the show, an 'abject failure' in being able to manage talent by EMAP, etc etc... but the fact remains that Bam Bam is still an extraordinarily talented and creative broadcaster.

He still plies his unique brand of radio with his daily podcast on TheShow.com, and it's good stuff. Take a listen.

So, would he work on Capital? (The station he pilloried mercilessly on Kiss!)

Well, I think it could, if the team at Capital think about the following: (I've put together a handy 5 point guide for them!)

1. Employ creative people to be creative. Don't try and fit them into a pre-determined box or change them to do something their not comfortable with. It'll sound forced.

2. Get the right production team in place with a really strong, producer. Bam is a guy who needs good support, and although he's his own biggest critic, he needs someone to filter the wheat from the chaff. (And he does like to get his own way!)

3. Prepare for a bit of flak. Don't ask a presenter to go out there and make noise in the market place, and then go running at the first sign of a red letter head from Ofcom. Defend what is defensible, and believe in the show.

4. However, draw a few lines in the sand, so he know what'll wash... and what won't. He an intelligent chap and although he'll push it, he no fool! But a few boundaries are advisable!

5. Acknowledge that he's a 'strong taste' presenter. Not everyone likes his style, but better to evoke some reaction in a listener than be 'purveyors of bland' I say.

I hope the rumours are true. I'd love to hear Bam Bam on Capital. It would really shake things up a bit. (Which daypart is a whole other question!)

Investing in creative, innovative and talent broadcasters is what commercial radio (and Capital) should be doing right now.

Let's just hope the "Phone Box" game doesn't resurface! I'm not sure Ralph Bernard would quite get that one.

PS. Email me if you'd like the full mechanic!!!

Monday, 19 February 2007

Radio 2 - The next step?

BBC Radio 2 have a new Head of Music. It's Jeff Smith, former Head of Music at Radio 1, Capital PD and most recently the Director of Programming at Napster.

He has a big job ahead of him. Radio 2 is riding high. The station is as popular as ever... and is probably the most eclectic it's ever been. Organ music, soft religious programming, show tunes, country music and light classics... right the way through to specialist reggae, cool new wave Brit bands, and the finest live sessions around. You can't get broader than that!

The charge that Radio 2 has moved it's music younger and attracted the traditional 'commercial radio' audience is one that is always levelled. It just doesn't add up though. Yes, the station has increased it's reach of 30-44 year olds. Since 2000, they've gone from 2Million to 3.5 Million and the share has almost doubled from 7.5% to around 15%.

But at the same time, the share of 60+'s, that demo that commercial radio just doesn't seem to want, has stayed around the 20% mark for the last 7 years. The most hours on radio 2 are still generated by 60+ women! A shift implies growing one area at the expense of another. However, Radio 2 haven't shifted, they've just grown overall!! (Still a problem for commercial radio). But when times are tough, it's easy to point the finger elsewhere.

A lot of this Radio 2 growth has been put down to former controller Jim Moir laying some solid foundations, Lesley Douglas continuing the good work and outgoing Head of Music, Colin Martin, chosing a great (and evolving) set of songs to play week in week out. From the latest successes of Mika and James Morrison, back through to Norah Jones and Katie Melua... Radio 2 has been instrumental in defining the singer / songwriter sound of the 2000's.

But where next? That's the challenge for Jeff. With the wave of new UK music swinging back to a slightly harder rock sound and the cycle for pop and dance music due another burst, can Radio 2 hang on to the contemporary music position it has carved out for itself, or will the current music swing away from the Radio 2 sound, making it feel a little like James Taylor performing at an '18-30' welcome party? Will the younger end of it's audience stick with it? Will the older end of the audience stick with it? A difficult balancing act is about to be performed and Jeff Smith will be walking along that particular musical tightrope.

I wish him well. A strong BBC Radio 2 is ultimately good for commercial radio (despite what they say!) as it will ensure that investment in good content and a less formulaic approach to music programming will be adopted in the months and years ahead.

In a fragmenting world, is "extreme variety" still an option? Over to you Jeff....!

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Chrysalis... ready for flight

So Chrysalis Radio is up for grabs then.

The interesting thing will be to see what happens next. If GMG swoop, then that could make for a nice little portfolio of Smooth, Real, Heart, Galaxy... and our current favourite.... Rock Talk!

And of course there are the foreigners... CanWest, who seem to love it in the UK, maybe Emmis, who have some excellent stations across Europe. What about SBS even? Who knows. The trouble with UK radio assets is that they've long been quite highly priced compared to the rest of the world, so that has kept a few of our foreign friends at bay... for the time being.

One possible outcome is to break it up and sell it in parts! GMG would have Heart, thank you very much. Emap would have Galaxy and turn it into Kiss... etc... etc...

The good ole management buyout, which is always a favourite, could also be on the cards, and I'm sure there's a bank somewhere that'll lend £200 Million!

Whoever it goes to and whatever happens, there's no doubting that the guys at Chrysalis (Francis Currie / Pete Simmons etc) have done a great job, and have a set of stations to be very proud of. I hope the new owners don't do that classic mistake of saying... "Right... we've got control of the trainset.... now lets change everything, just coz we can!"

It's happened before!

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Rock Talk for Manchester

So, it's "Rock Talk" for Manchester then!

It's rock... but it's also talk. Got it?

The format application offered a "speech and rock music service for 35-64 year olds", which is obviously something that Ofcom has decided was a particular hybrid which Manchester is crying out for.

First things first. Well done to GMG. The standard of applications was really high and this was the licence everyone wanted to win. The application was a good read and in a way they covered both the 'talk' and 'rock' holes in the market by just adding them together.

(It makes me think of the wonderful combinations of formats that might have existed if people had seen this as a way of winning licences in years gone by. Hybrid format suggestions welcome!) Naturally, Chrysalis are gutted, and I can kind of see why. They put in both a great 'Rock' application and a great 'Talk' application... and got beaten by it's bastard offspring! The cheek of it!!

But hang on a minute? Call me old fashioned, but isn't trying to cover 2 bases a really tricky feat to pull off. The pure rock fans won't want all that Mancunian chit chat; and what if you like local speech radio... but don't particularly care for "Classic Rock, Soft Rock, Heavy Rock and Popular Rock"? (Well they wouldn't want to play unpopular rock really now would they....!)

Well I guess you'd stay tuned to BBC Manchester then...

I'm looking forward to hearing this one when it launches... when the "bulk Harley Davidson order" is completed, according to John Myers, quoted on Radio Today. (Does this mean all the talk jocks have to be bikers too?)

Rock on Manchester... erm... and then talk for a bit.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

How 'Green' is your Station?

Radio stations are always looking for new angles... new ways to connect with listeners and the psyche of the town, city or nation they broadcast to.

One story which caught my eye this week is the classic rock station WARW in Washington. It's been renamed 94.7 The Globe, and has refocused its efforts to become a 'green' radio station. Let's just clarify some of it's green credentials first...

It's now using renewable energy to power its transmitter; Low voltage lighting throughout the studios; Employees committed to being more 'green' at work etc...

And on air / events... It's giving information to listeners about more environmental issues; It's having an annual Earth Day concert; It's encouraging recycling and tree planting etc..

OK - so this alone won't save the earth from a nasty end. But the concept is a really interesting one. Environmental issues used be fringe and shunned by the mainstream. But now they are more pressing than ever before and gain more mainstream coverage than ever before. Big companies are adopting more and more green policies.

Only the other week, Marks and Spencer announced that it would spend over £200 Million to become carbon neutral by 2012 and issued a 100 point plan to go green. They call it Plan A (because with the environment, "There is no plan B")

The point is, that if M&S, that bastion of conservative British-ness and the embodiment of middle England is taking this seriously, is it something that radio stations in the UK should investigate?

I'm not suggesting that we go as far as 94.7 The Globe, but connecting with listeners regarding green issues serves 2 purposes. First, it shows that your radio station is in touch with what many of them are thinking or feeling regarding the environment. And second, it actually does the 'green cause' a world of good by having another mainstream outlet (your radio station) adopt the messages.

So what could stations do? 'Green' postitioners about the station being environmentally friendly or carbon neutral (if it is of course) may work? When getting new station vehicles, get some hybrid cars instead of the cliched 4X4's and then promote on air the fact that you made that choice. Short (and entertaining) promos encouraging recycling may help. Or you could even send your ground patrols / street crews to recycling plants on a Saturday morning and give stickers / merchandise to everyone who comes down to recycle.

I'm sure there are lots of other ideas, but as green issues become even more mainstream, the concept of connecting with your listeners who care about the environment is a very strong one. Why not be the first station in your market to take the initiative?

Oh, and you might just help in saving the planet too!

Friday, 2 February 2007

Kiss 100 - Kisstory Repeating?

One of the more interesting developments in the London markets to come out the W4 2006 RAJAR figures (apart from Heart's excellent showing) is Kiss 100.

Recently refurbished and refitted with a shiny, Andy Roberts style make-over, it's regained most of the ground it lost in the previous quarter, but overall the trend for 2006 is up, and things are looking good.

It currently sits on a 1,445,000 reach and a 3.9% share of the market.

Now, if we look back a bit, we can all see that the potential of Kiss is a lot higher then where they are right now. The largest cume the station had was back in W3 2002, when numbers peaked at just over 1.7 Million! And the station has even pulled a 5% share. Can Kiss do it again?

What makes this even more interesting is Capital's repositioning back into the 'Hits' arena seemingly engaging with a younger market. (e.g "London's Hit Music Station", hotter imaging, a pretty young skew to all their music now). One would say that Capital is trying to regain more 15-34's... a demo which Kiss lead in.

When you look at the overall reach of both stations...

Capital - 1,463,000
Kiss - 1,445,000

... it's all to play for.

If the musical cycle swings Kiss's way this summer, with lots of credible pop/dance and some club anthems crossing over, Kiss could have a bumper 2007 and potentially overtake Capital in overall reach (and even share).

Now Capital may well be marketing in a substantial way this year, and if the recent changes to the station are allowed to bed in and prove popular, then the fight for younger listeners in London will be an interesting one.

And why is Kiss on the rise again? Is it the pointy new logo that's got London talking? Is it their rather flashy new web offering that people can't stop visiting?

Or is it perhaps the very palatable and very melodic nature of the daytime music offering?

More on this to follow I suspect!

Thursday, 1 February 2007


Well, another 3 months have passed by. It must be RAJAR time across the UK again.

It's funny watching the different 'spin' that radio groups and stations put on their results. Stations that are actually doing really well don't have to try that hard in their press release... it's obvious they're doing well. Heart 106.2, for example, have had a great set of numbers.

Their breakfast show is now number 1 in London whichever way you look at it, with 948,000 listeners a week (with Capital now at 813,000) and with the station sitting on a 7.1% share, it's clearly London's number 1 commercial station.

So... there's a station that needs no spin.

On the other hand if you read the press release from Talk 107 in Edinburgh, you feel they're perhaps trying to make it sound better than it is!

"Weekly reach is up 1% to 34,000" and "Audience share increases from 0.4% to 0.7%"

Well let's crack open that bottle of 12 year old malt we've been saving for such an occasion!!

OK it's gone up a bit... but this is a 3% reach in a TSA of over 1 Million!!

"Our weekly audience has now more than doubled in the last 2 RAJAR surveys". True, but if your first book comes in at 16,000 listeners, you really need to be doing more than doubling your audience pretty quickly if you're going to meet the prediction you made in your application to Ofcom - which aims for 140,000 reach after year 1!

I'm sure Talk 107 is a very fine station with lots of great people at it, and I'm not picking on them per say. It's more the corporate spin that goes with RAJAR press releases that I find amusing. (And I've written a few 'well spun' releases in my time too, so I should know!)

It's just the name of the game. We can't really be too honest in the hope that lazy journalists don't look beyond the press releases, don't read beyond the spin, and just re-hash the release therefore publishing a good story for the station... which as we all know, they sometimes do!

So actually, if you've had a bad survey, go ahead... write as good a release as you can. You never know... you might just get away with it. It's more enjoyable reading than all those numbers!!