Thursday, 28 June 2007

Future of Radio - Preview

Having had a sneak preview of the presentations from the panellists at the Future of Radio session at the 'London Calling' conference later today, I'm certain there will be some interesting views expressed.

Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, the online 'music discovery service' tours the world as an evangelist for his service... and has a unique perspective on how music radio listeners tastes are developing. As a result of having him on the panel I've found myself being sucked more and more into the world of customisable radio stations. Is this the shape of the future?

Likewise Chris Kimber form the BBC and James Cridland, soon to also be from the BBC, have polished up their crystal balls and some great things to say about where the radio industry is heading both in the UK and globally.

A full review of the session coming to this blog soon... but I'm sure Marconi would be on the front row if he could be!

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Jack Off!

A really neat idea from Jack FM Oxford. Countdown to launch with a blog by Jack!

It's a great way to start to establish the character of 'Jack' in print and if they get it right, they can really get a head start as to how Jack will come over on air.

Admittedly the audience may be mainly industry people... but again, this serves a good purpose and starts the PR bandwagon rolling for the format and launch in Oxford.

The best photo on the blog is this one of the newsroom!

I'm not sure if it's meant to be ironic or not... but if it is... very funny!

By the way - there's a US radio / research guy called Tom Webster who's so clever his head glows in the dark! He works for the rather excellent Edison Media Research, but he's also got a new venture on the go called Brandsavant, and there's a good article on 'radio stations and their blog policy' that's worth a read.

Anyway - I'm off to a charity fund raiser to help buy equipment for the Jack FM Newsroom.

"Hold Your Plums"

Climbing inside a hire car in any foreign country is a entertaining experience for many reasons. Having just been away on holiday, the memories are fresh.

Where's the gearstick again?
How do I move the seat? (Oh - it doesn't move...)
What's that horrible smell coming from the glovebox?
I'm sure I was promised air conditioning....
How does that radio work?

And once you've got the radio up and running, hitting that scan button is a little bit like playing a 'fruit' machine (or slot machine for our US readers!). You may come up lucky with "3 cherries" and score a virtual audio jackpot... or get a few lemons and plums along the way.

I played the radio slot machine game quite a few times last week and every time I did, I gave a selection of stations a listen. I was in Spain and I don't speak Spanish very well, but an interesting thing happened. You can tell a lot by a radio station just by having it on in the background for a few minutes, and make a pretty good judgement to stick with it... or hit the scan button... even if you don't really know what they're saying!

The stations I stayed with longer all had the same things in common and for me, these are some of the key drivers that define success:

Music Flow - All the stations I stayed with longer had solid music programming theory running through their output. It felt like someone had taken the time to look at the flow, tempo, era spread, genre mix and the overall feel that the music gave the listener.

Branding and Positioning - Having a competent branding strategy with strong production values and a easily communicated positioning statement were all common to the better Spanish stations that cut through. It was really obvious which ones had invested in decent production and knew what they were communicating to their audience about their music position... and which ones didn't really have a position. Knowing what you're listening to and what it's going to bring you is so important, particularly for new listeners.

Interruptions - Keep them to a minimum!! One of the most infuriating things during my "Spanish Hire Car Radio Listening Experience" was hearing the station stop down all the time. The DJ's went on too much and popped up left right and centre. It just made me reach for the button. If you have a music intensive radio station that needs to play the songs across the day, make sure you keep the interruptions down!

Commercial Load - Again, the stations that got it right were the ones that found the right balance between content and commercials. Fewer breaks seem to work, and if you can get away with two 4 minute breaks an hour, then that might not be a bad place to be. Certainly some of the stations got it right... where others were playing commercials about 6 times an hour. It just didn't work.

There seems to be some universal truths about music driven commercial radio, wherever you go in the world and Spain was no exception. 'Maximum Payout' to the 2 or 3 stations that got it right. 'No Credit' to the stations that didn't.

So next time you're in foreign country and climb into your hire car, have a go on the 'radio station fruit machine'. It may just take your mind off the fact you're driving a Mitsubishi Colt!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

The Future of Radio!

So what is the “Future of Radio”?

We’ve got an explosion in non-liner radio. Podcasts, listen again and time-shifting listening are now really taking hold. Listening on multiple platforms is growing massively across the UK. Not only DAB, but mobile environments, games consoles, IM applications. You name it, there’s probably a radio station broadcasting on it. And we haven’t even mentioned satellite radio, and the wealth of other platforms that a global perspective brings us!

If we had a crystal ball, what would the world of radio look like in 10 years time? Would changes in technology drive the programming sector? Would the conventional mass-market format still work? Would people still have their trusty old clock radio to wake them up in the morning?

Fortunately there’s a chance to pick the brains of some very informed individuals on this topic coming up soon!

London Calling’ is the UK’s largest music industry conference that gathers attendance from worldwide delegates and addresses a whole host of hot topics from the explosion of user generated content sites and what they mean for the music industry, through to the changes in marketing music to a variety of generations.

Naturally, the record and radio industries are so closely connected that putting a radio session on at this conference was a bit of a no brainer. So under the patronage of The Radio Academy (as it was Trevor Dann’s excellent idea!), I’ll be chairing a session called ‘The Future of Radio’.

My guests will be…

James Cridland, Director of New Media at Virgin Radio (and soon to be head of Future Media and Technology for BBC Audio and Music)

Chris Kimber, Managing Editor of BBC Audio and Music Interactive,

Tim Westergren, Founder of Pandora - the US based online streaming portal for customisable radio stations.

All 3 have a great vantage point to help us work out the radio roadmap, and give us an insight as to where we are all heading.

If you want more details of the conference, head to

If you can’t be there, I’ll report back on what our future-watchers have to say, and how we can all act now to ensure that we’re ahead of the game when it comes to shaping the radio of the future.