Monday, 21 December 2009

"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let it Snow!"

And so as the large and silent snowflakes drift majestically downwards from a dark and dreary sky... and the view from my office window here in Windsor seems like it’s taken directly from a Hallmark Christmas card, it feels an appropriate time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. It’s been another fascinating year in radio as we say goodbye to the ‘Noughties’ and stand on the edge of a new decade (The Tens??). Imagine for a moment if we fast-forwarded a decade right now, I wonder what the radio business will look like in 2019 going into 2020?

There are many radio futurologists who spend a good deal of time thinking about the way radio will evolve, and much of their speculation is derived from and rooted in advances and changes in technology. There’s no doubt that technological advance has changed all media an unimaginable amount over the last decade, so it is reasonable to believe that the next decade will be no different.

I’m writing this as I’m listening to my shiny new ‘Pure Sensia’, which as many of you know is a device which does a pretty good job of integrating FM, DAB, Wi-Fi radio, Podcasts and my own music library at home. Having spent a few days with it, I find that actually after a while, it becomes pretty unimportant to me which type of technology I’m employing to listen; I just want the content that I want, there and then. And if an integrated device can bring it to me simply... great.

I’ve found a whole new seam of previously untapped stations and content to listen to, and so my time spent listening to audio entertainment (or radio as we used to call it) has increased of late.

So, if the technology advances in a positive way to make the user experience an even better one, the onus then swings back to programmers and programme makers once again. We have to strive for even more creativity to make sure our content stands out in the plethora of audio entertainment available. That’s easier said than done, but it’s nice to see there are stations and programmers who understand the importance of this right now. Spending some time, effort and yes... I’m afraid you’ll have to spend some money, in developing creative radio hosts and programmes is going to be vital for the next decade.

Programmers need to take more risks. I’ve seen stations become so nervous of making a mistake in tough economic times, they become a sterile, insular and unimaginative. Meanwhile the ones who are prepared to take calculated risks are sowing the seeds for a healthy future in the digital space. And making radio a ‘digital enabled’ business is vital in the commercial sector if radio groups worldwide are to compete with the internet for ad-spend.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Radio is evolving, but the pace of change varies from market to market. At least let’s try and plan the next 12-24 months ahead and see which way the wind blows. If the last decade is anything to go by, it may be a regularly changing wind which gives us a few storms along the way!

In the meantime, I wish all my lovely clients and radio friends from stations and media businesses across the world all the very best for Christmas, and a very successful 2010.

And now Dean Martin and a large glass of Mulled Wine await me...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Radio 'Going Green' in Copenhagen

I’m in Copenhagen right now and it feels like the ‘place to be’ as the world’s leaders, and media, descend for final few days of the COP 15 Climate Conference. It seems every TV and radio reporter possible is here and every second person is carrying some sort of recording equipment.

From a ‘media operator in Denmark’ perspective, it’s great to have such a big event on your doorstep. The creative and ‘fun’ possibilities are massive. (Yesterday, the afternoon host at Radio 100FM talked to the gym instructor at the hotel where Arnold Schwarzenegger is staying to discuss his morning workout routine!!)

But how does a music radio station reflect upon the reason that the conference is taking place and bring the rather massive issue of Climate Change to an audience who tune in mainly for a diet of ‘fun’ and inoffensive pop songs?

At Radio 100FM we felt it was important to present the issues in a palatable and mainstream way. So throughout the duration of the conference, we’ve been running some imaging giving ‘tips for living a greener life’ which are presented by kids... or as they’re referred to on air, “The next generation of Radio 100FM listeners...”.

We also developed a series of short features called “The Green Minute”. These try and explain some of the big issues in a simple, conversational and easy to digest package, which is, you’ve guessed it... 60 seconds long. So things like De-forestation, Carbon Trading and Renewable Energy are all summarised and explained in these features which run in every daypart across the station. Naturally, we’re recycling lots of the content!

Add in some topical ‘Top of Hours’ welcoming the world to Denmark plus some other 'green' sweepers, and pretty soon you’ve tapped into the vibe and have introduced the whole climate change issue to a very mainstream audience, reflecting the significance of the event.

This is backed up with some good online content that is written with the brand in mind (i.e. not too detailed and not too ‘newsy’). And the final touch... change the station logo to a special climate change / green logo for the duration of the conference. (It's normally blue).

I believe all radio stations should try and reflect big events happening in their country / their ‘patch’, regardless of how it fits with their brand. There are many ways to do this and here in Denmark, we’ve just used a few of them.

When you work in an industry that mainly entertains people and plays pop songs, it’s nice to occasionally feel that you’ve done a little bit to introduce some weighty issues of global significance to a section of the public that may have not previously thought about them a great deal. The fact that their favourite music radio station is talking about climate change, may in a tiny way, help to bring the issues to an even wider audience across Denmark.

Now it’s up to the politicians to do their bit!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Terry's Leaving!

A great video from BBC Radio 2 with other broadcasters paying tribute to the departing Sir Terry Wogan...

Friday, 4 December 2009

Absolute 80's

Fans of 80's music... standby! A new radio station launches today at 18:00 GMT at with back to back 80's hits. The full schedule, I'm reliably informed, launches in January.

An over-enthusiastic review will no doubt follow right here!!