Saturday, 26 February 2011

"We Are The Future"

I’m at a meeting of World DMB in Paris next week. World DMB? What’s that I hear you say?

According to their website, they are “...responsible for defining the standards of the Eureka-147 family which includes DAB and DAB+ for digital radio and DMB for radio and mobile TV."

They also promote “...the awareness, adoption and implementation of these services around the world. We work with sound and data broadcasters, network providers, manufacturers, governments and official bodies to encourage international co-operation and a smooth, coordinated roll-out of services.”

So basically, it’s their job to spread the word about the benefits of DAB / DAB+ digital radio to markets around the world. And they have regular meetings with their members and non-members to discuss the broad topic ‘digital radio’ rollout.

I’ve been kindly invited and talk to them about some success stories in commercial radio in Europe, and am looking forward to discussing a few case studies showing what I belive are the simple principles behind audience growth. Do these certain things, and your station will grow!

I was mentioning my forthcoming trip to someone who is still quite skeptical of a the need for radio to enter into the digital world or be part of a multi-platform future with a strong digital backbone. “Isn’t FM good enough for the future?” he said.

“Not really, if commercial radio wants to still have a viable business model in 10-20 years time” I said.

He gave me a puzzled look.

“It’s about what the advertisers will want from radio in the future” I carried on... “And if radio doesn’t offer it, they’ll simply go elsewhere”.

I then played him this...

And he smiled, and said. “Ahh. I see what you mean now”

Monday, 7 February 2011

"Turn Up The Bass!"

“Can you make us sound the loudest on the dial?”

This is a common question that programmers often ask radio engineers when it comes to processing. But is ‘loudness’ important or is that just a very crude way of looking at it?

And do audiences notice or even care, as long as they can hear the station, and it doesn’t sound rubbish?

The issue of ‘processing’ has been tackled by this week’s Radio Academy podcast, ‘RadioTalk’, which is available to listen to right now.

Why am I telling you this? Well... I was asked to contribute to the debate and so last week while I was in Denmark, I jumped in a studio and discussed it ‘down the line’ with RadioTalk host Trevor Dann.

You can listen to the whole programme here, and even if you’re only mildly interested in this sort of thing, it’s a fascinating listen. There are great contributors, much more technically qualified than myself, discussing the pros and cons of the world of processing and if you want to get an insight into the thoughts of the top engineers from the BBC and commercial sector in the UK, now’s your chance!

Friday, 4 February 2011

RAJAR Qtr 4 2010; "The numbers are in..."

So it was listening figures time again in the UK this week... and what did we learn?

Well, there are some nice headlines about 90% of the population listening to the radio every week and of course every group or station puts a shine on their particular figures, so no-one seems to be real loser (although of course they can’t all be right!)

A few things caught my eye.

First, I was disappointed at the rate of growth for Digital Listening with a rather modest 0.2% rise in the quarter to a 25% share of all listening via platform. As part of that, DAB was up 0.5% quarter on quarter, and still remains the most popular way of consuming digital radio (15.8% share), but I can’t help feeling that the momentum has slowed a little, and being a firm believer in the importance of radio to ‘go digital’ in future, it’s frustrating to see such slow progress.

What’s the answer? Well... more unique content and stations on DAB would help. It was encouraging to see the continued growth of stations like Absolute 80s (up to 665,000 weekly reach), Absolute 90s (cuming 295,000) and even the recently refreshed Planet Rock (with a new high of 827,000) doing so well. It shows that when there is great content or a different offer on Digital, listeners will gravitate towards it. Niche formats on digital seem to be the way forward. Just make sure your niche is big enough!

Talk radio is proving more and more popular in the UK with the growth of TalkSport as a format (now reaches over 3 Million a week), BBC 5Live gaining record audiences (now over 7 million), and 97.3 LBC in London (almost reaching 1 million a week), radio audience are lapping up mainstream and populist speech content. BBC Radio 4 has always delivered great audiences, but it’s a very different offering to the former 3. It would be great to see the success of speech radio in a local form in the commercial sector outside London; a trick has proved quite difficult to perform so far. Perhaps as some mainstream music radio does less and less speech, the ‘talk sector’ will benefit more in the future.

Meanwhile in London, Magic continue to outperform its commercial rivals taking top spot in reach and share. Its consistent blend of ‘light favourites’ and inoffensive links seems to be just the job for stressed out Londoners! As I write, they’ve just played Amy Winehouse - ‘Back to Black’ into Candi Staton ‘Young Hearts, Run Free’. Lovely ;-)

Capital are just behind Magic, and still sounding good. The benefit of their big TV campaign and the impact of the networking will be felt next quarter. Kiss have overtaken Heart into 3rd place in terms of reach, which is a great result for Kiss and will be naturally disappointing for Heart, who have really lost touch with Magic now. Next in Kiss’s sights will be Capital, and you can hear how tight the battle is between those two simply by listening to how close the music formats are in the daytime. Want Tinie Tempah, Bruno Mars, Rhianna or Mike Posner? Well either station will suffice right now!

So as the number crunchers do their thing, and stations up and down the UK have an explosion of PowerPoint and Excel, it’s nice to know that above it all, the UK is one of the most vibrant and creative radio markets in the whole world with some fantastic formats, and some superb broadcasters. There really is always something great to listen to... and the continued growth of ‘listen again’ / on-demand / podcasts etc, means that you don’t even have to worry that you missed a particular show.

It’s radio that waits ‘till it’s wanted.

Now that’s Magic! ;-)