Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Radiodays Europe 2011; "Change Is In The Air"

As Radio conferences, last week’s Radiodays Europe in Copenhagen has to be seen as one of the best for quite some time; not only because it was in a city I know and love; not only because the conference venue was still shiny, new and well laid out; and not only because it was exceptionally well attended with over 700 delegates from all over the world.

All these things helped... but more importantly, its programme addressed some of the key issues our industry faces and combined it with some really fascinating insights into the whole spectrum of radio related topics. From positioning to measurement to sales etc.. etc..

There were of course the obligatory sessions on distribution, platforms and the move to digital. The keynote session at the start of the conference set the tone really... and in case of any doubt, here’s where we are: All of Europe’s radio markets are at different points on the ‘evolution of radio’ curve. Some are embracing the digital future and ‘diving on in’ and swimming around the ‘pool of digital fun’! Some are splashing around in the shallow end with the full intention of having a swim, once the water gets a bit warmer. And some are still in changing room, fully clothed, with no intention of going swimming at all... even if it’s 35 degrees outside and the sky is blue!

Europe’s radio industry is at a crossroads. Until now, we’ve all been heading roughly in the same direction with broadly had the same distribution on AM and FM, and a few country specific things at the periphery. Now with the ‘infinite dial’ upon us and digital technologies offering solutions that would have had their inventors burnt at the stake if they’d come up with them 50 years ago, different countries have choices as to which direction they want to go in and why. And here’s the thing... We ain’t all going in the same direction anymore folks! Change is in the air!!

Does it matter? Possibly not, and certainly consumers will just want to get the content they want, in the way they want it, and not worry too much about distribution in future. But I fear for those countries who are seemingly doing nothing about the change to the digital economy. What will their radio markets look like in 10 or 20 years time? This topic seem to occupy these conferences quite a bit, with different sides of the argument all lining up to say why they’re doing their thing, or why they’re not doing the thing other people are doing.

For the record, I tend to agree with the majority of the received wisdom about these things in the UK. It will be suicide for radio not to embrace a digital future, and a digital broadcast backbone with plenty of other options alongside that, seems to be the smartest way of going right now.

But enough of distribution! What else did we all learn in Copenhagen, apart from that it still snows there in Spring, and everything is still way over-priced?

We learnt that Z100 is just like any other hits radio station, just with a larger population to serve than most, and a decent budget for talent. The have exactly the same positioning issues as any other major market station, and apply some classic positioning strategy to differentiate themselves from the competition. And they just play the hits!

We learnt that Ryan Seacrest is the “Mayor of Hollywood” and delivers a great morning show every day, by following some of the tried and tested ‘rules’ of production that Dennis Clarke drills into him on a regular basis! Dennis always talks sense in a very ‘un-frilly’ way, and communicates his points fantastically well. And he’s one of the few speakers who gets a cheer as he’s going UP to talk!

We also learnt that the UK Radioplayer is a fantastic collaborative effort between the BBC and the commercial sector which will see online listening becoming easier for consumers, and hopefully increase its share of digital listening, adding to the overall pot of digital listening that will see the digital radio switchover in the UK become a reality. I’m proud the UK is leading the way in this area, and will be interesting to see how it goes when the service goes live at the end of the month. It’s a major change and will of course have a few teething problems. But nothing’s perfect to start with is it?

We learnt that some in Europe are worried about the threat of streaming music services like Spotify and WIMP, as they fear it will replace listening to traditional radio. I love these kind of streaming services, but they’re not ‘radio’ as we know it, and as long as we in the programming sector invest in the bits in between the records, as well as the music format, then I think we’ll probably be OK!

There was plenty more on offer; too much to list here really. And aside from the sessions, we saw that there is still as much passion for the medium as ever before, with some fantastically bright and creative people all contributing to the growth of the sector in their market and beyond.

Yes, we’re going through change as an industry... but change is exciting; change is thrilling; change is about the future, not the past; change is what defines our own progress as a species. Without change, we’d be nowhere and still swinging from the trees.

So embrace change... within your market, and within your station.

And with that suitably positive and forward-looking message, I’m off to Athens to talk the Greek radio industry about the creative changes that technology can bring to programming, and how to make the most of the opportunities that change brings.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Spring Is In the Air...

It must be Spring, as the radio conference season is in full swing again!

This week, I’ll be joining the assembled masses of the worldwide radio industry at the RadioDays Europe conference. It’s the 2nd year of this particular conference, and the organisers have done a great job at assembling all some really good speakers and interesting sessions. And with over 400 delegates coming from all over the world, it's bound be be fun too! Don’t worry if you can’t go... I’ll bring you some of the highlights reviewed here. And if you are going... look forward to catching up with you in Copenhagen. Come and say hi or email me if you're in town and fancy a beer and a chat! (And while you’re there, take a listen to client station Radio 100 on 97.2FM!)

And next week, it’s off to Athens for the Marketing Week Radio Conference where I’ll be presenting a session on “Creative Programming For The Facebook Generation”. I’ll be looking at how radio stations should respond creatively to the possibilities that the digital era now brings them as well as the creative innovations that will build audience loyalty. I very much look forward to catching up with some top representatives of the Greek radio industry while I’m there. (Plus the Greek hospitality is always pretty good!)

In the meantime, I'm doing a lot of work at the moment on getting the best out of guests and interviews, particularly on Morning / Breakfast Shows. So here's someone who always gets the best out of their guests...