Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Radio looks to the future

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on October 30, 2009

I’ve written on more than one occasion about my concerns radio in the UK is settling in as a back-seat passenger in the digital revolution.

With print and TV and online finding new ways to innovate all the time, the radio bods have turned up the “hits and memories”, closed their eyes and pretended it was still the 1990s.

How refreshing, then, to see the line up for next week’s Rate 2009 conference organised by the Radio Academy. A day in London looking at mobile technology, visual radio and other new platforms.

Some evidence radio is still a little hesitant to jump in, though, with one session entitled “Spotify: Friend or Foe?” (rule #1 of the internet: embrace or die) and “Why Radio Must Go Digital” (a debate threatening a schism in the industry).

It wraps up with what promises to be an entertaining Blackburn v  Bacon.

Unfortunately the £300 ticket price is a bit beyond my means, but here are the things I would say if I were there…

Share

Share your content – it adds to its value! With news Bauer is pulling its Kiss FM content from Absolute’s innovative Compare My Radio Player, it seems we’re a long way off this mindset with some companies.

Innovate

Remember what the first pioneers of radio must have felt when they invented radio for the first time. The first time someone used it to create a package; the first time someone used it to read out letters from listeners. We are very lucky to live in the first age where it’s possible to reinvent radio. What a shame to waste it.

Outside the BBC, Absolute Radio so far seem the only ones even bothering to try. It’s paying off though. Their One Golden Square Labs have already brought out several innovative products, including Compare My Radio & Dabbl.

New platforms means new content

The top-ten-at-ten on a smart phone is exactly the same as the top-ten-at-ten on FM. Invest time (not necessarily always money) in new content. Surprise your listeners!

Remember what radio is good at…

…speech! Radio is such a powerful medium for getting across ideas and emotions, and yet here were are, with only a couple of totally speech stations in the entire UK. I know it’s expensive, and “risky”…but in this scary new world, fortune favours the brave. And no-one can put you down for trying. Radio 4’s 10 year high in listening figures proves the demand is there.

Radio At The Edge is on Monday 9th November at 9.30. Thanks to James Cridland for the hattip.

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Local radio: out come the knives

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on January 29, 2009

If you don’t follow the ins and outs of commercial radio in the UK (why would you?!) you probably won’t be familiar with one of the big trends which has upset the industry…

…merging and networking.

Where years ago there were dozens of radio companies running the 70+ local radio stations, now there are about five.

More radio is produced off-site and piped in. News is more increasingly being produced and read outside the local station, a system known as hubbing.

The most controversial bit of networking’s come from the company Global, who recently bought up dozens of local stations and, to save some cash, changed all their names to Heart.

Each station has a locally produced breakfast show, but the rest…well, you might as well be in London.

And that’s played into the hands of their rivals, who are keen to capitalise on the loss of local content.

Here’s a promo running on the alternative station Jack FM in Oxfordshire. It’s local rival Fox FM has recently joined the Global Network, with much content coming in from London (although it’s name hasn’t changed yet).

And they’re certainly cutting close to the bone – click here to listen.

On the flip side, according to this week’s listening figures, Fox FM have a 10% share of the audience. Jack FM have a 3.8% share.

A quick disclaimer: a couple of years ago I did a bit of freelancing at Jack FM’s sister station Oxford’s FM107.9 – they are a very talented group of people who serve their audience particularly well, and probably deserve to be a bit smug.