Where next for commercial radio?

Radio player images

The latest Rajar figures , Absolute Radio’s sell off and increasing consolidation have signalled a warning to commercial radio in the UK in 2013.

A few things have shaken the radio landscape in the last 8 or so years. Radio can no longer rely on exclusive access to playlists, a limited choice of in-car entertainment, live travel info and apathy towards moving the dial. There’s more choice of listening from non-linear sources and more utility via digital devices. Research consistently tells us that these choices are where younger people turn to instead of radio. Add to this the 4g spectrum, bringing with it the disruptive impact of the broadband web to cars and transit, then there’s a perfect storm to unsettle radio.

The BBC have made enormous efforts to move from a linear led offering, to on-demand, multiplatform audio brands. The commercial sector however has been much slower to move; partly due to costs and partly due to prioritising where advertisers see the greatest value. Now that the advertisers are required to gain more measurable and targeted results, a significant surge in online advertising has moved money away from previously trusted print and radio. The cost of not doing, is now outweighing the cost of doing effective digital offerings for radio broadcasters.

Rather than doom and gloom-monger, what are some possible ways in which commercial radio can still prosper?

1 – Work with advertisers to create more entertaining and effective marketing – to avoid switching off listeners.

Annoying adverts are the biggest reason why people switch to BBC stations. Having to carry ads is the biggest compliant from commercial broadcasters who struggle against the BBC stations. So why not make radio adverts better, even enjoyable? Most are clumsy, grating and on too loud. TV adverts can be as interesting as the programmes, with great film-makers showcasing their talents on adverts first. Why isn’t this the case for radio? Continue reading

Albums I loved in 2012

My relationship with music was different and strange in 2012. Being out of the BBC’s Audio & Music department for the first time in five years and out of London for the first time since 1995, have distanced me from many of the trends that break sooner in the capital and within the music industry echo chamber. As I didn’t go to any festivals nor work at them and haven’t been to many gigs (think its just been ten), the new music I’ve loved had to work in headphone mode rather than in the speakers. New music discovery meanwhile required more directed searching via blogs, friend recommendations and podcasts.

Will there be another underground youth movement?

With another year passing without a significant youth musical movement emerging, I start to wonder whether we’ll ever have another rave or punk explosion. The disparate nature of music consumption combined with instant social communication probably prevents large underground movements ever existing in the same way again.

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How to brainstorm effectively in six ways

Too many brainstorms are wasteful. They’re wasteful of attendees time. Wasteful of their insights and skills. Wasteful of the opportunity to create and develop fantastic ideas.

This is how a bad brainstorm works… I know because I’ve run many useless ones.

Lots of people are invited from all over the place under the agenda of  ‘let’s brainstorm what we can do next year around <insert product, programme, service or event>’.  The intention is to broaden the thinking and get the teams to buy into the plans for the next year, with the aspiration that the whole team will acquiesce around a killer concept.

Because everyone’s time is precious, the meeting is booked for 90 minutes, instead of the two to four hours it really needs to work. Quite a few of the busier types drop out last minute as more urgent things turn up, there’s now no one from the design team in the room. Almost everyone turns up late, thinking it won’t matter with so much time to play with. A few people apologise that they’ll have to leave early, whilst a few are constantly checking mails throughout the session.

You explain that you’re trying to work out what to do next year and want to open up to all ideas. This isn’t strictly true, as there are a number of limitations on the budget, the audiences you’re focusing on and the resources to deliver the ideas. You also have technical, political and legal restrictions on what’s possible. Anyhow, you open up the floor, saying any idea is valid. The biggest talker in the room then brings up their pet idea, which they’ve thought through in a lot of detail, because they mention it all the time. You try to move on and a couple of other ideas come up, some are really good, but you know they won’t really help you meet your aims.

There’s lots of discussion around the ideas and related topics, which you try to work up solutions for immediately. Some negative voices spend a long time explaining why certain things are not technically viable or exclaim, “we tried it before and it didn’t work”.

Bad brainstorm main points

Many factors can come together to cause a bad brainstorm.

You’ve now used up most of the time, so have to quickly and autocratically group ideas together, then ask people to rank the groupings into the best ideas. Even though the brainstorm group is unrepresentative of the organisation, let alone the target audience (who rarely get mentioned in the session) you now have a list of ranked ideas. You thank everyone for their time and say you’ll get back to them at some point, when the ideas have been worked up.

You get back to your desk, cherry pick one idea you like, irrespective of the rankings. By and large you stick to the plan that you had in your head before the brainstorm.

What a load of wasteful and insincere nonsense.

So how do you run an effective brainstorm?

  1. Use structure as a creative device
  2. Be clear and honest about the output
  3. Invite the right mix for the right amount of time and prep them
  4. Create enough time and allocate most on the development part
  5. Focus on research and personas to stimulate ideas
  6. Visualise and illustrate ideas

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