Shooting Stars

Ken Bruce- Bauer Media UK

Last week I posted an article about being HUMAN- more specifically about having “human connection” to an audience and how that is one of the things that separates a radio station from a stream (think Spotify, Apple Music etc). Personality, presenters and talent woven together, crafted into something more than an algorithm driven feed.

This week the big news has been the announcement of Ken Bruce departing Radio 2 for Greatest Hits Radio. Whilst I’m not posting views on the move specifically, following on from last week a few cogs clicked in my tiny radio brain.

Firstly, it was a surprise (to me at least- but then I’ve been out of radio for almost a year now). At the time I posted a tweet saying that this was huge news.

Now obviously this was a massively insightful and detailed analysis of the whole thing in six words! I saw a lot of opinions whilst scrolling through social media ranging from, “this is bad/ the end of Radio 2”, “this is great news for GHR”, “this is bad news for Ken”, “this is good news for Ken”, and “Ken isn’t anything special anyway”. Oh the joys of social media!

Reprising my insightful critique from my initial 6 word Tweet- let’s all agree that this is huge news. If for no other reason that sitting on mid-mornings on Radio 2 for as long as Ken Bruce has, moving on is a story in itself. Ken has done mid-morning since 1986- with a 2 year gap 1990-1992- so 35 years on mid-mornings! Radio 2 is still the biggest radio station in the UK– in the last Rajar Radio 2 has 14.5 million listeners a week (Rajar/Ipsos/RSMB Wave 3 2022, BBC Radio 2, Weekly Reach 14,462,000). Movement in the daytime line up therefore is a major (aka “huge“) event.

As for the other sentiments- is this bad for Radio 2? Of course there are points of view either way and I’m not convinced either way to be honest. Evolving and refreshing a radio station’s output can be interesting to say the least, (see Blood On The Carpet documentary about the evolution of Radio 1 in the 90s by way of an example). Will it have an impact? Undoubtedly yes would be my quick judgement but as to what and how big… not easy to pin down. There is a train of thought that listeners will follow Ken and logic would seem to suggest that is partially true- but to what extent I would hedge bets a bit on that. The “big book of radio history” (not an actual book) has numerous examples of big name talent moving stations and whilst taking “some” audience with them, very seldom is it the size of following that they, or their new stations, would ideally like to believe. Habits form, people listen to their favourite station for a number of reasons and dislodging them long term and changing the built-in inertia is really very hard.

That said, this is likely to have some impact but again we won’t see the extent of that impact publicly for some time. Practically speaking Ken leaves Radio 2 in March and starts at GHR in April. Radio 2 reports 3 month Rajar figures and so the last quarter with Ken in situ will be Wave 1 2023, the quarter we are in now, which reports in May (Jan-Mar). The first “Post Ken Radio 2” figures will be Wave 2 2023, reporting in August 2023. “Greatest Hits Radio Network” and Greatest Hits Radio” report on a 6 month rolling survey and so some of Wave 2 2023 (reporting in August 2023 (Jan – Jun) will show some impact, but its not until Wave 3 (reporting in Oct 2023) that we will see the full first 6 months of Ken on GHR*. Bear in mind too that all of the above will only be any initial period- the trial and sampling period and initial splash of the change. Legacy plays a big part in this story and that doesn’t change overnight. Measuring something on the first 3 or 6 months isn’t the overall picture, early adopters wane, new fans and evangelists evolve and incumbent listeners might be dislodged- all of that takes while to settle down.

(* of course internal, unpublished research and unweighted 3 month data will inform those involved- its not public though!).

As for those “this is good news for GHR” opinions- I tend to agree. If nothing else (and there is plenty of good news facets to this), it gets awareness, and with an awareness and recall measured industry that is vital. It shows a power, impact and command and expresses an intent to the listener and the industry. It shows quality and brand intent too and equivalency saying in essence, “Hey there lovely Radio 2 listener, you should consider coming over here, the water is lovely and warm and we are compatible, love you.” With 14.5 million listeners on the table, even a small number of those making the journey would be advantageous for GHR!

The “Good for Ken”, “Bad for Ken” comments tend to cancel themselves out. Ultimately there is one person who can make that judgement and its none of our business to be frank!

The “well he’s not that special anyway” debate is an interesting one and whilst really misses the point a bit of what makes success, lets look at the premise for a second. I’m reminded of a principle of success which Tracy Johnson talked about- the 3 T’s. Talent, Timing and Tenure. Successful people demonstrate all three in varying degrees.

You have to have a good decent solid consistent level of TALENT. Can you fairly expertly perform the job, produce the content, navigate the highs and lows and perform on a daily, weekly, annual basis with a high degree of quality? Well done, you have some Talent.

Timing is about being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes not entirely within your own gift and dependant on others, but also placing yourself in the right moment is important. You make your own luck and the definition of luck is ‘a state of readiness meeting a moment of opportunity‘.

Tenure. Longevity, legacy and heritage are built over time- you can’t rush it! Even overnight success takes a while in reality. Sometimes just a modicum of talent, coupled with being in the right place at the right time, added with staying put for a length of time can equal big success. I’m not suggesting that this is the case with Ken at Radio 2 in the slightest, but play with me for just a minute and even if you subscribe to the dismissive, uninformed view of “he is nothing special”, then being in place for so long, at such a time of day central to the schedule, equals success and its a big deal and (as per my initial insightful tweet), huge.

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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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