Measurement Pt2

Last week I blogged about how radio in the UK is measured. If you didn’t read it- you can do here right here.

As I said in that blog post, the pandemic has impacted how radio is measured in a pretty major way due to the inability to perform large scale face to face respondent interviews and recruitment. I think I said that on the face of it, that method seems somewhat “analogue” in 2020 and not wanting to go over all the reasons why that is the case again, this week I thought it would be interesting to look at some thoughts on alternatives and weigh them up. Walk with me a moment…

Phone- don’t you realise people have phones? Whenever I have talked about ratings and how it all works to newbies to radio, one of the responses I get most is about phones. Surely replacing the face to face interview can be done by using the phone right? Seems like a pretty straight forward thought doesn’t it especially when the world is working from home and holding zoom meetings and remote working like crazy right now!

So lets think it through in terms of practicality. As you will know from the blog last week, each radio station has its own TSA defined by postcode- so that is what you are measuring- radio listening defined within a postcode area for each station. The current measurement methodology knocks on doors in a geographic area to recruit respondents. What about replicating that by phone? Lets thing about that for a second… The person living on the street next to yours, that you don’t know, could at the minute get a knock on the door by the current system. So what about by phone? Unless they are by chance on a marketing database- and privacy and limiting random contact has been a major thing for some time now- how are you going to ring them or get their number? Genuine market research calls are allowed when scanning against Telephone Preference Service lists. If you limit the call list to those that have somehow given their number to a database (probably by accident or without thinking), you immediately limit the scope and impact of any research into listening. How successful might those calls actually be? There is a little thing called GDPR too of course… might have been in the news a bit since it came into force and the information (like phone numbers and name and address etc) that companies etc have on you is kind of impacted just a tad! [NB I have literally minutes of fun winding up those “Did you have an accident that wasn’t your fault?” type callers]

Maybe all that is the price to pay for moving away from the door to door approach? Could be, but before making that step its worth understanding and recognising the significant change it would have on the results. That said, the media landscape is abound with people conducting call out research and it produces results which are both helpful and insightful for companies and brands and so shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Any change would be a wholesale replacement of the kind of research radio has now, and so the benefit analysis would be that with the hope that one day a vaccine would return to a more free lifestyle, would this change be a worthwhile future-proofing enhancement of the ongoing measurement or the best of the choices available right now to get things up and running again short term solution?

Hey- you know the internet exists right? This is the other common response. Who needs phones and talking- we can all do this online and its easy! True- the practicalities of the above phone scenario exist here though. Think of that person that you don’t know in the street next to yours. How do you know their email address? OK, so what if you didn’t contact them by email (which would probably end up in a spam filter anyway) and instead conducted research via station websites online. Again, this is a common response I’ve had when talking about how radio is measured. Many stations and organisations conduct research with their online and app users. It’s valid insight and gives some useful knowledge on users experience and behaviour. What about all those listeners who don’t visit the station online or via an app but listen to it nevertheless? I would wager that is a sizeable chunk of the audience. The same is true of recruiting via social media in that there are a lot of radio station listeners who don’t follow the station on social accounts.

Maybe thats the price to pay for moving away from door to door? Maybe it is but again, its important to know again that this would be a similar sized change to the one already mentioned. Again, is that a way of future proofing long term or a best choice available right now short term?

Is there anything we can learn from other media? Well yes. BARB measures TV viewing in the UK and whilst the methodology and results etc are totally different (set top boxes, eyeballs instead of ears etc), BARB uses a panel of regular respondents for regular viewing along with a device centric methodology to capture online/ other streaming. Again, this is a different type of research to that which produces ratings for radio and of course radio and TV are very different. Having said that with most phones essentially being a TV in your pocket as well as a radio and music player etc- there is some symbiosis there perhaps? Maybe a regular recruited panel, recruited by a combination of means, combined with a measurement of streaming stats and a de-duplicated combination might be a new version of radio ratings which moves beyond a shorter term pandemic solution, to something which might be more robust and encompass some new media reporting which makes the shift from the current position more worthwhile?

There are some benefit to panels- not least of which you get to see ebb and flow of individual usage over time rather than a single week long snapshot of a raft of people. There is also the downside to that too. Recruitment, whilst still challenging, once the panel recruited would be at a lower level in order to top up or refresh the panel on an ongoing basis.

The task would be huge. BARB recruits 5100 establishments (buildings), equating to 12,000 people it says, compare that to Rajar’s UK wide sample of 24,857 (Wave 1 2020 unweighted sample, UK). Like I said last week- Rajar is a very complex survey with a lot riding on it and there are no simple, easy and problem free solutions!

Who’s listening?

The pandemic has sped a few things up in society and life (cash-less society for example) and slowed a few things down, and stopped a few things totally in their tracks.

Radio is measured by Rajar and since at its fundamental core it requires a doorstep visit, research stopped in March 2020. Finding a way around the obstacle is very difficult and no matter what you do, it will change the end result in some way. Any change or tweak in any methodology of research will impact the outcome of that research, no matter what it is.

Ratings 101. How is radio listening measured in the UK?

Rajar is, I think, one of the most complex audience research projects in Europe. Think about it for a minute- all radio stations in Rajar have a TSA (Transmission Survey Area) in which sampling takes place and they are based on postcode. Stations choose their own size and shape* of TSA which overlap each other. Some stations report results on a rolling 12 month survey, some on a rolling 6 month and some on 3 months**. All those stations need a workable sample size to make sure their results are correct and not just a finger in the air guess. Even with nothing else to make it more complicated (and there is much more), thats quite a tough ask!

*London TSA is a defined TSA for the Greater London area.

** Rolling 3, 6 and 12 month explained. Stations report every 3 months, just imagine a 6 month (or 12 month) moving window, adding a new 3 months on, and lopping off the earlier 3 months- eg Jan-June, then March to Sept etc etc.

Radio listening is measured by a self completion “Radio Diary”- whether a physical hard copy paper diary or increasingly an online or app based diary. The respondent completes the diary for a week, marking when they listened and to what station for any period longer than five minutes. You might be thinking that this is a rather “analogue” way of measuring something and you would be right. The reality is that because of the above reasons, and many more, its the solution which provides the closest best fit compromise of all the issues you are trying to solve. The doorstep visit recruits the candidate, goes through a series of identifying and qualifying questions and some background, explains the diary completion etc and so is pretty significant. It also identifies which stations the respondent listens to on any given week.

It that all seems a pretty basic system, well I understand your thought process and how you ended up with a feeling “They do what?”. It’s important to realise that a fair few mammoth brains have tried to better the system and update the processes over the years. I should also mention that not everywhere has the same methodology around the world– some places take a “market measurement” approach. With this method a defined “market” is measured, so areas are defined by locations, cities and towns etc and stations that have coverage within those towns are measured. Issue here is that if your transmitter location means that you either don’t cover all of the patch that is measured then your result would be lower, or you might cover a wider area and so you are not measuring your full potential. As I’ve said above London has a defined market- this is for a number of legacy reasons and the volume of stations in the market make this arguably the best approach.

In the US and a few other areas of the world a more electronic measurement is applied. On the face of it this is a less manual approach and therefore surely more reliable? The measurement meter “hears” a piggy back fingerprinted signal broadcast inaudibly with the station output- great! Although if you listen on headphone you have to plug the meter into the chain so measure the listening and if you leave the meter in the room with the radio but you left the room it is reporting listening that didn’t take place. the cost of doing all this is also higher than the current UK system too- Rajar looked at it a few years ago in fact and again its in detail on the Rajar website. There is not a silver bullet. Undoubtedly a more technological solution in the world of AI has to be part of the solution you would have to think, but there’s not a simple clean solution.

Radio has a basic issue. It’s HUGE and been around so long now, built into so many things and generally ubiquitous- so how you define and build a measurement to see how many people are listening at any given time is always going to be a compromise to get the closest, best result. How many people are listening and for how long seems like such a simple question on the face of it. The reality of exploring that question is far more complex. Radio can move from background listening to foreground, depending on activity and content and so how might you factor that into the equation of measurement? With a background listen is the subject listening or just hearing? You can really see how we end up with where we are- after all radio measurement is about listening by humans- recognising what they heard and and so there is some acknowledgment within that premise of awareness of listening or more “active listening” rather than a passive background music track. This is something Rajar point out on their website.

“The RAJAR listening survey has the advantage of not being reliant on specific hardware, and as the methodology is based on an adult’s active recording of what goes into the ears, this approach has been impervious to the development of new listening devices and delivery platforms, continuing to measure listening without disruption.”

Rajar website- Background

I’m sure anyone involved in any stream or online audio content is currently screaming something to do with stream numbers and using that. Of course! Surely that is the solution and answer? I would say it is absolutely a valid part of the measurement of the medium and demonstrates a lot of things- and in a current era without Rajar active measurement in the field- it is something to demonstrate some tangible, active listening and interaction from a listener without a shadow of a doubt. It’s not the silver bullet though as you are measuring the number of streams connected, but you don’t know what happened at the other end where the listener is- you know, that important bit! Were they in the room listening? Was the audio at a level audible to the human ear or low background level? Did this bit of “connected listening” replace a bit of unconnected non digital listening or append to it? Don’t get me wrong, it is part of the make up and fabric of the toolbox we have for demonstrating the health and audience of radio and audio but alone it isn’t the silver bullet to replace what we currently have.

In conclusion, measuring radio listening is a tough nut to crack. All alternatives have merit in some part. The current system has some strong credible and core benefits- unfortunately not easily overcome with a global pandemic limiting person to person meetings- adding another reason for media to long for that vaccine! Whilst more pandemic safe solutions are possible and can measure “something”, they might not deliver the kind of robust result we are used to, or would want to continue once the pandemic is behind us. That said the indications from the levels of uptake online and streaming during the “new normal” show that radio is in rude health. As I have already said in a previous blog, the things which make radio work and succeed are just as relevant now as they have ever been.

The current situation though has probably helped speed up the thought process on how to evolve how we try and answer the simple question of who is listening and how many of them are there.

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The 4 basics things the best get right…

It is a common phrase and request… “Get the basics right”. Simple enough, but then what?

The answer many forget is you have to continue to get the basics right… consistently day in day out. It’s boring and not the bright new shiny thing, but it is a requirement, even a necessity of long term success. Getting the boring grunt of the basics consistently right is the difference between something built on a strong foundation or something teetering on collapse at every turn.

It is something true of successful stations or even people. Getting the basics done every time and to a level of quality that satisfies is the mark of success. Its time for another list… here are the four basics that the best always get right. (Of course there are more than four, but I stopped at four for dramatic effect!).

Getting the branding right. Radio is measured by someone remembering that they heard you and then reporting that they heard the right station. Don’t say your name enough and they won’t know who you are or remember what they are listening to. I’ve gone into stations many times and improved their ratings merely by getting them to just say the station name more often. Making sure that your station name is attached to hour clock structural items is also important- so not just “Weather” its “[Station name] Weather”. It all makes a difference when it come to remembering your station name when it comes to diary completion.

Say your name. If you are on the radio then say who you are. Humans listen and humans introduce themselves to each other normally. I know of a few people who said they felt weird saying their name too often and I understand that, but get used to it. They would say they said it at the start of the show or something and so didn’t need to do it again. That would be lovely and correct if everyone listened from the start to the end of any show, not joining or leaving at any point and they were diligently taking notes. Your mum might be and that’s about it. Imagine if you walked into a meeting room- you wouldn’t keep saying your name if you were that room full of people- however if every ten minutes or so you went into a new room with new people even with just a few of those originals in there, you would reintroduce yourself. Listeners come and go and re-enter your “room”, and so make them feel welcome and introduce yourself.

Respect the music. Obviously only valid for music stations! There are a few times when I’ve heard stations that are built on playing music, trample over the end of songs or fade them at a critical point. The very best stations in the world understand that if their main reason to exist is based around music, then you have to respect it when you play it.

Get the production right. Great stations have great production- that matches their brand image and the essence of their brand, but also (if they play music), complements their music offering. A station playing oldies and more mellow songs doesn’t need electronic or sync type FX on its production as if it were a CHR station. Production that is crafted so that the production doesn’t get in the way of the message is also something the very best manage to achieve. With music sweeps and hour formatics, the spirit and life of a station comes from the production around the hour. The best stations understand that and ensure it carries the station’s personality rather than just a fairly function station naming job.

What only four? You are right, there are many, many more but I stopped short of a cliche top 5 for dramatic effect. The important bit of any list of basics is they are not a fix and forget item.they need doing, completing and energy spent on them every day- that is what makes the difference between being good or great. Whether its peak time, middle of the night or overnights at the weekend, the very best knock out the basics whenever you listen.

New for old media…

Quick and short, down and dirty observation from me on the US election coverage as I sit here watching and listening. At time of writing no results are in.

Firstly, hands up. I’m a news junkie and I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog post that The Daily from the New York Times is one of my must listen podcasts. I’ve listened to it from the very start, and Michael Barbaro has developed into a trusted source and host.

They have continued to cover the election in the run up in interesting ways- in the midst of a pandemic and one ravaging the US and breaking records as it does almost daily. The regular episodes of “The Field”, a subset of episodes which first showed up in the US Midterms, has returned and criss-crossed America giving a fascinating background to the story of the campaigns.

Election Day 2020 was interesting from a media perspective. I said in my previous blog on podcasting, that it was RADIO- and the very best podcasts used the skills of the best radio output to produce great podcasts. On Election Day 2020 in the US, the New York Times cemented that thought.

The first LIVE four hour broadcast from “The Daily” team live from New York- not just using the radio skills, but actually doing live radio. I listened and it was very well produced, no gaps, no fluffs, no mistakes. Polished radio output from a newspaper, but admittedly one which has spent a lot of time and money in the recent years building up its audio offering and digital footprint. “The Daily” live was available on the NYT website, and via the app and they were sensible in ensuring that it remains streaming when you leave the app- on my iPhone it did anyway, can’t say for Android. It sounded like radio, looked like radio, worked like radio.

So what of radio?

“You give us 22 minutes we’ll give you the world”

1010WINS New York, who coined that famous phrase back in the day, did radio and their Twitter feed was fairly usual and what you might have expected but with a lot of video which was pretty well done.

Here in the UK LBC, (from my former employer), went full video, live streaming on the app, website, YouTube and Twitter feed. Polished and professional TV stream with flash graphics.

All told- well played from all that I consumed if I’m honest, but I find it interesting that Newspapers did Radio, and Radio did TV.

A little life update…

It’s two months since I was made redundant from a place I’d been for over 33 years (I’m going to call it an “album” of work as I’d been there for 33 and a ⅓ years- #VinylLivesOn)

Firstly apologies if this blog post is a little self indulgent, but I also find it a bit cathartic at times to write stuff down… and you are cheaper then therapy. LOL.

The last couple of months have been filled with a fair bit of “life admin” it has to be said. Not all of it is complete yet but a lot of water is under the bridge at least.

I don’t have a full time job and right now I’m fine with that- I’m actually really enjoying the time and the ability to get involved in a few things where I want. I’m incredibly thankful for those who have reached out and for those who have offered a few bit of project work which I’m enjoying greatly. I’m also thankful for the time and conversations I’ve had regarding future work and projects- all of which is very exciting and if some come to fruition will be just amazing. You know who you are and thank you for the Costa coffees and the brilliant chats and the zoom calls!

Most of all I’m thankful for family and friends. They have been supportive and helpful every step of the way and I honestly would have spun out without them being the calm, sensible, levelling influence right at the time it was needed.

I’ve realised something about my former work self too… I was institutionalised. It’s natural, as the lens through which I saw everything was the view from where I sat- totally understandable. It’s was just a practical situation which at the time I wasn’t fully aware of and I don’t think you can fully be cognisant of after being there for so long, until you leave.

This blog, this website and the bits around it is the new lens. I’m open for business and up for project work and adding some value and perspective where I can make a difference. Click on the CV page and see if there is anything there that might interest you and reach out via the links at the top or bottom of the page.

Here are some of things I could help you with:

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I’ll get back to more practical and useful blog posts- thanks for accepting the digression- what is your hourly rate?

Five things successful newcomers do.

Over my career in radio I have helped a fair few people into the industry. As you might have gleaned from my first blog post, there are many similarities to the state of play today to when I first began- even though the world and technology has changed completely. For the whole of my career it has always been the case that there are fewer positions in radio than the number of people who want them.

There are a few things which all successful newcomers do to get in, and then succeed in the industry. These are the five they all tend to do… Roll the countdown!

Understand that people buy people first. Before I buy (or hire) any of what you are selling (or skills you display), its natural for your personality and demeanour to do the talking. How you might fit in a team, or how you get along with people or any boss or co-worker. It doesn’t mean you have to be a “yes man or woman”, just that there is a symbiosis of sorts.

Strike a balance between being keen and being a gnat. Its very important to be “on the radar” particularly when you are trying to be considered for any prospective positions. Constantly buzzing around though can be annoying and bothersome- like a gnat or fly. Striking a balance between reminding people who need to know, that you exist and are available enough- and leaving them alone. I’ve advised a few people over time to ask themselves a simple question – are they not getting back to you because they don’t know you exist or is it because they don’t have anything for you? If its the latter, constant pestering isn’t going to help the former much.

Know when and how to ask questions. Asking questions is really important. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know- so ask. It is often said by people (usually after a presentation of some sort) “there is no thing as a dumb question”. This is often said by people who don’t actually mean it and actually think there IS such a thing as a dumb question and they are seeing if you want to ask a clever one. My belief is there is genuinely very few dumb questions, especially if you set a context first…. “Sorry if this seems silly to ask but…”, “Sorry if I’m missing something I was just wondering…”. It very hard to criticise someone for asking when the context is like that. Knowing when and where to ask questions is also good to work out- in front of others or one on one? Got a few questions to ask all at once? Then maybe again set a context… “I’ve got a few questions to ask, all basic and simple. Is there a good time to run through them all?”

Think about the next step before you get there. The best are thinking about what comes next after this- I don’t mean philosophically- more practically speaking. I always found it surprising and helpful when someone guessed what might be needed and already made a start or did some prep. For example, having a demo ready with your work and ensuring its updated with the latest material before anyone asked for it.

Don’t send a demo unsolicited. I’ve said this hundreds of times in sessions I’ve held with student radio and others- don’t send your demo to someone unsolicited. The job of sending a demo is….? The first answer has to be “GET A REPLY”. Until you get that, nothing else matters or will follow. If you send a demo unsolicited the person receiving it has no obligation to listen or reply. That doesn’t mean they won’t but why risk it? Bearing in mind that you want to create a conversation and back and forth anyway, instead send an email with a brief explanation of who you are and demonstrating something of yourself and asking if you can send a demo. You are likely to get a reply saying “Yes of course!”- and you have started the conversation. The person receiving the email also now has some kind of mild obligation to reply and listen. If you don’t get a reply from your initial email, you are no worse off than you would have been if you had sent something unsolicited anyway!

Its not an exhaustive list and many might add other items into it, but I think these five are quite key. Good luck if you are trying to get into radio- once you get there its worth it!

And that’s radio too…

We need a new term. We need a new word- but also we don’t. The one we have works fine- we just need to update what it means a bit.

Radio is called radio based on the delivery mechanism- radio waves. It’s not the most efficient terminology to describe the art and science of radio output generation- which is what we generally come to mean when we refer to utilising “radio skills”. When we say someone is good on the radio, we are not referring to their ability to generate electromagnetic radio waveforms we are referring to their ability to create listenable content after all. It seems a fairly academic point until you evolve the medium over a few decades and you have more traditional radio broadcasting and along side that, podcasting. Where does radio end and something else begin?

I’m a bit torn if I’m honest. I think, rather like having protected status for Hierbas Ibicencas on the island of Ibiza (throwback on former blog post), meaning it can’t be called that unless its actually made there, I kind of want the term RADIO to be kept clean for use when talking about, well, actual radio.

At the same time I also think that we need to evolve it and include the use and evolution of radio skills- after all the very best podcasts utilise all the skills that good radio broadcasting does… its radio without the traditional broadcast spectrum usage. If we don’t update, then could radio die away or lose its relevance?

It’s possible to have two thoughts at the same time and, like I said, I’m torn.

The best podcasts I’ve heard utilise the same skills that the very best radio practitioners use when doing what they do. The production values in the best podcasts and the actual audio production, are the same as producing a bit of radio output. The opposite is also true- the worst bits of podcasts are the same as the worst bits of radio output and the bad habits are the same- the turn off points are the same. If it isn’t radio, then it sure smells like it. Don’t set up what you are talking about, introduce it effectively and simply and you have lost me. If you assume knowledge and that I’ve heard something earlier or even from a different podcast – you have lost me. Go on too long on one particular bit without making it easy to consume and you have lost me. It’s all radio production.

Frequently reset what you are talking about and who you are talking to, and you can engage me. Break up items with use of audio, music at the right point to create thinking time, punctuation and flow markers- all the kinds of things that happen inside radio studios and are just as important in podcasts.

If you make me focus on the delivery, then I can’t focus on the content as well as I might. If I’m distracted by something about the delivery of what you are saying- a bit of distortion perhaps or bad mic technique or noises off mic, then I’m going to lose focus on what you are actually saying. Just like on the radio.

There are other similarities – I can consume podcasts whilst doing something else, I’m using audio and the listeners emotions and senses rather than pictures or video. So much of the passion or the trigger points from radio are also true in podcasting.

The volume of competition is huge though- I mean there are a lot of radio stations around the world but there are A LOT of podcasts!

One final point.

I’ve noted something about my own podcast listening. I used to subscribe to a fair few and I’ve noticed that the frequency of listening for some has dropped and I’ve unsubscribed from some too. I’ll not mention the specific ones by name, but the reasons why I’ve just not “felt it”, when it came to the option to listen are interesting and relate to the above.

One podcast I really liked had two people on it. One of them I really liked and was quite amusing and controversial which I found fun. Interestingly, the other person sort of got in the way a bit too much, added a level of clutter that wasn’t needed and the overall length was a tad on the long side but not enough to drive me away. Then they increased the frequency of the podcasts and that tipped me over the edge- it all became too much to keep up and I unsubscribed when the barriers to listening became too high.

Another podcast I subscribe to, (and still do) increased the number of episodes to 7 days a week and I’ve found I delete the weekend ones and continue on the same delivery frequency as before.

I’ve done the same thing with radio before now. We have a “thing” which works and seems successful so lets have MORE of it and people will love it more- or thats what we think. What normally happens is that people get fed up of it quicker, or they liked it because of all the reasons it existed before and giving them excessive amounts is like serving someone several plates of their favourite food because its their favourite and expecting them to eat it all every time. Gluttony of audio. Killed the golden goose.

Regular Podcasts to which I still subscribe worthy of note:

  • The Daily – The New York Times. The production values, the story telling and the length all work.
  • Sway– Kara Swisher- The New York Times. I was “swayed” by an ad within the Daily for this. I used to listen to Pivot and Recode Decode with Kara Swisher. This production is cleaner I think, stays on point and so far I’m enjoying.
  • Ear Hustle – Radiotopia. Life in California’s San Quentin prison in the US. Great production and story telling from Nigel Poor (who sounds like Sarah Koenig from Serial to my ear) and Earlonne Woods.

Radio, it’s always been radio…

My social media biogs have always had the phrase, ‘Radio, it’s always been radio…” as a description line. If you have read my first blog on my site, then you will know that radio has been in my blood for quite some time- in fact I think I was 14 when the interest first sparked in me.

This blog post is a basic script of a session I presented remotely when asked to talk to newbies to radio about its power and potency. I’ve tweaked it slightly and taken a few bits out for brevity. If you are in a position where you might like me to deliver some kind of talk, training or remote learning on something similar, click the contact methods above or below or send me an email right HERE.

Where does the power of radio come from?

According to the most recent Rajar conducted with active fieldwork (Rajar- the measurement system for how many people listen to the radio in the UK. Active field work was suspended following the first quarter release due to Covid-19, so these numbers are from W1 2020- survey ending 29th March 2020, Rajar/Ipsos MORI/ RSMB), 89% of the UK population listen to radio, any radio, in any given week. The UK has a population of over 66 million people- although Rajar is based on Adults 15+ and so the population base is just over 55 million (55,032,000). In any week on average forty eight million eight hundred and ninety four thousand people listen to the radio- 48,894,000! Just to give that large number some kind of general perspective, there are just over nine million people living in London, so that over 5 times the size of London. A reminder that the number is the number of people who listen PER WEEK… so over 5 times the size of London every week listening to the radio.

“Gavin & Stacey” was the most watched TV show in 2019 with 17.9 million viewers just at the end of the year, beating out “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” – the opening episode of the show was the second biggest show on TV all year. It had 13 million viewers, 400k more than the third placed entry which was “Strictly Come Dancing”. 17.9 million- that’s just over a third of the WEEKLY audience of Radio.

Of the 48.9 million people who listen to radio each week, 36.2 million people listen to Commercial Radio. So looking at the previous comparisons, Commercial Radio alone is twice the size of the biggest TV show from 2019 and the number of people who listen to Commercial Radio each WEEK is the population of London four times over. In the same Rajar survey Wave 1 2020 by the way, All BBC Radio reaches 33.5 million listeners per week.

How is the medium from the 1890’s not only still relevant, but so powerful circa 130 years later?

It’s not as simple as just communication- a Tweet, and email or a text is communication too. It’s not just about entertainment, or debate, or information or education- although it is also absolutely about all of those things and more besides. I can get the music I like, tailored for me from a clever algorithm that keeps getting smarter, on an app from my phone, my watch or my smart speaker. It learns what I like and adjusts accordingly all the time the more I choose what to listen to. The first MP3 player appeared in 1998- the MPMan. I’ve been able to carry around my collection of music since the late 90’s when those portable players appeared so it’s not the primary reason for Radio to be so powerful, or 20+ years later 48.9 million people wouldn’t be listening to it per week. That said, music is a very big part of radio too of course.

The cassette, the CD, the iPod, the iPhone didn’t kill radio and neither did video – lazy newspaper type reference whenever they mention radio (Buggles 1979)

Radio has a history of provoking change- and creating impact. In October 1938 Orson Welles broadcast “The War Of The Worlds” on US Radio. A radio drama that converted the book into a series of news broadcasts and made Americans actually believe that aliens had invaded New Jersey and terrified thousands. Those were simpler times maybe and in 1938 mass media was in it’s infancy and people were not exposed to the levels of interaction we have today. That said, today here and now in the Broadcast Advertising Code– the rule book on all radio advertising in the UK, section 2.2 it states:

“If used in an advertisement, an expression or sound effect associated with news bulletins or public service announcements (for example, “news flash”) needs special care. The audience should quickly recognise the message as an advertisement.”

Broadcast Advertising Code

Thus is the power of radio. We make people believe. You said it on the radio so it must be true.

Its portable, emotional, relatable, personal and trustworthy. According to a European Broadcasting Union study across Europe, with the veracity of what people read and see online and the rise of “fake news“, Radio is the most trusted medium. Fifty seven percent of EU citizens as a whole trust radio, (TV is 49%). Radio is the most trusted medium in 24 of 33 countries including the UK. (Full EBU report)

Radio delivers one to one communication- its talking to YOU and only you. There might be 48.9 million people listening in any week but radio talks to them all just one-at-a-time. Listeners to radio perceive it is just the presenter talking to them, whereas with TV the viewer knows that there are camera operators, directors, producers, floor managers and others in the pipeline… TV is a many to many medium. Radio is small, personal, intimate but also huge, powerful and very impactful.

It can talk to you with your eyes shut- try that with television, or newspapers… or online? It can talk to you whilst your eyes are reading your kindle, the newspaper, a webpage, or your socials, it’s still there. While you drive, while you eat, while you sleep and when you wake.

Radio is a mass medium that you can consume whilst doing something else. You can’t even touch your phone whilst driving as it’s not safe, but you can listen to the radio.

Radio builds brands, creates habits, becomes part of the fabric of people’s lives. People know where they are on their commute and if they are late for work by what time a presenter does a feature- or even goes to an adbreak or news. People create their own natural benchmarks. Radio’s heart beats to the rhythm of the daily life of people.

We have some of the best professionals in the trade of radio. Radio is one of the best mediums in the world with the ability to influence, change and motivate the listener in a way that few other forms of media can do. Radio can rouse emotion, passion and harness that with a personal touch and has a vast audience that places trust in it.

Radio is both relevant and massive. Mass market, yet totally personal communication with built-in emotion.

Don’t blame it on the sunshine…

No-one is one dimensional. Radio and media has been my life since before leaving school, but it isn’t all that I am or care about. That would be very dull.

If all I blogged about was radio and media, whilst that might be very interesting for some, it would be a very one dimensional view of me. Don’t get me wrong, I have done that before and some readers of this may remember I had a fairly successful blog a few years ago now with posts on radio and media and there is nothing wrong with doing that- many I read now and are excellent.

Occasionally though its good to open a different box, look in a different drawer or out of another window. Radio and media is my passion but I have a few other things which interest me too.

Anyone who has met me in the last 17 or 18 years will probably have heard me at some point talk about holidays. One destination in particular… IBIZA.

Golden hour at Cafe Del Mar

I think it was 2003 or 2002 when we first went as a family and the love affair began. I have spoken about it so much and been there so much that people think I have a property out there- I wish!

We were due to go again this year, but of course Covid ended that as a plan and so roll on 2021.

I’ve been trying to analyse what it is about Ibiza that captures the imagination and that I love so much. I know many people have the same issue- what is the magic and special thing about that island in particular that makes it so different from the other Balearic destinations? Right from the moment you get off the plane, it just feels different from the others. The air, the vibe, the expectation, the light and the mood.

When we first visited we stayed in S’Argamassa– which is just outside Es Cana and not all that far from the Hippy Market (although we didn’t know that at the time). Its on the other side of the island from San Antonio which we visited to watch the sunset of course. Somewhere I have a photo taken by a Cafe Del Mar photographer of us actually sitting on the rocks outside. Today I wouldn’t recommend sitting on those rocks without some form of heavy duty sanitisation afterwards. Times change. If you visit, then make sure you go to the slightly more authentic Hippy Market, or enchanting Night Market at Las Dalias at Sant Carles De Peralta.

Las Dalias Night Market in Summer

We have stayed in Ibiza Town and more recently in San Antonio, having been drawn to the sunset and the vibe on the rocks outside Mambo and Cafe Del Mar. Cala Comte is also a pull if you ever fancy a really magical view of the sunset in a chilled setting.

I’ve only ever done one 3 week holiday in my life and that was in Ibiza- it rained for the last week and so might as well have been 2 weeks in the end! I also managed to put petrol into a diesel rental car too, after helping out a confused German tourist at a petrol pump and distracting myself in the process. That was the also the moment when I learned that the word “incompetent” is pretty similar in Spanish… “incompetente”.

In the last month or so, since having more time, and since our holiday was cancelled, I have indulged my love of Ibiza in a few ways, which you might also find interesting if you feel the same.

The Cafe Del Mar webcam is a daily visit. I used to look a few times before lockdown too, but just getting a live snapshot of that view, and if you time it right, the sunset, makes it worth every visit.

There are a couple of Vlogs which I have followed too which paint an interesting picture of the island and life during lockdown and beyond. Dwayne Muffin on YouTube and Instagram posts regular vlogs from around the island and occasionally interviews with passing people of interest- Judge Jules and Norman Cook to name but two worth of a view. I have not met nor do I know Dwayne and found his vlogs as a result of the YouTube algorithm serving up his work and I’m glad it did. Give them a watch and subscribe if you you long to be on the White Isle right now!

More recently that same algorithm took me to M&T and their daily vlogs “Moving To Ibiza” and subsequently their podcast and vlog of their podcast. I have watched a LOT of these and its a fascinating and honest look at what it is like to move to Ibiza and get your life sorted. They are brave, funny and engaging and very much worthy of a view and a subscribe. Again, I don’t know Matt and Tiff (hence M&T) at all- although I thought I recognised them but don’t think we have ever met. Probably I feel like I know them from watching their material to be honest- which shows how good it is. In another life perhaps I would have done what they are doing or certainly would have wanted to. I probably still want to actually!

One last thing, drink like an Ibizan (18+). When we first went to the island I kept seeing a drink in bars and shops- Hierbas Ibicencas. Its made only on Ibiza and is a liqueur made from herbs and botanicals which grow around the island (“hierbas” being Spanish for herbs)- in fact it has protected geographical status meaning if you want to call your drink Hierbas Ibicencas then it HAS to be made in Ibiza. Over ice, at the end of the day or meal it is a perfect nightcap should you be in the mood. I tend to drink it like I would a bourbon or a whiskey but there are many drink recipes. It has been described as being slightly aniseed but not like an Ouzo. It can also be quite sweet too. A “Seco” variety is less sweet I’ve found but there are many varieties and secret recipes sold all over the island as well as the more commercial ones. Below is my current collection at home- withered slightly as I was anticipating a summer refresh this year. I’ve been known on summers when I’ve not been going to Ibiza (there have actually been some) to have asked my good mate Andrew Wilson, when we worked together, to bring me back a bottle – actually even after we worked together we arranged a rendevous for a drop off!

If you love Ibiza and the magical pull of Es Vedra or just want to sample the drink, then I hope the links and info are interesting. If you have never been, then put it on your list- I doubt you will only go just the once. You don’t need to be a clubber or want to dance- the island has so much more to offer besides that… but it does do that really, really well too!

The next thing…

OK so what comes next then after a third of a century doing a variety of roles and jobs at the same place? [See previous post].

It’s not something which is easy to fathom at the best of times, but in the grips of a pandemic and with a shrinking economy and radio industry, its even harder.

I spent a some time thinking about what I like doing, what I wanted to do, and what I needed to do.

I like and enjoy coaching talent, getting the best out of their work, and delivering the best performance. Helping them to realise their potential. I also enjoy training and presenting to a group or online audience- utilising my knowledge and experience to pass on to others and offer some value.

I want to combine both of those things more- coaching & teaching. To nurture, develop and bring out the best in talent that they can achieve.

In reality there isn’t a hard and fast single “next” option for me right now. I’m open to anything which excites me, utilises my skill set and interests me. You can click here to see my CV and click here to open up an email to me if you think I can help in some way.