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It's time to change seat...
Back in the office, but with a new perspective
Back in the Big Chair
I’ve been working as a consultant since early 2018, with Galway Bay FM my first official client, followed by Red FM in Cork, 98FM, iRadio and then many more…
That meant an awful lot of nights on the road between Galway, Cork, Dublin and Athlone and plenty of evenings in hotels.
Once the pandemic hit back in March 2020, things got complicated, as offices closed, revenue shrank and remote working kicked in, and I swapped the miles on the road for hours on Zoom.
My entire time working for podcast company Auddy for example, was spent on Zoom, while The Smart 7 Podcast has always been produced remotely since it’s inception in April 2020.
Now that the pandemic has at least temporarily receded, I’ve moved to a new position, starting with Ireland’s Classic Hits as Programme Director.
I find myself with an office and being in that office several days a week which is quite a gear change!
Firstly, it takes a little bit of time to get the Programme Director reflexes working again… I’ve had to ask myself what I’m supposed to do, quite a few times.
A Different Seat in the Stadium
I think, if you’re at a concert or sporting event, your whole experience can be defined by where you’re seated… High in the air? Pitchside? Pressed up against the stage?
It’s a question of your perspective and being aware that where you’re sitting affects your experience and now, I find myself switching seats and going from being a consultant to sitting pitchside.
Working as a consultant, I’m privileged to see inside different stations and different programming strategies, I get access to research, and insights and I work with programmers and on air talent to line up the best possible outcome.
But, at the end of the day, you get in the car, or leave the Zoom call and it is up to the team in the station to follow through on the plans. As a consultant, you need to have agreed outcomes and a timeline, and know what success looks like, but ultimately, it’s the team in the station who have to make it work.
When you’re actually sitting in the station, when the zoom call ends, you’re the one that has to do the work and make it happen.
I think there’s huge value in being a fresh pair of eyes too, you can see things and hear things when you first listen to a station that you’ll never hear again. I’ve found myself staring out the window as I try to work through what I’m hearing and whether it works.
Back to the stadium, we don’t always realise how big a difference the seat we’re in makes to the experience that we have… In the battle for Taylor Swift tickets there’s a reason that the VIP seats or the standing tickets beside the stage are multiple times more expensive than the nosebleed section…
But where is the radio station audience sitting? What are we sharing with them? How good are we at telling them about other things on the station that they already listen to?
Working the numbers
When I look at listenership figures, I love to do a “run of day” that shows me exactly what the pattern of listening for our audience is across the day. I break it down from 7am to Midnight in a line graph – and I’ve given you an anonymous example below.
In the traditional model, Breakfast would be the biggest show, a giant peak and then the day would probably gently cascade down, with a bump at drivetime.
But every station is different… There’s an example below of a particular audience segment from an anonymised station, they’ve seen growth at breakfast, but a peak audience in afternoons… The red line is the most recent book!
Understanding where the audience are and what they hear when they’re listening is critical…
Information is the lifeblood of any station
One of the first things I’ve done is to set up a weekly presenter / staff memo which includes just about every bit of information I can find about what’s happening in the next 7 days. It’s not an “on air” memo, I don’t intend it to be read out, but it’s absolutely critical to get everyone on the same page.
Too many stations have great things happening in one show, that the other shows don’t know about, or like the graph above, we don’t tell the biggest audience we have about things that they might like too…
Communicate, share information widely and encourage collaboration across the board, that’s Item 1 on my to do list this week
What our listeners are doing…
I’m in an interesting position, as a radio programmer (again), who has spent years in the podcast side of the business and I’m keen to explore more how radio and podcast can combine. Generally, radio has been slow to engage with podcasts, and I don’t consider “listen back” audio as podcasts, I’m sorry.
I was looking at the latest update from Edison Research on the “Share of Ear” for American audiences, and it’s quite a useful tool to get a clearer picture of what exactly our audiences are doing with their audio time.
The data is US based, they include Sirius XM which is a sort of subscription based satellite radio, but it is truly fascinating to see how podcasts have carved out a sizable niche, but also that music and music streaming continue to play a big part of our audience’s listening lives.
If radio is competing with all of these distractions, what could we do better? And how does podcasting make the next leap past music streaming services?
This has been the 9th official edition of the RAudio Newsletter
Just to recap, each week I’ll be taking a look at big stories in radio, podcasting and audio.
Any feedback, questions or potential topics are welcome – you can get me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/liamthompsonconsulting/ or on Twitter @Maxliam