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BBC Radio is finally joining the move to be digital first. If, like me, you have Sky TV you’ll have seen the trails for a few years now pushing the fact the channels make some of their programmes available online first. Audiences like control and this seems to be a good way to give it to them. Netflix lets audiences blitz their way through entire series of shows in one go, whilst broadcasters have traditionally made listeners and viewers wait a week for the next episode to roll around
The BBC’s Head of Speech Radio Multiplatform Andrew Caspari, writes about the rationale in his BBC Blog:
From now you can go online and hear a selection of our programmes before they have been on the radio. This means more listeners will be able to get the programmes they want as soon as they are aware of them and listen wherever and whenever they want irrespective of the radio schedule.
The BBC has long realised that investing in programmes that listeners can miss is not the way forward, especially when those listeners are paying a licence fee. The iPlayer and iPlayer app have made radio portable and totally on-demand, letting listeners catch-up wherever they are. This next step means listeners can move forward in time on selected shows. Online First is about putting listeners in charge and recognising that listeners might want to listen to that next episode now, or listen to a whole series in one go. For example, the daily WW1 drama ‘Home Front’ will make an entire week’s worth of programmes available on Monday morning from next week. So, a listener can break their link with the schedule and listen to 5 programmes in one sitting.
The way we listen to the radio is changing. Listeners are listening online and radio must compete for ears with on-demand audio like podcasts and this seems to be a reflection of this. Shows will roll out across speech formats on Radio 4, 5Live, 6Music and Radio 2 (full list). In 2014 Ofcom reported that 5.9% of digital radio listening was online or via an app. I can only see this as growing and the lessons learnt from the past suggest that broadcasters need to be ready with content when the listeners get there. Producers can’t sit still these days, they need to put content in front of listeners in the format they want and in timeframe that works for them. This means getting it online fast and leaving it there for as long as you can. Obviously, the BBC has a job to do working with rights holders but this will take time. It will be interesting to see how this goes.
For a long time TV has know a lot about the power of emotional connection. There have been whole shows built around it, putting everyday people front and centre and sharing their stories. Daytime TV is full of this kind of stuff. From Jeremy Kyle to DIY SOS, people who need help or just a thank you have been made the starts. But, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on radio. Until now…
This is from the great Kyle and Jackie O in Sydney. These guys are big stars there, and were poached from their old station a few years back with much noise. They’ve been constantly pushing the show forward since then. There are cameras in the studio, and they film a lot. They have big guests, big personalities and lots of attitude.
There are several things I like about this piece. Firstly, this a driveway piece of radio. The kind of story that demands your attention. From the story itself to the way Jackie tells it, it’s attention grabbing. We then get the woman on-air and the narrative comes to an emotional and well planned climax. This takes skill and planning, so well done to the team for pulling that off. By taking on ideas that have worked on TV the station are really taking the game to the other places that compete for our time and our attention. This is good for radio. It’s should be an obvious thing to do, especially as radio is such an emotional medium.
The other thing about this is the visualisation. This is something that is new in radio, and whilst not everyone agree – it is part of the our future. This is a great example of it done well and where it adds value. Here is something the audience will want to see and share – it’s been shared over 260,000 times on Facebook already. The act of going online to view is itself an act of connection. Connection that suggests a great sense of engagement with the brand. Engaged listeners are loyal. It’s also a great introduction to the brand for anyone who wasn’t already aware or listening. Visualisation is a complex thing. Some videos are cheap and throwaway, and that’s fine because they are there as a tease or a hook. This is more nuanced. It’s the denouement of a radio story. It’s a big feature and something where you don’t want bad camera work, or bad editing to get in the way. By sneaking a camera into the car, and then getting the sound editing right this is something that looks and sounds good. Again, not an easy task but one that really smells of quality, and that’s important.
Increasingly this is what radio stations will need to do. Hire great personalities, and let them be themselves on-air. Invest in great ideas. Build reasons for the audience to listen, and these might be emotional. And finally, remember the visual elements. Build on them and invest in them. That doesn’t mean you do radio differently, but you reconsider what a radio station institutionally.