James Cridland’s International Radio Trends: Spinoff stations grow overall reach

James Cridland, radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website media.info and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes podnews.net, a daily briefing on podcasting. Buy James A Coffee HERE

The UK’s radio figures, RAJAR, were published. Matt Deegan has some good analysis, as ever – particularly interesting is the analysis of “spinoff stations”, like Heart 80s or Absolute 90s, and the effect they have on their “main” stations. No erosion at all: instead, an overall increase in audience. US radio, pay attention.

Virgin Radio was running online spinoffs in 2000 – a Virgin Radio Wheels of Steel stream (hastily rechristened Virgin Radio PARTY! in 2001), and the classic rock service Virgin Radio Classic Rock (and which Paul Jackson launched on DAB in 2004). New music station Virgin Radio Xtreme launched in 2005.

Clive Dickens is credited by Matt as coming up with the concept: I’m not sure he did, but Clive certainly grasped the opportunity offered to him by new platforms, and put them on a much more sensible business footing.

Last time round, I looked at BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, and ABC RN’s Breakfast program; looking at the subjects covered and the types of show they both were.

One person said “you should listen to Morning Edition”, and so I did, listening to WBEZ’s Morning Edition. I was surprised by the sound of it – lots of voices, lots of opt-points, lots of underwriting credits (is there a more boring and dull mechanism for a radio ad in the world, I wonder), and the experience left me a bit cold.

Delighted to also sample Nick Ferrari at breakfast on LBC. Lots of very clever techniques from the show – clips to introduce a story, talkback that works and adds to the show, good use of reporters around the country, and a way of explaining slang. It was a great listen.

And today I also sampled RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland, which was much more accessible and modern-sounding than perhaps I was expecting.

These are fun to do; and thank you to Radio Monitor for giving me assistance.

Worth keeping a look at BBC Sounds, and its changing consumption.

In Q1/21, the BBC Sounds app achieved 149mn plays of on-demand radio and podcasts, while BBC podcasts were downloaded 265mn times worldwide elsewhere.

In Q4/23, just announced, the BBC Sounds app now achieves 231mn plays of on-demand radio and podcasts, while BBC global podcast downloads have shrunk to 222mn.

BBC Sounds on-demand audio has grown by 55% in two years; while BBC third-party podcast consumption has fallen by 16%.

I’m sure part of the BBC will see this as a success. I do wonder, though, whether the dip in third-party podcast consumption is something to be concerned about.

James Cridland