James Cridland’s Future of Radio: Bauer’s new strategy, and lots of podcast data

James Cridland, the 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 and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at james.crid.land.

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  • Bauer is to launch a new national radio station, Hits Radio, and run it out of Manchester. It is, mostly, a rebrand of Key 103, with a new schedule; in Manchester, it’ll be branded “Hits Radio Manchester” and will contain local news, travel, ads, and some local links where necessary. It means Bauer’s 25-44 network, formerly known as “Bauer City Network”, is able to reach ‘the other 55%’ of the population of the UK which it hasn’t hitherto covered. The station will also replace The Hits, which was a younger quasi-national service from London (with 562,000 listeners). Mornings and afternoons on Hits Radio will be networked across Bauer’s local English FMs. Hits Radio will get a larger transmission area, including London, so the advertising agencies understand what they’re buying. (It must be dreadful for the admen not understanding how the internet works).
    • In an interview on RadioToday’s podcast ▸, Bauer says that Manchester will be proud of Hits Radio as being a national radio station from Manchester, and that 50% of their audience wants a national sound, while the other half wants local.
    • In April 2013, Bauer killed off Tfm (as a separate station) after it lost 66% of its hours (3.3m down to 1.1m). The strategy then was to simply take Metro FM’s programming, but split the idents. Like Tfm, Key 103’s certainly in trouble. It has lost 75% of its total hours since June 1999 (8.1m to just 2.1m). Retiring the Key 103 brand may make sense. Yet, Radio Aire appears in worse shape: losing 83% of total hours (2.5m to 447,000), albeit with a redrawn TSA from June 2011. There doesn’t appear to be a plan for Leeds.
    • Bauer’s strategy has been to continue with local brands, but increasingly cut out the local programming. I worked at Hallam FM for nearly seven years (and, as a swing presenter, did every shift on the station from overnights to breakfast); that station now appears to be just doing breakfast and PM drive and getting the rest from the network. From the start of “Hits Radio”, Hallam will be competing directly against its sustaining service – same music log, different presenters – and the national Hits Radio may have better coverage. This is the best of both worlds, according to Bauer – and they may have a point.
    • “Hits Radio Sheffield” would be the obvious strategy here (though a humbling change for Bauer). However, Bauer’s gone on record saying there is no long-term strategy for a “Hits Radio Sheffield” or a “Hits Radio Leeds”, right now, at least. I wonder whether there’s a long-term strategy at all, or whether Manchester’s a test bed.
    • Interestingly, Bauer in Scotland appears to be in great shape; Clyde 1 is static since 2004. And, away from the Hits Radio Network, both Wave 105 and Kiss (especially the Kiss network) are perfect examples of how to do it right.
    • For a different viewpoint, read Matt Deegan’s thoughts.
  • The rather excellent Russ Williams in conversation with David Lloyd.
  • ‘Toxic’ Radar Radio suspends broadcasting after allegations – goodness.
  • BBC Radio 2, which had to axe live presenters overnight last year for budget reasons, is bringing a live show back again.
  • Congratulations to DAX who have got a deal to represent the podcaster Wondery in the UK. Such a clever set-up from Global. (After nine months of running podnews, I’ve yet to carry a story from any other UK commercial radio company about their podcast ambitions. Am I just rubbish at finding the stories, or…?)
  • News Corp are beginning to show their strength against the BBC in terms of radio. Is this the first time the BBC has seen serious competition in this area, I wonder? They appear to have rather deeper pockets than previous station owners.
  • A local radio station in Scotland, YOUR Radio, is to close by the end of the month.
  • What’s It Like to be a Guest on Question Time? – some nice background from Iain Dale. I didn’t realise they had a ‘practice’ question.


James Cridland