What’s Next (for) Rad.io?

So, apart from a clever name, what will the Next Rad.io conference bring us?

Loads of “suits” talking the same old stuff that pours out of “industry” gatherings? Great ideas that are all well and good if you have huge budgets and unending resources? Or something else?

It’s designed for people who like radio, who want to be inspired by new ideas, who recognise that technology will help it to change and adapt and for those who want to meet like minded people.

I’m hugely looking forward to this conference. And I’m really glad that James Cridland and Matt Deegan are putting it on. This promises to be a great place for discussing new ideas, looking at things in a new way, and making new contacts. If I was starting out, this would be the place I’d be heading; loads of people who actually “do” radio thinking about how we can make radio better.

And there is a future for radio.

Sure, there’s lots of doom-laden statistics floating around about how younger listeners are failing to engage with radio. But not all of them. And only if radio refuses to engage with them, interact with them on the platforms that they hang out on, and actually deliver them the content they want to hear.

And radio still is radio. But it can be enhanced in many different ways. And let’s face it, whilst some people may sneer at the many ways that stations like Radio 1 and others have used to “visualise” radio, what they are doing now is really just a natural extension of what has been done in the past. From meeting listeners at the County show or the Radio 1 Roadshow at Great Yarmouth Beach, to the BBC radio Solent magazine that I remember buying as a child – they are all ways of extending the reach of the radio station.

But the biggest positive I have taken from the last few months is that fact that my daughter (8) has now decided that she wants to be on the radio and maybe run her own radio station.

This interest was started when she came to visit me at work way back when I was at Capital FM. She was 3 – and recorded 3 links which we made into a radio show for her to play in the car. She was also fascinated last time that Radio 1 did their Access All Areas week – as can be heard in this recording as she describes watching Newsbeat going out online.

Now, she has taken it one step further. Over the last few weeks, she has been recording her own radio show. She brainstormed what sort of features she wanted to run, what music she wanted to play (mostly the Capital playlist) and even how she wanted to broadcast (she wants to be on Red Button and can’t understand why it’s a bit complicated to make that happen).

Radio Victory Car Sticker

She’s now started to learn how to make a radio show – in basic form using Garage Band to drag in songs and record her links. She’s even recorded a report from her day out at Brands Hatch a few weeks ago. Now whilst this isn’t necessarily radio in its truest form, it’s no different from back when I was her age, where I recorded the ads and jingles off Radio Victory, and sat in my bedroom playing tunes off a battery powered record player, talking to no-one except my brother, and playing in ads from an old mono cassette recorder. The difference is, now, that I can record her and share a little of it with you.

So, it’s a bit rough around the edges. But she wrote the jingle, recorded the keyboard part, selected the samples and the instruments and the sound effects. And she loved it.

Maybe Next Radio or an event like it will inspire her in the future to do it for real. But only if we all help make it a reality for Megan and her Generation  – and keep making radio a medium that is relevant to them as well as us.

You can follow all things nextrad.io on Twitter @thisisnextradio and the conference hashtag is #nextradio  Radio Today are covering it live here. I’ll be there, doubtless tweeting interesting bits. If you’re coming, it’ll be nice to catch up – and if you’re not, hopefully you’ll learn something useful.

Torchwood – The Lost Files

Image (C) BBC

Having been a Torchwood fan since the series first started (as a spin off from the BBC’s long running Doctor Who), I’m really looking forward to the new series which starts this week.

Before the last series – Children of Earth BBC Radio 4 commissioned a couple of radio plays to bridge the gap between the series. They have done it again with a 3 story run of Torchwood: The Lost Files. The series is running this week in the Afternoon Play slot in BBC Radio 4. And they’ve handily made all 3 stories available as downloads.

I listened to the first file – “The Devil and Miss Carew” this morning on my commute in to work. It’s all standard Torchwood stuff – though the “alien” seems to be called Fitzroy – and seems to live within the Radio 4 Shipping Forecast (played by Radio 4 drama stalwart Martin Jarvis).

If you’ve never listened to a radio drama, this could be your ideal stepping off point. It’s nicely acted, pretty close to the feel of the Tv series, and has fun performances from the main Torchwood cast.

You can download it here

And the new TV series starts this Thursday night (July 14th) on BBC 1

Scottish Is.. The Longest Promo Ever?


Deep Fried mars Bars
Having worked as a radio promo producer for many years, it’s not often that I hear a bit of production that really  grabs me and makes me sit glued listening to the radio. This morning, I think I heard it.

BBC Radio 1 are currently promoting their coverage of the T in The Park Festival in Scotland.


15 hours of television coverage for BBC Three and BBC One and Two Scotland, featuring on the HD channel, 115 hours streaming on the red button across the three days and almost 90 hours on the catch-up service. All that plus highlights for BBC Two and BBC Scotland plus 12 hours of radio on Radio One and Radio Scotland.  Starting on Three at 8pm on Friday 8th July, Edith Bowman and Reggie Yates will be in the tree house studio overlooking a newly designed site, Greg James will be out and about soaking up the atmosphere and local lads Ally McRae from Radio One and Vic Galloway from Radio Scotland will be bringing expert local knowledge

Radio 1 are running standard trails for this – including music from the artists performing and listeners talking about their passion for the event. That works really well .

But then between 2 songs on the Chris Moyles Show this morning, I heard the audio version of this between 2 other songs.


It’s a 3 minute promo. With one simple call to action. But it has created a huge buzz. It’s been produced by Matt Fisher, one of the station sound team at Radio 1 along with his colleague Rob Lewis. Matt told me:

We asked the Scottish listeners via our facebook page what being Scottish meant to them. Their replies inspired and fed into the script. Track is Biffy Clyro – God & Satan, VO is Louis Mellis – Scottish VO and Actor. 

It’s a stunningly simple piece of production. It’s under-produced. There hasn’t been a temptation to fill it with unnecessary sound effects. I really hope it wins some awards – it certainly deserves to.


Torchwood Miracle Day – USA v UK Trailers

C.I.A. agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). (C) BBC

The new series of Torchwood hits screens in the UK soon July 14th.This time, Captain Jack is out in L.A., and the series has a distinctly US feel – with some Welsh bits too to tie it back to the show’s origins. It’s as if the programme’s origins as a Doctor Who spin off have finally disappeared.

One day, nobody dies. All across the world, nobody dies. And then the next day, and the next, and the next, people keep ageing – they get hurt and sick – but they never die. The result: a population boom, overnight.

The marketing phrase “nobody dies” does however remind me of this sketch from The Day Today.

The trailers for the show have just started airing in the UK. Here’s the launch trail from the BBC website:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And the American versions are online too.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It’s interesting to see how the US versions go all out for action, whereas the UK version has a nice feeling of suspense, drama and then a huge hit of action too. True, the US version is doing a job to fill in the back story – and it is a web trail rather than a true TV trail. But even so, it’s not necessarily subtle. Then again – it’s not meant to be.

And the US version has a nice hint of sonic  branding at the end – with a sting from the original series’ theme tune. The use of audio branding in TV trails can always be powerful, particular when it’s long established. On radio, we know it works too, but builds it’s effectiveness with repetition.

As a Torchwood fan, I’m hugely looking forward to this new series. Camp, yes. But then how could anything with John Barrowman be anything but…?


I’ve just heard that, like the last series, there will also be be a radio prequel to the series.

BBC Radio 2 – Radio2Day

Broadcasting House Sunset - James Stodd

Here in the UK today (June 22 2011), BBC Radio 2 is trying out a clever marketing trick.

They are pairing up all of the presenters from different shows and genres to present in different parts of the day. It’s being described as “a-12 hour on air celebration of everything the station has to offer”.

For a station like Radio 2, 2DAY gives a great opportunity to showcase the range of what they offer to listeners who may only tune in for certain parts of the day. Of course, there’s a danger that having hooked people in, they’ll come back expecting the same every day. But at least they’ll have heard a sample of everything else that the station offers. And that will hopefully make them want to sample more. For the people who complain that the BBC wastes resources promoting the mainstream offerings from their radio stations, this is a nice example of using the mainstream presenters to help showcase the outer parts of the schedule.

I really like the style of the TV trail that they have created to promote it too. It’s a bit like one of those children’s puzzles where you slide the pieces around to finally get the full picture. It’s a nice visual metaphor and resolves with all the presenters on it as well.

Bieber FM – No Thanks..

Photo from http://www.key103.co.uk/

Here in the UK, Manchester’s Key 103 has taken a break from playing non stop Gaga/Bieber/Perry to become TakeThat103 for one day only to celebrate the band’s return to the city 16 years since they last played there.

You can read all about it here in more detail on the UK’s Radio and Marketing blog.

“Flipping format” is nothing new to the UK. Before becoming Glide FM, Oxford’s FM 107.9 became Glee FM. And in the US, stunts like this happen all the time .

In Australia, they do it a different way – creating pop up radio stations to celebrate specific days or events – such as ABC Woodstock (to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock) or ABC Beatles (a weekend of documentaries to mark the 40th anniversary of the break up of the band).

Photo:AdamBowie on Flickr (cc)

The BBC did something similar last year with BBC Tennis – as Adam Bowie notes here.

When I worked in South Wales, we once even created an extra station for Red Dragon FM in Cardiff to support the first year of the staging of the Wales Rally GB. The station – Red Dragon Rally FM- ran as a separate station – taking Red Dragon programming overnight and flipping to rally news and background interviews with a more rock oriented music policy.

Let’s just hope no-one becomes Bieber FM

Search Me? Finding content in a search driven world

In a world of content – how can we expect people to find our great work?

I was intrigued by a session at Radiodays Europe last month presented by Jakob Bjur – the researcher in residence at Swedish radio. His presentation was based on a research paper he’d written on “Transforming Audiences – Patterns of individualization in Television Viewing”. It’s a weighty document and you can read it all here.

He made many interesting points, including the fact that “the content we deliver now falls into the web and is resocialised”. But he asked the question as to whether radio/sound now needs to be visualised in order to be found?

Think about it; you can search online for text and images and video, but sound is harder to search – unless it has loads of relevant metadata. Or maybe a full transcript?

As we consider the digital future, (or as someone put it today, the post Digital future), what content exactly do we want our listeners/audience to search out? And are we being far too prescriptive in how we categorise our content and how they consume it?

I’m not for a moment suggesting that our traditional, linear forms of broadcasting have had their place. Far from it. But in a world where our younger audiences are consuming 9 hours worth of content in less than 7 hours – ie using at least a couple of media simultaneously – should we be helping them find that content in a way that’s more suitable for their lifestyles?

Could we see a future where people could have an app on their smart phone that simply has a BBC search box – much like the Google search. It could learn who you are, what you like and give you it.

Maybe it’s a future where you select the type of content you want and it’s delivered to your phone – ready to consume on the way to work. But now, it’s not simply radio, but the funniest bits of last night’s Mock the Week, the must-see film from last week’s Top Gear, a video of the Taylor Swift Live Lounge performance, and the latest film review from Mayo and Kermode.

In short, I don’t care whether they are consuming Radio, or TV, or online content. I just want to make sure that, as future licence fee payers, and therefore our future audience, that they consume BBC content.

Or at least know that it’s there.

[Disclosure: Whilst I work for the BBC – these are my own views].

Learn Radio (and TV) Production Skills for free from the BBC

BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place at the ...
Image via Wikipedia

The BBC College of Production website  has just launched.

 Now, anyone – not just BBC staff – can get a basic insight in the skills needed to make great TV, Radio or Online content. There are profiles of jobs, background “how to” films and details of talks and training courses.

In the radio section, there are details of music scheduling, setting up microphones, making a trail for Radio 2, and the role of a station sound producer.

For budding TV producers, you can learn about self-shooting, special effects, developing programme ideas, and how to shoot on green screen.

And if you need to know more about blogging, there’s a section on that too.

It’s a vast (and I guess constantly evolving) resource. See more at http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/collegeofproduction/

Quote me on that

I came across these today on the walls of BBC Television Centre.

All Images (C) BBC

All are catchphrases featured in highly successful BBC TV shows – displayed proudly in bright colours. Of course, they provide a nice talking point for tours and similar. But a nice way of showing the heritage of the Corporation.

It works for TV and could work for loads of BBC radio too.

But could you use something for your station in a similar way? Maybe not for a small station. But one with a heritage show or big name maybe? Or how about song lyrics from songs that reflect you station right now?

A simple idea?