What happens when your favourite station changes its furniture – be that it’s jingles, it format, it presenters or even its name?
I’d heard one was on the way – and saw it this morning via Paul Easton’s blog. An interesting spin to promote a programme that could be seen as stuffy and old school to a younger audience.
So, U2=BBC. A brilliant marketing coup for a record label and band. Or a misuse of a publicly funded broadcasting organisation’s airwaves and webspace?
Let’s get one thing clear. I’m a massive U2 fan – and thought the whole concept was fantastic. And it worked on so many levels. From the Culture Show to Radio 1 to Radio 4’s “Front Row” to the rooftop gig. I’m not complaining – I got a text from a friend around 6pm and managed to get to near the front – an almost perfect start to a weekend.
But predictably, there were many people not so pleased with it including Tory MP Nigel Evans who complained (to the Daily Mail under a headline of “The Bono Broadcasting Corporation”) about why licence fee payers should pick up the cost of publicity of the new U2 album. For the BBC, this will have been about delivering something exceptional for the audience (not all, but a wide part of it) and it was able to tick many boxes. It was a subject that had a broad fanbase which enabled the project to be spread across 2 music networks and the speech network. It allowed some innovative online ideas from Red Button coverage to online microsites. And quite probably will have bought audiences into programmes that they might not necessarily have sampled before (such as The Culture Show and Front Row). Added to that – it created a couple of one off musical events that people can say “only the BBC can do that” – all things that should keep the BBC Trust happy.
As a licence fee payer, I’m more than happy for this to have happened – as part of what the BBC’s remit is to me. I don’t want to watch or listen or read about everything that they broadcast or publish. I have no real interest in Antiques or horesracing but I don’t have a problem with the BBC covering either of those subjects. And I can add it to the list of shared musical experiences where I can say “I was there”.
Of course, the BBC’s commercial competitiors (and I used to work for one) constantly bemoan the fact that this is the sort of thing they’d like to have done if they had the resources or the budget or similar. But quite often it’s the case that they quite simply don’t have the ingenuity to think of it. As I’m now coming to expect, Absolute Radio did a sound job of covering the U2 album too (with far fewer resources and no less quality). As a fan, I’ve downloaded the podcast and will devour their video special when it’s online too (made on a far smaller budget no doubt).
So did the BBC give over their airwaves to publicise a record. Not really. They were presented with a unique opportunity to create a wide range of content with one of the most popular bands in the world. To have turned it down would have failed me as a licence fee payer.
I just hope the album is worth the wait…
“I want it all. I want it all. I want it all. And I want it now”. And so sang Freddie Mercury back in 1989.
Back then, the thought of an “on demand” world was little more than a pipe dream on “Tomorrow’s World”. But I have seen the future , and it sits in my living room now. I fire up the Virgin Media box and that’s pretty much what I get – down a fibre optic line. Want the Christmas “Doctor Who”? Simply select the BBC iPlayer and it’s there on screen in seconds. Fancy an old episode of “Spaced”? Click on 4OD and it’s there just as quick. And maybe anything from a massive catalogue of stuff from Warner Brothers TV in the US – just as easily.
So has this really changed my viewing world, when just a few short months ago, I was singing the praises of the Freeview recorder box that we watched everything on – never in real time? Not really – but now I can get the iplayer or 4OD (and soon ITV content) whenever I want it.
So what about radio? Will I ever consume it in a similar way? Sure – there’s the iPlayer to catch up on whole shows. Or the many shows (both BBC and commercial) that I can download as podcasts. But maybe I don’t want it quite that way. Maybe I want to become the scheduler just like I can be on my TV. Maybe I want my “radio” to be exactly how I want it.
In my future world I’ll want to be able to do this…log on to “My BBC” and create my whole experience to take away on my iPod – something that updates according to my choices every day. I’ll choose what content I want and choose the music as well from my iTunes library. My music that I own and the BBC content that I’ve paid for. But why just BBC content – why not let me have the best commercial radio can offer as well (served up in a data packet with an advert bolted on)?
So maybe my morning commmute will have me listening to this 30 minute example on my Ipod – which I will have synced before picking it up to leave the house at 7.30.:
Random ipod track
BBC News from 5 Live
Most recent BBC Travel from BBC London
Random ipod track
Chris Moyles show guest from yesterday
Radio1 session track from the Live lounge
A guest from Geoff Lloyd’s show on Absolute radio (with an ad bolted on)
Business news from the Today programme
A most played track from my iPod
Sure – there’s a million and one things to prevent this happening – but when websites can pull together content and generate meta data tags to personalise the visiting experience, I’m sure there are ways and means of exporting this data into an application that works with my portable music device – or even to my DAB radio. Don’t ask me how – I don’t work in R&D – but I bet someone here could make it work.
But how would you promote your content when people weren’t consuming the media in a traditional way? Well there’s a topic for a long night in the pub…