Observing Chris Moyles on Radio X this week has been a pleasure for those passionate about radio. The day one crashing of the website and stream as people remembered that radio can be so much fun in the morning was great to see (obviously not if you work in Global’s online department!).
It was also good to hear a commercial radio breakfast show not following the traditional cookie-cutter morning radio patterns. Yes Chris Moyles is a huge talent with more than enough skills to “break the rules” but he highlights a few areas that commercial radio jumps to automatically that need a rethink.
Male and female hosts: It’s almost the law that you need a male and female duo to host your breakfast show. Is there any evidence this is what the audience wants? It used to be a solo male was your breakfast presenter of choice, then gradually stations started adding female co-hosts until almost everyone had one.
Sure there are some great shows with male and female hosts but there are some dire ones too. It’s not a guarantee of success so why does it happen almost automatically?
And I’m not going to get into a sexism rant here but why is it ALWAYS the female who reads the travel news?
Regular Features: The compulsion to have features happening at the same time every day makes sense. They are habit forming, give a sense of routine that most of us like in the morning and give some kind of guarantee that you know what you’ll get when you turn on.
But, first of all, they are no guarantee of success. Chris Moyles proved that a show with little structure can be popular. The lack of regular features works for him, the unpredictability keeps things interesting, you keep tuned in to hear what’s coming next.
The other thing with regular features is that many of them are not very good or original. The world has moved on a bit since we first heard “Battle of the Sexes” and others.
News: News as a concept has changed more than any other kind of content over the past 10 years and yet commercial radio news has gone mostly unchanged if we’re being totally honest about it. Most bulletins are a mix of national stories of varying relevance and local nuggets.
For me Radio X got the news right. It was brief and, most importantly, relevant. Too much of commercial radio news feels like stories that are there because there’s a two minute news bulletin to fill as this is how we’ve always filled it.
Sport: Be honest when was the last time you heard a piece of sports news on commercial radio that a) you didn’t know before and b) you cared about?
I’m not advocating dropping news and sport from commercial radio breakfast shows. I’d suggest there’s a better way of delivering it. A more conversational way that gets across why these stories are important and what they mean.
Sponsorship: It was refreshing to hear Radio X’s breakfast show didn’t stop every 5 minutes to bring us a long sponsorship credit. I know there are bills to pay and revenue to bring in but they do go on and clutter up the output.
I realise not every commercial breakfast show follows all these rules and that some that do all of the above are successful. I just believe it’s time to drop some of the assumptions and think about a new kind of breakfast radio listen.
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