Viewpoint: Bauer’s Steve Parkinson

Steve Parkinson, Managing Director, Bauer Radio London, is responsible for the Magic and Kiss brands, which took number one and two commercial market share positions in London, according to latest RAJAR figures.

Previously he was Managing Director for Bauer Scotland and Marketing Director for the 42-station Bauer Radio portfolio; and in his own words, at 43, he “has been around the UK block a bit”. Before joining Emap/Bauer five years ago, he was MD of Heart and Galaxy for Chrysalis.

"I don’t know about you but was August ever busier than this? There hasn’t been time for a so-called silly season with the start of the month generating some big headlines about RAJAR. All radio listening is up, and commercial radio again fared well with some advance on the BBC.

Naturally I declare an interest in Bauer’s Big City Network, but its 20 stations, from Key 103 in Manchester to MFR in Inverness, should get rightful praise. Big City now reaches nearly 5m people every week – up 5% on the last quarter, with more listeners in its TSA than Radio 1 and 2. I’m from Aberdeen where I grew up with Big City’s Northsound, and my first radio jobs were at Metro Radio in Newcastle and Hallam FM in South Yorkshire, so it’s great to see the network doing well in its many local markets. Although companies like Bauer may come across as huge on the outside, the individual stations on the inside are comparatively small, and such good headlines are testament to the teams delivering our localness strategy day in day out, in our towns and cities around the UK.

In London it’s a major battleground, with twice the number of stations in the capital than Manchester. It’s fantastic to see Magic 105.4 with over 2m listeners in London for the seventh time in its history; and congratulations also to Heart 106.2, which hit the 2m+ audience for the first time. Kiss 100’s Rickie, Melvin and Charlie’s breakfast show had an astonishing book (22% more 15-24s than Radio 1’s breakfast show in London) which shows that radio continues to engage the younger consumer – in fact it’s the biggest breakfast audience Kiss has ever enjoyed.

One of the factors behind Radio’s recent success may be in better consumer targeted distribution. Not just DAB, but through more investment in online and radio app consumption. In just a few months the Kiss mobile apps have been downloaded 250,000 times to help listeners stay tuned on the move, which can only help OTH.

But I think we can get side tracked by distribution. Primarily, radio must be all about Creating Great Content. ‘CGC’ is Bauer Media’s number one priority on any of our platforms, as well as making it commercially viable of course. That focus is paying dividends for sure, or would if we were a plc – whether for the increasing national importance of ‘mood listen’ brands like Kiss, or The Hits, or for our locally–driven Big City stations.

The question I get asked most is “did Global do the right thing by rebranding their ILR stations to Heart?” As a comparison, Bauer has 8 stations that have a TSA size of under 0.75m people versus Global, which has 39 less than 0.75m. So whilst their decision must have been a hellish one for the staff affected, it was likely the right business one bearing in mind the number of smaller stations and their stated networking strategy. Networking brings savings but the unknown risks are loss of heritage and locality. It will be five or six RAJARS before truly knowing whether this gamble has paid off, but two complementary strategies from Bauer and Global can only be good for the commercial radio industry.

For the larger stations (and for stats hunters Bauer and Global both have around 35 stations with TSAs larger than 0.75m) I truly believe that our locally-embedded engagement strategy for the Big City stations works best. The importance our listeners place on brands like Key, Metro, CFM and the like, which champion their area, is not under estimated in our camp, and so far RAJAR is suggesting we are right.

Anyway enough network talk already!

In other news, I’m interested to hear how Simon Bates will perform at Smooth, as he becomes less Chopin and more Cher again returning to the music we (of a certain age) remember him championing back in the day.

Silly season or not, perhaps the most intriguing headline of the month was that Glee Radio was to launch in Oxford. I’d actually have given it a listen if I was in the TSA (nothing like a bit of Glee to cheer you up) and then I heard a rumour that it would be called Jill fm as a sister station to Jack. Instead Glee was a stunt apparently by Passion Radio, and they have settled on Glide (boring!).

UK Radio is a very interesting place to be right now and has a great buzz around it. If you don’t think so, you can always follow in the footsteps of Duncan Campbell (of Bauer Media Scotland) and Paul Jackson (of Capital) as they head off to their new roles (and a new summer) Down Under!"

Posted on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 at 6:22 pm by RadioToday UK

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