Whilst much of the country was brought to a stand-still this week as heavy snowfall caused widespread disruption across Britain, commercial radio came into its own.
As listeners sought the latest information on school closures, public transport and roads, commercial radio saw web traffic and online listening soar, with online figures rocketing by some 100 per cent, according to unofficial figures from Radioplayer, with many stations notching up to 14 times their usual website traffic.
Thousands of school closures were announced live on air, hundreds of extra travel bulletins were delivered, millions of web site hits were recorded and dozens of extended news programmes were presented, as listeners tuned in their hundreds of thousands to their local radio station for the latest information.
Unofficial stats show that millions went online for live, up-to-the minute reports on and weather updates. Between Monday 14TH January, to date ( Thursday 24th) heart.co.uk received over 1 million unique visitors (1,297,377), which is more than it had in the whole of January 2012, whilst Orion’s Free Radio recorded a 938 % increase in unique users to 308,000. Sussex stations, the Arrow FM, Bright FM and Sovereign FM websites received between 10 and 14 times their regular amount of daily views and hundreds of other stations saw their web stats soar similarly.
“Our service to our listeners was constant,” said David Lloyd at Orion media. “In the West Midlands, Free Radio had staff on duty at all times to handle developments across the patch from Worcester to Birmingham; Wolverhampton to Coventry. The team staffed the stations around the clock, and through the weekend too, to ensure that information was on-air and online instantly.
Lloyd added, “This effort was reflected in phenomenal online stats – Free Radio recorded almost 2m page views across the period, from 308,000 unique users and gem106.co.uk amassed almost 82k unique users and well over half a million page views.”
JACKFM Oxfordshire and Capital South Wales’ Breakfast Show, were just some of many stations who extended their breakfast shows to take listener calls and share closure information. “For JACKfm we had to remove the actual station website off jackfmoxfordshire.co.uk and replace with our oxfordshiresnowupdate.co.uk website in order to handle demand.”, said JACKfm’s Sue Carter.
“We utilised all staff to tweet all traffic incidents and closures via facebook and twitter from 4am till midnight each day, resulting in Facebook receiving an 800% increase in reach”, added Carter.
Listeners responded to the snowy conditions with the latest weather and traffic where they were, as well as sharing stories and pictures of themselves enjoying the snow. “Over the weekend we covered the fun element of the snow with over 200 pictures being sent in by Facebook, twitter and text of listeners in the snow”, said Ian Carter, Editorial Director at the kmfm group. “From Sunday night we reverted to throwing forward to breakfast with school closures every 20mins with traffic and travel running parallel. This resulted in a bigger weekend programming team on site.”
Birmingham’s Capital West Midlands’ Breakfast Show with Dan & Katy celebrated Snow Heroes by recognising Brummies who had helped one another during the snowfall. Whilst the breakfast team member, Laura Safe, found herself in the local and national newspapers after walking into a canal by mistake after judging its icy surface as an extension of the pavement.
A snowline service was provided by Reading 107, who ran live programming throughout the snowy period. “We ran a snowline service helping out people stuck in the snow with a branded 4×4 vehicle. This included breakfast presenter Robert Kenny delivering sleeping bags and blankets from Launchpad to the Salvation Army in Reading for the homeless that night, as their van was stuck in the snow.” Said Gavin Harris, Programme Manager, at Reading 107.
Whilst over in Yorkshire, which saw up to 20cm of snow, the team at Capital FM Yorkshire went above and beyond the call of duty, taking to the streets with a gritting squad at 2am to treat roads across Harrogate, Bradford and Leeds.
The ‘Feel Good Network’ stations in Sussex reacted fast as the snow spread in from the west through Friday morning. Group Programme Controller Paul Williams says “Initially, at 8am it was a case of mentioning a handful of school closures in the Worthing area on Splash FM.
However, by 11am the bad weather had hit all our areas, and we kept regular snow bulletins running into the afternoon. Because of the time the weather hit East Sussex, a number of schools had to resort to closing early, so the picture was changing moment by moment”.
By Sunday evening, as the weather conditions worsened across the UK, initial school closures started to filter through to stations, with many working through the night to update websites and twitter. “The team at Heart Essex worked until 1am, updating the website as well as using Facebook and Twitter to convey the information to listeners in Essex. And on Monday morning, a team of volunteers manned the phones for the Snowline, reporting on more than 200 school closures across Essex.” said a spokesperson for Global Radio.
Real Radio opted out of network content, increased its travel bulletins and launched a new website snow service for local schools, whilst Absolute Radio provided extended news and travel services on Friday 18 and Monday 21 January as well as extended hourly news bulletins from 6am until 7pm on both days.
This article was first published by RadioCentre.