Airtime sales house EMAP On Air is planning to put the group’s magazine titles on its radio stations in a move that will bring masthead programmes to British radio for the first time.
Tom Toumazis, managing director of the recently formed sales and marketing outfit, and his marketing director Malcolm Cox say the idea should go live in 1998. A well placed source at EMAP On Air says: “I would be very surprised if there were not one or two shows on air by the first half of the year.”
Masthead radio would work on the same principle as masthead TV. A magazine is brought onto radio as a heavily branded show, reflecting the interests of the publication.
Toumazis says: “This will be a good way of providing quality programming, which is what this medium needs.”
EMAP On Air has 18 city stations under its belt, that include Piccadilly 1152 in Manchester, Radio City 96.7 in Liverpool and Kiss 100 in London. All the stations are music-based, and are slanted towards either dance or pop. The station has a combined weekly reach of 5.5 million, according to the joint BBC and commercial radio research unit Radio Joint Audience Research (Rajar).
EMAP On Air will not confirm which titles they are discussing with their colleagues over at EMAP Metro or Elan. However, the group is understood to be looking at titles including FHM, Smash Hits, Q, Total Sport and Empire as well as Red, the group’s new women’s title planned for next year.
Cox says: “A show along the lines of the FHM Hour would be very attractive to advertisers. FHM is a powerful brand and we are confident that we can get the show to sound the way people would expect the magazine to sound.”
EMAP Metro’s advertising sales revenues were 3m last year. The radio initiative could boost this by as much as 500,000 in its first full year. EMAP seems hopeful that ads on these shows could be premium priced and persuade advertisers which already invest in radio to spend more. It is also hoped to attract advertisers which do not usually advertise on radio but which do use magazines, especially in the fashion area.
Separately, Paul Robinson, managing director at national commercial radio station Talk Radio, has revealed that he is in talks with a number of publishers about starting masthead radio shows next year. The station currently has tie-ins with women’s magazines Bella, She, and home care title Good Housekeeping. Magazine editors appear on the station, while the magazines run Talk Radio promotional spots in their pages.
“It’s a good way to get quality shows that are good value for money,” says Robinson, whose station has a weekly reach of 2.1 million, according to Rajar. “We are a talk-only station, which creates a more authentic magazine feel on air. EMAP is primarily a music station and could have problems bringing its non-music titles to air as they will continually have to interrupt these programmes with music.”
Media planners welcome the idea. Deborah Goodman, head of radio implementation at CIA Medianetwork, says: “It’s a good move. Radio is increasingly sold on environment basis rather than on a single spot basis. That is how magazines are sold so this idea should be attractive to advertisers.”
Rhona Tridgell, the media communications director at Foote Cone & Belding, thinks the move is a “brilliant” way to bring quality programming onto the medium. However, she does not see it bringing in hordes of new advertisers.
She explains: “The problem is that many advertisers simply do not understand the value of radio. It is still seen, wrongly, as very much a last-minute medium. This move is not enough to get lots of advertisers to change their minds.”
Giles Howard, the sales director Classic FM, thinks the magazine format can dilute a station’s brand and has no intention of taking the country’s largest radio station down this route. Classic FM has a weekly reach of 4.4 million, according to Rajar.
Howard says: “We are moving in the other direction. Our research says that our listeners want to hear more music more of the time. If listeners were to hear a magazine show on radio, they could be confused as to who is talking to them. We would be happy to tie-in with an upmarket sponsor like the Financial Times or The Economist. But it would be a case of them endorsing our product and not the other way round.”
Howard adds: “There is the issue of control. The magazine would want to have editorial control, but so would the station.”
Tridgell says that for the show to work successfully, editorial control must rest with the magazine, because its staff know the product best.
However, Robinson argues that final editorial control resides with the station. “That is in the terms of our licence with the Radio Authority. We must retain final control over anything that goes out on our airwaves,” he says.
Classic may not be dipping its toe in the water but EMAP and Talk Radio’s plans are moving ahead swiftly. The low production cost of the medium, combined with a virtually inexhaustible supply of UK magazines, mean masthead radio could become a substantial feature on British airwaves over the next few years.