Absolute Radio, a ten year old over achiever #IRFradiofest

  • A record 4.9 million listeners per week
  • 1.2 million listeners added in the past 3 years
  • No 1 UK commercial radio breakfast show
  • More awards than any other UK Commercial radio station.

At today’s International Radio Festival conference in Malta, Absolute Radio’s content director Paul Sylvester shared the secrets of the success of the UK’s youngest commercial network.

Absolute Radio began in 2008 from “the dying embers of Virgin Radio,” and traditional radio commentators were sceptical of its innovative approach when it launched. Ten years on, the company is enjoying huge success.
“Commercial radio was lazy, nothing was happening, so Absolute Radio began with the ambition to be audience led and exciting,” said Sylvester.
He outlined some of the ways his network has become successful and changed radio in the UK.
The Digital Decade strategy:
When we launched, our listener numbers were not high, so we wanted to grow the audience footprint of our brand, so we launched a range of stations playing music by decade. Each of the decaded stations now has millions of listeners. “People find the music they love on the targeted stations then the join the main brand.”
One breakfast show, seven playlists.

“At first we ran the same breakfast show on all stations with Christian O’Connell, then broke into the music decade streams after that, but our listeners told us they wanted their favourite music, not just a mixture of hits from various decades.
“We developed a Banana Split philosophy. We used technology to split music at breakfast. The presenter hits one button and 7 different songs all play, with the same tempo, duration and tone, then the presenter comes back live and then we go to the ad breaks.”
Now that Christian O’Connell has moved to Australia and is heard on Gold 104.3 Melbourne, the station’s new breakfast presenter Dave Berry has taken the show further than previously. He now records different voice drops at various times of the show so that he can talk specifically about the songs played on each stream to make the content and the music connect even more than O’Connell did previously.
More music, fewer adverts
“If listeners give us more information about themselves we will give them fewer ads that are more tailored to them.
“A person who gives us their information will get 2 ads instead of 6, or a targeted branded content special segment, then they will seamlessly go back into the breakfast show when all the other ads finish for other listeners. We can generate greater revenue from the clients because they know their content is reaching the right audiences.”
Quality storytelling
Absolute Radio has begun commissioning documentaries from external producers.
“We wanted to go further than just 30 second links in a music format. Audiences will enjoy quality content if it is done well. We make quality documentaries as well as just doing music radio. This is driving an on-demand audience for us.”
Other important elements of the station that have generated success are:

  • Amazing gigs in live venues
  • Branded Content
  • Innovative events
  • Reimaging radio through video and socials.
  • Buy two less billboard ads and use that money to hire one great videographer in your station.
  • Make sure your voice on social is consistent with your on-air brand

 20% of listening to Absolute Radio’s channels is streamed listening.
Radio is in a great place where we can do things other people can’t. We can have an idea at 6am and have it on air by 10am. TV can’t do that. Use that power to your advantage,” concluded Sylvester.

Tags: | | |