Radio might very well be changing to keep up to date with the times but it needs to remember to ‘listen’ to its listeners
IF you are a fan, or listener, of BBC Radio 2 you will have no doubt heard that the breakfast show that is presented by Zoe Ball has lost several thousand in fact. The number at the last count is reported to be 364,000 weekly listeners bringing the number down to 7.90 million. Down from the previous number of 8.72 million. Now I admit that I’m not a fan of the station, and the breakfast show is one the most important shows on the station as that’s where you get the majority of you listeners during the day. I openly admit that I have listened to the breakfast show on Radio 2 before when the late Terry Wogan was on and as much as I hesitantly thought he was alright I felt that, as a listener I wasn’t being connected with. And don’t get me started on Chris Evans, though I do feel as though I dodged a bullet by rarely listening to him.
Now whether you liked him or not but I was a huge fan of Chris Moyles when he did the breakfast show on BBC Radio 1, and I liked him for a number of reasons: one, he would regularly engage with listeners by having phone-in’s either s part of a shout-out or as part of a feature. Remember carpark catchphrase anyone? It was the one where listeners had to be in their car, Chris would ask a question and listeners would listen by honking their horns. Hence the name of the game.
Also, I just loved the banter, but I always thought that that was where the show was actually succeeding, by actually engaging with the audience. I think in some ways this was where some radio stations, including Radio 2 are more than likely to be failing. I mean by all means you can read out a text that has been sent in by a listener or fan but that doesn’t mean that you are engaging with the people.
Let me give you an example. Some time ago, Greg James, who currently presents the breakfast on Radio 1, and someone who I listen to on a daily basis, once presented his show from a butchers/bakery. Much respect to him as his philosophy behind it was ‘what makes my day more interesting than that of the listener?’, quite right to I thought and he makes a valid point.
What I found that this also showed that the production team were more than willing to take the show on the road and invite members of the public to appear on the show. I remember listening to them when they did this and felt an immediate sense of listener pride and satisfaction as I felt that they realised that it wasn’t solely all about them. If you can cast your mind back to when they did Glastonbury and Radio 1’s Big Weekend they spoke to fans, roadie’s, production crew and people who helped out. They even carried out interviews with the locals.
Now if a radio station and a radio show can do all of that then that alone can demonstrate actual listener engagement. That plus the odd quiz and game-show where listeners are encouraged to phone in and take part. If Radio 2’s breakfast show can do any, or all of that, then they won’t have a problem with not just attracting listeners but keeping them as well.
For me, the way I’ve always seen it, is that the majority of the mornings are about waking up, having breakfast then getting ready to go out to work. And something I’ve always believed that go down well without fail is having a conversation with someone, cracking a few jokes and a bit of harmless banter. And it is true though isn’t it in that it starts the day off on a good note.
At the end of the day it is all very well having a decent presenter who is nice and knows how to talk, but unless they are actually willing to engage with the listener, you might as well just have a pre-recorded show or aim the whole thing for a different age gap. But take notice of all that and you can definitely see why many people are either switching onto other stations or just switching off full-stop. If I was listening to a breakfast show, even I would be expecting to hear a few phone-ins, even if it’s just for laughs, I’d be feeling connected to.