Media Headliner: Emap's Parkinson looks to a multimedia future

Emap Radio's national brands director sees radio as key to the company's plans to widen its revenue base.

It has been a somewhat tempestuous summer for Emap Radio. In June, it was given a severe lashing by Ofcom when its Kiss FM radio station was handed the biggest fine ever levied on a commercial broadcaster.

This month, however, Kiss 100 bounced back, reporting a healthy increase in its Rajar results, with its share of listening in London at 4.4 per cent in quarter-two this year, compared with 3.7 per cent the previous quarter. And its sister station Magic held on to its number-one spot in London with a 6.5 per cent share, although this is slightly down from the previous quarter.

Steve Parkinson, the national brands director of Emap Radio and the managing director of Emap Radio Scotland and Northern Ireland, is no doubt relieved that the fire-fighting is over and there's some good press coming his way. With an empire of more than 30 stations, his duties are vast compared with his previous ten-year stint at Chrysalis, latterly as the managing director of Heart 106.2.

With his ridiculously long job title and complex responsibilities, Parkinson tries to explain his role: "My job is about making sure that there's a strategy for brands collectively. For the past two years, Magic has been working very hard online and on TV. With Kiss, we want to be more innovative with user-generated content. It may be Kisslifestyle.com or Kiss mobile events and holidays - it's a question of coming up with the right content for the right consumer."

Emap's chief executive, Tom Moloney, is keen to reduce the company's dependence on magazine revenues from 75 per cent to 50 per cent in five years' time, with radio, digital, online and events providing a larger share of the revenue pie. Parkinson's role is central to delivering those revenue changes, which require a lot of creative thinking from him and his team. Phil Riley, the chief executive of Chrysalis Radio and Parkinson's former boss, believes Emap has chosen well: "Steve is charismatic, a terrific leader and the team around him here would always go for it and support him. He was one of the creative heartbeats of the company."

One year into his job and Parkinson, it would seem, has barely had time to draw breath. As soon as he joined Emap, he was charged with bringing the 20-plus newly acquired Scottish Radio Holding brands into the fold. For him, it was a good way of getting to know Emap's values but at the same time his new-boy status meant he was not seen as an Emap drone. It also helped with the Scottish stations that, as an Aberdonian, he wasn't a foreign body from down South.

While commuting to Scotland and Northern Ireland, Parkinson also had to turn his thoughts to developing Emap's digital brands into more focused clusters. A team in Manchester now produces The Hits and Smash Hits! stations using Emap's library of hits-based music and editorial as well as the resources of the Big City network. Getting a team to work closely with the Q and Mojo magazine groups has seen both stations experience a rise in their latest Rajar figures, and Emap is working on a number of new brand extensions and platforms, including the recently announced web-based subscription service Closer Diets, where the take-up of subscriptions has exceeded expectations.

We will soon see the results of the Kiss FM radio network revamp, which will see the station place greater emphasis on web and mobile phone interaction as Emap seeks to fully exploit the brand's commercial opportunities.

Parkinson adds: "It's not just a rebrand but new content online and accepting that consumer-generated content is very much part of our offering."

Parkinson says that, in the future, Emap will look more closely at brands such as Heat. "Radio, TV and magazines are very successful in their own right, but we have brands that can go on other platforms. In a year's time, the collaboration between the brands will see us working much closer than ever before and we will become known for joining up that thinking."

Emap's digital radio performance is impressive, holding five of the top-ten positions. Jonathan Barrowman, the head of radio at Initiative, notes: "They out-perform a lot of the BBC services, which are promoted quite heavily." Emap's digital-only radio channels reach 2,844,400 listeners a week compared with 1,582,600 for the BBC. In terms of local radio, there are successes, but as with most local radio, the picture is not looking too rosy, with audiences being slowly eroded by new media. But since this is an area that Emap is scrutinising closely, this potentially could be turned around to its gain.

In the tough world of radio advertising, Emap has just about bucked the trend. Barrowman says: "My view of Emap's primary radio offering is that it is best in class at the moment in terms of its performance versus GCap and Chrysalis. It is acting like the market leader in terms of how it is selling the medium, coming up with innovative ideas plus it has good assets."

Parkinson joined Emap because he wanted the opportunity to work across radio, TV, magazines and digital - a true media smorgasbord. As long as he continues to fizz (and this is a 39-year-old who still likes to party with mates in Ibiza) and doesn't lose focus while juggling Emap's many different brands and media platforms, you feel Parkinson may succeed in delivering new revenue opportunities to Emap's shareholders.

THE LOWDOWN
Age: 39
Lives: Balham and Glasgow
Family: Single
Most treasured possession: My 3G mobile phone
Interests outside work: Travel (especially Ibiza!)
Favourite radio show: Whoopi Goldberg's new breakfast show on WKTU in
New York
Last book you read: The Big House Party Book (planning my 40th!)
Motto: Sleep when you're dead