Regional Media: Local Radio's Stars

Regional radio stations are springing up everywhere, but which ones in particular should advertisers watch out for? Here are four of the best from around the country.

THE SOUTH

What's the best new station?

My selection is The Saint. Originally a station called South City, it was taken over in April this year by Southampton Football Club, hence the name.

What is the editorial tone of the station?

Output is a mix of music and speech, including live commentary of Southampton games. The music is "adult contemporary", aimed at 25- to 44-year-olds.

The speech - surprise surprise - is all football-related. The presenters are mostly former Saints such as Jimmy Case, who co-presents the Early Doors breakfast show.

How many listeners tune in?

Its weekly reach is around 22,000 adults, down 31 per cent on this time last year. Clearly some work needs to be done, but the current team has only been in place since April this year, and it was the tail-end of the football season.

What is the station's best show?

Probably Prutts & Beatts with David Prutton and James Beattie, but the Big Match matchday commentary is likely to win the most listeners.

Why should advertisers take note?

All new supply should be welcomed, but stations that bring new formats to a market should be particularly encouraged. In a time when sporting opportunities are fast disappearing on local radio, it's great to see someone investing in something new. Rupert Lowe and his team are taking a nondescript station and turning it into something that will be unique to the area. But it's going to be tough. The station is operating (as they all are) in an established station's target service area. But with this format they may succeed. Football clubs have ventured into the media before with their own digital TV and radio channels, but not an analogue station. So this is a first.

- Howard Bareham is the head of radio at MindShare

THE MIDLANDS

What's the best new station?

Kerrang! 105.2FM, the new West Midlands regional, will be the first analogue transposition of Emap's magazine portfolio.

What is the editorial tone of the station?

Rock-driven, broadcasting accessible guitar music (Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi helped its launch), Kerrang! is a broader church than the magazine. To do this it needs to play music ranging from rock ballads to alternative stuff. Traditionally, this means the specialist shows are in the evening, while daytime adopts a more conciliatory tone.

How many listeners tune in?

As it has yet to report its first audience figures it's impossible to say, but if there is an area that responds to the Kerrang! voice, it should be the Midlands.

What is the station's best show?

Ugly Phil at breakfast is an interesting mix. Because the show has to have more speech than its competitors there is a freedom about it, and as it is up against a strong performing Chris Moyles, it needs to be opinionated, well-informed and a little bit deviant. Currently there's an interesting feature whereby Ugly Phil will call a listener's boss and offer him/her a custom-made ad for their business, if in turn they give their employee the day off.

The best DJ?

Tim Shaw has been labelled the Howard Stern of the Midlands. Another show of real interest is the Unsigned Slot, where bands get exposure. It is a style that Xfm has adopted in London with success.

Why should advertisers keep an eye on this station?

There are some good stations in the West Midlands, but it is an area that has needed differentiation for some time. Commercially BRMB, Heart and the Mix stations dominate, but there is an argument that their popular formats find it difficult to claw audience from the BBC. That is an audience growth area that we would be keen to exploit.

- Jonathan Gillespie is a director of OPera

SCOTLAND

What's the best new station?

Launched in January 2002, GMG Radio's Real Radio is one of the newest stations in Scotland and provides strong competition to the market leaders.

Who are its core listeners?

Real has a firm grip on 25- to 44-year-old ABC1 adults, with a female bias.

What is the editorial tone of the station?

Real has given central Scotland a contemporary listening alternative with a policy of two-thirds music and one-third speech, playing hits from the past and present.

How many listeners tune in?

Weekly reach is 688,000; 26 per cent within the target service area.

What is the station's best show?

Its breakfast show hosted by Robin and Cat. But it has tough competition from Radio Forth's Boogie in the Morning, which pulls in more than 200,000 listeners every week.

The best DJ?

Robin and Cat. A contagious mix of friendly and interactive fun to entertain the whole family.

Why should advertisers take note?

Real's ideas are original and they work pretty hard to give you more than just a run-of-the-mill spot campaign.

- Grant Alexander is an account manager at MediaCom Scotland

THE NORTH

What's the best new station?

100.4 Smooth FM (formerly Jazz FM North West), which launched in March this year.

Who are its core listeners?

Adults aged 35 to 54 with a strong housewife profile: people who don't consider themselves old enough to listen to AM or "Classic Gold" radio.

What is the editorial tone of the station?

Easy listening in a calm and relaxed environment, with a strong North West focus on news and entertainment. In the main, the station is music-driven, not personality-led (with the exception of Tony Blackburn).

How many listeners tune in?

Rajar Q2 2004 shows that Smooth has an average weekly reach of 333,000 adults (6 per cent) and average listening hours of 7.8 - a mediocre start for its first Rajar as Smooth FM. But with the continued backing of GMG and the "Myers" touch (John Myers, the GMG chief executive, introduced the Real Radio brand to Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire and Century in the North West and North East), the station should be a big hit.

What is the station's best show?

Real Party Night with Tony Blackburn - Saturday between 6pm and 9pm. Fear not, this is a syndicated show so you can hear it in London on Jazz FM and in Yorkshire, Scotland and south Wales on Real Radio.

The best DJ?

Tony Blackburn ... need I say more? Seventies cheese, perfect for getting ready to go out on a Saturday night.

Why should advertisers take note?

GMG seems determined to make this station a success. It has spent £1 million on marketing the launch and plans to continue investing throughout this year. The sales policy restricts the number of ads per break (four) and ad breaks per hour (four), cutting ad noise for the listener and guaranteeing category exclusivity for the advertiser.

- Nola Astle is the head of radio at Mediaedge:cia Manchester.

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