Media: Double Standards - It's all about the talent in commercial talk radio

Listeners use talk radio to get their message across and the stations offer advertisers a unique way to reach their targets, two programme directors argue.

JONATHAN RICHARDS - programme director, LBC 97.3, group head of news, Global Radio

- Who is your typical listener?

A typical LBC listener is someone who is a consumer of information, has strong opinions and enjoys discussing ideas and issues. They're probably the sort of person that livens up a drinks party. They're likely to be in their thirties or forties, ABC1, and with a family. They're passionate about London and want to be involved in decision-making and hungry to learn more about the latest trends. They are also usually fiercely loyal to LBC and may even have been listening for many years. They're unlikely to be massively into sport, but will be interested in it.

- What are the highlights of your schedule?

Nick Ferrari at Breakfast is our flagship breakfast show. It appeals to people who don't want the stuffiness of Radio 4, but equally don't want the obsession with all things sport on Five Live and talkSPORT. I'm also proud of our weekend schedule with Ken Livingstone on a Saturday morning and Andrew Pierce on a Sunday. Our "Sunday supplement" series of shows are also gaining popularity with Simon Calder's travel clinic at 2pm, followed by Bill Buckley's food and drink show at 3pm, and James Max's business and property show from 5pm. These are great examples of specialist programmes that are high on interaction and offer the very latest advice.

- Who's been your worst and best ever guest and why?

The great thing about Global Radio and our different brands is that we can share guests and so you never know who is going appear from one day to the next. Quite often James O'Brien (our morning show presenter), for example, will bump into someone in reception and invite them on air! It's what it should be, spontaneous and unpredictable. Last week, French and Saunders, this week, the legendary Blue Peter editor Biddy Baxter.

- How do you appeal to advertisers?

If advertising is about engaging with people, then where better to be than on a radio station that is all about engaging and grabbing the attention of its highly motivated audience? People listen to LBC intensely and we have the longest listening hours in London. If you don't believe they notice the ads, you should see my e-mail inbox when they don't like a commercial!

- What have been your most embarrassing moments on air?

I'm too embarrassed to tell you!

- What are the main challenges facing commercial speech radio?

I think there's never been a better time to be operating a commercial speech station. People are so fed up with politicians, they want to use alternative means of getting their message across so that they are heard. London's biggest conversation is about being a 24/7 platform to discuss the changing world we live in.

- Can you tell us about any exciting new plans for your station?

Nick Ferrari is about to jet off with his team to Chicago to cover the US election results. He'll be on air from 3 November in the Windy City along with his newsreader Lucy Coward and reporter Tom Cheal. On the same day we begin a new drive show presented by James Whale. There's been a huge reaction from fans of James who miss him since he was cruelly removed from the airwaves!

MOZ DEE - programme director, talkSPORT

- Who is your typical listener?

TalkSPORT is predominantly male with 56 per cent of our audience being ABC1. Sport continues to be the area of common ground for a lot of men. I know there are some who have a patronising view of talkSPORT and its audience. However, the truth is somewhat removed from the cliched view that talkSPORT appeals to one very specific type.

- What are the highlights of your schedule?

As you might expect, I believe our whole schedule is key, and at any point in the day you can hear the best voices in talk radio and the best sports debate. Alan Brazil is one of the best exponents of talk radio in the country. He's been our breakfast presenter for the past eight years, and along with Ronnie Irani, our breakfast show now enjoys record figures. You genuinely won't hear anything like it anywhere else and there's a reality and honesty to it that our audience appreciates. It can be laugh-out-loud funny, provocative and, if you're a sports fan, a must. Ian Wright and Adrian Durham at Bowtime has been another massive hit with the audience.

- Who's been your worst and best ever guest and why?

The Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher heard Adrian Durham call him a "bottler" and felt compelled to call the show and have a set-to with Adrian live on-air. It was simply amazing live radio. Also David Bentley, at the time playing for Blackburn, came on to defend himself against England fans who were none too pleased at his decision not to play for the England Under-21 side in 2007. Floyd Mayweather proved to be the most problematic.

- How do you appeal to advertisers?

We provide a very clear proposition to advertisers and a unique route to the heart of their customer base. The proposition makes the brand part of the radio station that, in turn, helps the audience embrace the activity. Over the years we have developed a centre of excellence for sponsorship and promotion that has become the envy of many in the industry.

- What have been your most embarrassing moments on air?

Twenty-four hours a day on air, seven days a week, 365 days a year - you're going to have your moments. A presenter who shall remain nameless asked a guest how his good friend Bob Monkhouse was doing, to be informed that Bob had died six months previously.

- What are the main challenges facing commercial speech radio?

Our challenge, as with every other media outlet, is to drive trial in a fractured and competitive environment. We've taken our brand beyond the airwaves with the new talkSPORT Magazine. In turn, it's also about being evangelical with agencies and other brands that have a host of options before them.

- Can you tell us about any exciting new plans for your station?

Talent is the key to all of our plans and some of those are already in place. Stan Collymore joined talkSPORT four months ago and has already proved himself an exciting broadcaster. Andy Goldstein's acerbic wit has been a hit and the Jeremy Kyle sports show has allowed one of the country's best-known TV faces be heard in a very different way. He can't help being a West Ham fan.

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