Media: Headliner - Keen kid Gregory to drive Emap's radio reach

The new managing director of national networks sees technology as the battleground of the future.

Like a kid in a sweet shop, Shaun Gregory careers about his office turning on gadgets, pushing buttons and showing off the technology that allows listeners to tune in to Emap's range of radio stations. Having worked in the medium for the past 14 years, he is described as "radio through and through" and it is telling to see how excited he still is about it all.

Previously Emap Performance's development director, Gregory has earned himself a reputation for being passionate about radio, whether he is in the boardroom or down the pub. This enthusiasm has, in turn, earned him a promotion to managing director of Emap's national networks.

In his role as development director, Gregory worked alongside the now-departed Emap Performance chief executive, Tim Schoonmaker, to introduce Emap radio brands such as Smash Hits and Kerrang! to the Freeview platform.

He laughs when he credits himself with being the pioneer of digital radio.

"I was arguing for investment in digital radio at the same time as ITV Digital was emerging as an absolute mess - the board must have thought I was insane," he says.

Schoonmaker and Gregory talked them into it, and the latter was rewarded with the newly created position, which puts all of Emap's stations, including the flagship London brands, Magic and Kiss, under his remit.

Leaving his Sheffield homeland, Gregory will now be based permanently in London, where he will report to Emap Performance's group managing director, Dee Ford.

Gregory's arrival at the helm of Emap radio marks a shift in the company's thinking about its analogue and digital stations.

He says: "We're moving away from talking about analogue and digital or online and Freeview. As far as I'm concerned I have eight national radio brands - we're in the final phase of radio development, integrating all the stations under a national umbrella."

He notes that this shift will alter Emap's battleground. "The competition of yesterday was local stations, but tomorrow it's going to be the big national brands - we'll be aiming to steal audiences from Virgin, Classic and Radio 2," he says.

But so far there is little evidence of this happening: the latest Rajar figures show that Kiss is static in terms of market share, with 1.3 per cent nationally, and Magic is down slightly to 1.9 per cent.

Unperturbed, Gregory says that with a strong summer of sports coverage on the BBC, commercial radio has experienced its lowest ever share. But he is adamant there are no holes in the Emap armoury and is aiming for growth, driven primarily by increased investment and marketing across its three key analogue brands. The launch of other Emap magazine brands on radio is also possible.

"Our hub is the analogue brands Kiss, Magic and Kerrang!," he says. "The increasing number of digital stations leads to customer confusion and customers are drawn to brands. Our three main brands are a solid foundation for growth - investment in them will feed out into our other stations."

Gregory is also keen to grow through winning new licences. Emap will be jostling with its rivals for the FM licence in Manchester in November.

Acquisitions form another part of the plan - Emap is expected to launch a takeover bid for Scottish Radio Holdings' 22 radio channels as early as this week. The bid is likely to be Emap's riposte to the potential merger of Capital with GWR.

However, Gregory is aware of the challenges in this highly competitive market. In addition to the usual quest to find radio talent, he believes technology - in particular, the exploitation of screens on digital radios - will become the battleground of the future.

Emap already provides basic screen information such as station idents and programme details, but Gregory feels that the technology has revenue-generating potential. Advertising and promotions as well as enhanced content could be run on the screens.

Gregory says he always aims to work on the long-term view as much as possible. This has been evident from the start of his career when, recognising in the early 90s that radio was potentially a big growth area, he made the switch from newspaper to radio sales.

He worked his way up through the ranks of various regional radio networks - working as a sales director at Radio City in Liverpool and as the commercial director of Leeds' Radio Aire. He then became the managing director of the Sheffield station Hallam FM.

Since joining Emap, Gregory has built a reputation for rolling up his sleeves. "It's a case of move over James Brown - Gregory's the hardest-working man in showbiz," the former Emap Performance marketing director, Malcolm Cox, says.

"He gets things done and finishes them off properly. When you work with him, you know you are going to win," Brendan Moffett, a brand director at Emap Performance, who worked with Gregory to launch the successful West Midlands licence bid for Kerrang! last October, adds.

"This is a pivotal point for Emap and this restructure will allow it to focus on pushing its brands nationally," Moffett says. "Shaun has run analogue stations successfully as well as having huge digital experience. His appointment is great news for Emap."

THE LOWDOWN

Age: 36

Lives: Wivelsfield Green, Sussex

Family: Wife Ruth, daughters Lily (three) and Ella (seven months)

Favourite radio ad: O2 commercial with Sean Bean

Describe yourself in three words: Determined, focused, principled

Most treasured possession: Family photos

Interests outside work: Running, gardening, reading, coffee shops

Favourite music: Anything with a good beat

Living person you most admire: My wife, who edges it from Rupert Murdoch

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