Bauer Radio unveils the results of 2020 ‘digital petri dish’

The Drum 19 Nov 2020 12:00
Ben Cooper, group music and content director at Bauer Radio explains the lessons it's taken from 2020

In 2020, media consumption habits have gone haywire. Ben Cooper, group music and content director at Bauer Radio explains the tough lessons it took from the “digital petri dish“ of 2020.

Media consumption was hugely disrupted in 2020, and few know that better than Bauer Radio – home of Kiss, Magic and Absolute Radio in the UK.

The first lockdown inspired huge radio and audio consumption changes. The commute was restive for many, and the office radio fell silent. The Ofcom Media Nations Report said that before lockdown, 40% of radio listening was outside the home, while just under half of radio listeners (48%) polled by that survey said they had changed their listening habits.

For many it was a lost year – but for Ben Cooper, group music and content director, 2020 was the “digital petri dish”.

The whims of the audience aside, the first concern was actually just producing the shows. Cooper admits: “We had to radically change the way shows are produced and presented, with DJs having to build makeshift studios in their kitchens, bedrooms or even in one case a wardrobe.”

For listeners, the world is filtered through these personalities. He believes its radio stations were a lifeline for many in lockdown. Talking up the medium against those competing with it for ad spend, he says: “The presenter reacting to a live situation connects with you in a way that podcasts and streaming services can only dream of.”

It’s a key differentiator radio will have to lean into in the coming years. One attempt from Bauer was to launch new station Hits Radio Pride this summer, the first dedicated LGBTQ+ pop-up radio station in the UK by a major broadcaster. It identified that this audience may have lost crucial connections in lockdown and worked with The Co-operative Bank and LGBTQ+ helpline Switchboard to deliver a bespoke station, something easier to do now it has digital platforms at its disposal.

Dee Ford, group managing director at Bauer Radio, suggested that new listeners would “benefit from multi-platform digital distribution“ meaning they can now listen however they want to the new properties. Cooper adds: “I believe 2020 will go down as the year that radio reaffirmed its value in society by having a much more helpful, honest and authentic voice.”

Bauer lost its substantial footprint in events, or as Cooper put it, “muddy festival fields or big concerts”. As major drivers for consumption of the radio channels, they had to be replaced.

It grew bolder from that experiment and broadcast a five-hour ‘RadioRave’ across seven stations in the UK, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Slovakia. Cooper highlights some aspects that the show had on the live experience: “No-one bumped into you on the dancefloor and there was no queueing for the toilets.”

There were a lot of smart speakers dusted off, or bought as new, during the last few months. Spotify, for instance, saw a subscription rise from bundling with a Google Home Mini. Bauer‘s channels are already optimsed for requests like ‘Alexa play Kiss’, allowing seamless access of radio in the home.

The habit doesn’t look like it‘s going to be a hiccup; from its own research, two-thirds of respondents said they would continue listening through their smart speaker. “If we are to reinvent commercial radio for the next generation of listeners, the smart speaker will play an essential role.”

Revenue response

“You love your phone, you take it with everywhere, even when you have a bath. You are consuming audio more and more via connected devices. That means we can offer creative digital targeting and programmatic buying through our InStream and Octave services.”

Hopefully, Bauer Radio can act on its “digital petri dish“ findings in 2021 without further interruption.

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CooperBauerBauer RadioBen CooperOfcom Media Nations
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