I tweeted earlier about an article in the Guardian that spoke about Capital FM’s UK roll-out. More specifically, it was written from South Wales where Red Dragon Radio has been re-branded Capital. While I think most of the article trots out predictable arguments (networking is bad, local is good and that name will never work) that, personally I find nonsensical (there was networking under the old name, most speech wasn’t local under the old name and the old name wasn’t that station’s original name anyway, CBC anybody? Gwent Broadcasting anybody?) I do find it heart-warming that, while the comments are in the main equally predictable, they show that people are still passionate about the radio station they listen to.
Change is always a challenge for everybody but, in the end, if the music’s the kind I want to listen to and the ‘talkie-bits’ funny and/or interesting enough then it will succeed. And given that music is the key ingredient for a music station it could be played from Mars as long as it’s well put together. Given that, I wonder how long they will continue to play different tracks for the London feed. Why bother?
For Global Radio it is a relatively brave move (but probably less so since the Heart re-brand seems to have worked out quite well). Since the early-70s launch of legal commercial radio, the UK has lacked strong, national commercial radio brands and Global now have several under their belt. The difference now is that they can launch a national brand with a set of technologies that actually work and allow those stations to attempt to benefit from a little of both worlds: local presence and national recognition.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t have strong local brands too. What Orion Media are doing where I grew-up in Shropshire (and the rest of the Midlands) is interesting: pushing the localness of their offering. Even there, however, there’s a good amount of networking.
To compete today, radio has to use all the technology it has available (and that inevitably leads to smart networking) and build a recognisable brand. It’s really interesting to watch.