James Cridland

Digital radio brings tight targeting and happy listeners

One of the benefits of digital platforms is that you can launch new, niche radio stations there.

My daughter goes to sleep listening to a children’s radio station on her digital radio, as one example. The programming from Kinderling Kids Radio from Sydney, is safe and age-appropriate — and successfully relaxes her for a good night’s rest.

Another example is a Chicago start-up, Quantum Music, which is running online radio stations for the seven million Chinese ex-pats who live in North America. There’s clearly a need for a station like this — but probably not possible for an FM frequency everywhere.

And then, in the ultra-competitive market of London, where a typical listener can find over 110 radio stations on their DAB receiver, there’s Fix Radio.

Ask anyone who’s had work done on their home or office recently, and they’ll tell you that builders, plumbers, plasterers and the rest are heavy radio listeners, right through their work day. Fix Radio — tagline “We’re nailing it!” — is a radio station specifically aimed at builders and tradespeople.

The station, available on DAB, online and through an app, has just celebrated its first birthday, and is growing both in listenership and in advertising — describing itself as an “important platform to the construction industry’s biggest brands”.

Listener marketing in a city which is often cold and damp has been well-targeted and simple: the “Bacon Butty Tour” consists of brightly-coloured vans which drive to building sites across London: they have so far handed out over 20,000 hot butties to promote the station. Craftily, the vans also visit clients, too.

If the weather is important to the marketing of the station, it’s also important content. Detailed weather updates keep outdoor workers informed — laying concrete in the rain isn’t a good plan, it turns out — and the station’s website nicely contains specific weather forecasts for some of London’s most busy construction areas.

Programming is nicely tailored to the audience, who listen long and often to the station. There’s a “no-repeat guarantee” for the music they play, which is all up-tempo. There’s daily construction industry news, and sports news; lots of “music marathons” as well as focused chat in drivetime periods.

The station also airs a weekly show with advice on everything from tool thefts to tax advice and doing your own accounts; and as any good station does, it supports a charity that is relevant to its listeners — a construction industry charity, in this case.

New platforms are, essentially, making these types of radio stations possible. Stations aimed at this tight demographic couldn’t operate in the limited world of FM spectrum; but with digital, radio stations can target much tighter.

Fix Radio seems to be a good example of what you can do with a clear focus on your audience, and a digital platform to reach them.