What makes great content? Global Producer’s Day at Global Radio


Last week we held the first of our Global Radio Producer sessions in London, discussing with Global Radio producers from around the UK, not only our digital plans for the year ahead, but also how to produce great content that can be easily shared across multiple platforms.

It was an interesting couple of days as was a great opportunity for the digital teams to hear about the challenges and opportunities the radio teams face on a daily basis and how to make content work in that unique environment.

Here’s some random thoughts from the event and I look forward to the next session early next year.

  • Amazing content doesn’t necessarily mean complex ideas, the ideas themselves can be quite simple. What’s more important is that they are executed brilliantly with an attention to detail that demonstrates you really understand your audience. Sometimes executing brilliantly means stripping away the idea to it’s simplest (and most understood) component.
  • Make it as easy as possible to share these ideas in your organisation. Identify silos and training requirements otherwise you’ll have teams trying to reinvent the wheel every time they sit down to plan the week ahead. Avoid the trappings of email where there is often the illusion of communication and understanding.
  • Radio is an extremely reactive environment buzzing with brilliant ideas so getting the right balance between proactive planning and spontaneity can be tricky.
  • Discussing what makes great ‘content’ is a fruitful conversation to have in any organisation – but let’s talk about content with a small ‘c’ shall we? Take radio as an example, there are very slight but important differences between digital and radio editorial ideas and sometimes we run the risk of obscuring this with conversations around Content. Let’s recognise the differences so we can recognise the best ideas and facilitate them through the best platforms available.

Covering the Capital FM Summertime Ball 2014


I always get such a buzz covering live events for a couple of reasons: firstly, no matter how much you plan in advance, something always changes at the last minute and you have to adapt accordingly. Of course, this doesn’t mean PANIC, it just means PROBLEM SOLVING AT A RATE OF KNOTS – and that’s half the fun!

Secondly, with the kind of analytics tools we have at our disposal, we get such an insight into what the audience actually want to consume that you can publish with confidence. No more guessing in the dark about what you ‘think’ the audience might like to read – now you can give your audience exactly what they want, when they want it and on whatever device they choose.

Our coverage of this year’s Summertime Ball was extra special, not only because it was our own event, it was also a chance for us digital types to step away from the laptops and mix with the actual audience we’re writing for. It was a real privilege to be able to speak to fans and to hear their stories. Some might call this AUDIENCE RESEARCH, I just call it REALITY CHECK.

Two days after the event and we’re still producing some crackin’ features. Find out more about our Capital Summertime Ball 2014 coverage here.

Remembering Frankie Knuckles


There’s been so many heart-felt tributes today to the ‘Godfather of House’ that I thought I’d add my own.

It begins in 1987 at my secondary school assembly. A kid has just blown everyone away with his mean Fender Stratocaster skills – I look around and practically every girl in my year is swooning. The penny drops: I must learn to play a musical instrument or die trying.

Problem is, learning to play an instrument can be pretty hard and not easily mastered in a weekend. I tried the guitar but after a week got frustrated and dumped it in the attic so I went with what seemed to be a better option at the time – pretending to be a drummer.

This tactic got me pretty far. I joined a band, wrote some songs, but after a couple of rehearsals it was pretty obvious to everyone in the room that I was, indeed, crap. I quietly nipped out half way through one of the sessions and never looked back.

However, I didn’t have to wait long to have my first musical ‘moment’. I’d been watching our local village disco DJ for weeks and finally plucked up courage to ask him if  I could help him out  if he could teach me how to mix. He agreed.

Things seemed to go well at first until I realised after a couple of weeks I hadn’t mixed a beat. I was spending most of my time lugging around his vinyl whilst he smoked cigarettes and copped off with the girls in my school. I should mention this guy looked suspiciously close to thirty.

Anyway, I was about to jack it all in when he let me take over one night and passed me a 12″ he’d been raving about. I just put the record on and fiddled with the box that controlled the lighting – at least it looked a bit like mixing.

Everyone stopped dancing and wondered why we weren’t playing Jason Donovan tracks any more.  I just kept fiddling and pretending to DJ. Eventually, a few people started to nod their heads and get into the groove but it was all a bit confusing.  We got about halfway through the track when the DJ took over and restored the night to its usual rhythm of Stock Aitken Waterman-tinged reverie.

Anyway, the track was ‘Your Love’ and I absolutely fell in love with it. It started a long love affair with House music leading to several poorly-named electronic bands and a four year stint at Ministry of Sound. The track even inspired me to learn a musical instrument – well anything that could be triggered rather than played.

Frankie, can’t thank you enough – I owe a lot to you and and you’ll be sorely missed.

What’s the secret of talk radio?


What’s this? Two blog posts in one day? Well, on Wednesday night I attended the Radio Academy’s excellent event  ‘Who’s On Line 1?‘ at London’s Gibson Rooms and I simply had to tell you about it.

The event featured LBC’s James O’Brien and BBC Three Counties Radio breakfast presenter Iain Lee and offered a great insight into the popular phone-in format. Topics discussed included how they both started out in radio, what makes for a good radio conversation and why this format still works after many years.

Regarding that last point, O’Brien offered a wonderful soundbite describing the phone-in format as “live, immediate moments of personal revelation“. O’Brien argued there’s simply no other medium that can deliver this kind of audience interaction. I have to agree.

Not that it’s an easy thing to achieve. Both presenters agreed that there’s an element of trust you need to establish with the audience before people feel comfortable calling in on live radio to reveal their innermost selves.

“It’s too easy these days to go for the easy target” argued Lee as he told us about his early radio days as a presenter when he felt anyone was fair game for a ribbing.

Now, post -kids and more experienced, he’s no longer interested in winding up 15-35 males which, he admitted “is pretty easy to do”.

“Racists or homophobes are the most predictable”, said Lee “They just speak and they’ve done the job for you”. Both presenters agreed that they now tried to nurture a quality conversation, although they still teased “complete idiots”.

The evening finished with more than a few complements from the audience, loyal fans themselves of the phone-in format.

Altogether, a great evening and thanks to the Radio Academy for putting the event together.

Audio has now been posted to The Radio Academy website.


A short note on how wonderful it is to see Hitch Hiker’s back with us


Firstly, I just confess sincere apologies for not keeping my blog updated since taking up the role of Head of Editorial at Global Radio. Yes I know, I’ve been extremely poor and it will never happen again.

Although I will, in time, blog about all the amazing things we are doing over at Global, I wanted to take the opportunity to comment on the Beeb’s broadcast of Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Yes, it’s going to be one of those kind of posts…

The original radio series was broadcast in 1978 and I must have been 4 at the time when I heard it first. I remember this very vividly because I was recovering from a very bad dose of chicken pox,  reading endless copies of The Beano and, frankly, going bonkers with boredom. Then my parents handed me an old battered radio so I could listen to this new sci-fi programme.

Instant transportation.

I’m not saying I understood everything (I mean, what the hell was a ‘bypass’ anyway?) but the way this radio production brought the story to life completely blew me away completely. Towels, Dolphins, 3 pints of bitter and a packet of dry roasted peanuts – I became the ultimate Hitch Hiker’s fan (gauntlet thrown).

Since then I’ve  been a member of several terribly named rock bands, attended many, many committee meetings where I’ve almost taken my own life and spent a good deal of time wearing nothing but black. Vague literary allusions I’m sure, but I reckon they make me an instant member of the Arthur Dent appreciation society – and I still wear my dressing gown with pride.

For years after listening to this show I tried to write my own radio plays but they they were always awful and frankly embarrassing plus they got even worse when I went to University. A little knowledge may be dangerous but a splattering of half-read Dylan Thomas and T.S Eliot can be bloody appalling.

So, anyway, fantastic that it’s back on radio and I can’t thank those crazy guys on the original radio production team enough.

And yes, I know that’s a image from the TV series which was also good.

And no, the movie was terrible.


Getting Engaged: Content, context, community and sex toys?


If you’ve ever wondered what a ‘Rock Box’ or ‘Squealer’ was, well, tonight was your night at the latest UXPA UK event hosted by Lisa Moore at City University campus.

We heard from there great speakers on the topic of ‘Content, Context and Community’, presented to the mostly UX crowd but with a healthy contingent of content strategists now appearing in the ranks. Kudos to Lisa for getting more of us involved at these events.

First up, Yelp London Director Alex Shebar on ‘Putting the ‘U’ and ‘I’ in Community’. My notes as follows:

  • Did you know Yelp is the largest local review website in the world? (No I did not know that Alex)
  • Their strategy is to get people to talk about the local issues and services that are important to them.
  • Alex flagged early on you need to listen to what people are saying in your area of interest. If you don’t, you are already failing.
  • Alex pointed to Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising study which indicated that content on your site is less trusted than a random stranger talking about you on social media. Go figure.
  • The Xbox Elite Tweet Fleet were heralded as a great example of community interaction. Once upon a time no one was responding to gamers in the evening and during weekends – now not proving 24/7 support is unthinkable. Alex flagged them as the first, true ‘responsive brand’.
  • When building a community, Alex highlighted that quite often managers get scared by negative reviews left on their websites. Alex’s advice was simply: “Get over it. People will say bad things. There will always be haters. The best response is not to delete but to respond.” People trust sites more with mixed reviews.
  • Alex talked about the Yelp Time Traveller’s ball which Yelp organised last year. He said that Londoners are challenged by having too many options for things to do in London and, as a result, are more likely to stay within the vicinity of their local pub. The fancy dress ball which featured a) free food and b) free booze offered the community to meet learn about local services in their area. It also enabled Yelp to tap into ‘Active Contributors’ which makes up about 2% of their total audience but who generate the majority of the comments.
  • Alex didn’t advise every band to be on Facebook or Twitter – only if your community used these social networks.
  • Alex had some advice around using your community for redesign purposes. Generally, he said, try to avoid asking your community if they like a specific design or change. If possible show examples of other sites you may be taking inspiration from. Be broad in your research. However, if a community member or members really hate something you have proposed then be very direct in asking specific questions to find out why they hate it.

Next up: Andrew Marcus, Deputy Head of Communications, Museum of London on ‘Building Community Through Integration’.

  • Andrew framed his competitive landscape nicely. He does not compete with other museums – he competes for your leisure time which means sports, shopping and your sofa!
  • The Museum of London’s objectives are to increase their current visitor number of 650k to 1.5million by 2018.
  • In order to do this, they are trying several methods including engaging with schools and installing collections, but Andrew wanted to focus on their use of video to aid their PR communications.
  • The aim of these videos was to be fun and informative – to counter the impression that museums are stuffy and po-faced
  • Their history of the three piece suit video was used to tap into the current drive in male fashion industry

  • Users who come to their site from a YouTube video stay twice as long and view three times the amount of page views. Hence they see video as a valuable engagement tool.
  • Expect great things in the year ahead including a Sherlock Holmes exhibition plus a digitalised archive of London’s Oral history…

Dildos, butt plugs? It must be Lovehoney’s Matthew Curry @mattcurry ‘Sexy Content!’

  • Matt kicked off his session by warning us he was going to talk about lots of rude words. That got everyone’s attention immediately. Cock Locker anyone?
  • Although Matt was involved with usability testing and general UX practice, his focus tonight was on the content strategy behind the UK’s biggest sex toy provider.
  • Matt said they invested in video because it was difficult to sell products with static images. People want to actually see these toys in action – well not entirely ‘in action’ – but they are keen to know how much noise these products create, size, etc
  • It’s these video demos alongside user reviews that can make or break the product
  • That’s why Matt sends out more than 100 products per week to his pool of product testers, or as he labels them ‘My Orgasm Army.’
  • Matt also taps into his community to help the media connect with potential subjects, understand product requests media requests (interviews) and product requests, instant bug reporting, policy feedback.
  • Matt pointed to the value of video bloggers like Trak Gray for reviewing your products
  • Alex mentioned the RockBox vibrator. This piece of kit was so powerful that it use dot vibrate itself to pieces. This inclusion in this presentation was worth the price of the entry ticket alone.
  • He mentioned the fact that only 7% of people use site search in Google Analytics and he used it to ‘Searchandise’ – to optimise the journey from site search to basket
  • He also looked at failed site searches to optimise his content
  • To generate blog ideas he typed ‘How do i’ into google to generate topics
  • ‘Bang Dildo! – a term used to indicate if content on their site is too raunchy. Editorial care has to be taken as this could split the audience.

And that’s it folks! Great session by Lisa and nice to be blogging again!

Until next time…

Why I moving to Global Radio as Head of Editorial

After working over a year as an independent content strategy consultant an opportunity came along that was too good to miss – managing the editorial teams at Global Radio in London.

Traditional radio is currently being revolutionised by digital and I grabbed the chance to work with the team. It’s going to be a very exciting year ahead.

I’ll still be blogging here when I get the chance.

In the meantime I thought I should let you know that I am having an absolute nightmare with my house extension at the moment and it reminded me of this clip.


Best content strategy links of the week, December 20

Each week I curate a list of great pages I've discovered online covering topics such as content marketing, strategy, mobile, seo and search. I've selected them for their practical insight, useful tools and guidance. I hope you enjoy them!

This week: Could silos be good for your business? improving your IA, content after Hummingbird and the best branded Vines of 2013.
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Best content strategy links of the week, December 5

Each week I curate a list of great pages I've discovered online covering topics such as content marketing, strategy, mobile, seo and search. I've selected them for their practical insight, useful tools and guidance. I hope you enjoy them!

This week: Who needs content audits? Landing page optimization tips, social media stats that will make your mind boggle and Addictive TV give us a great lesson in curation.
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