Smooth Radio, now with tv stardust
I love a station repositioning almost as much as a launch, especially as the brand work becomes clear. The research, the thought, the endless powerpoint slides and the hard graft and sheer will that goes into refining and then expressing a clear position is hardly ever seen and not particularly sexy but it’s essential in any competitive market.
Now we know the recipe for the new Smooth Radio: relaxing music with some starry hosts.
More specifically, a dash of Andrew Castle blended with Kate Garraway, a pinch of Myleene Klass and Tina Hobley then mixed with music until it’s… smooth.
Tina’s already on air and Myleene will host Saturday mornings so the biggest changes for listeners are at breakfast, where Andrew Castle will be on air (London only) and in mid-morning, now with Kate Garraway.
Stations outside London will have their own breakfast hosts, yet to be announced and there’s lots of talk of “investment”. Whether the total talent bill will have increased is another matter.
What is certain is that Smooth Radio will feel quite different and we know from experience and research that listeners, especially older listeners, seldom like having their favourite station mucked about with.
Indeed, Smooth Radio listeners on social media have already voiced disapproval that much-loved radio broadcasters like Simon Bates, David Prever and Lyn Parsons are being replaced by “names from the telly”.
It is certainly disappointing to see skilled radio performers off the air but I don’t accept the assumption that successful tv performers can’t also become compelling radio presenters. From Toby Anstis to Jeremy Vine to Dermot O’Leary to Mishal Husain to John Suchet there are too many examples of those who have straddled both sides for that to be the case.
The two media do require different skills and behaviours though and the deep, delicate presentation and craft skills of radio presentation that you and I admire take years to hone to charming perfection. The man responsible for much of Smooth’s success so far, John Simons lists his top twenty attributes of a great radio presenter here. They require practice, discipline and habit.
So to put several new names, some with few flying hours in the radio studio, on any station all at once is ambitious and trusting however gorgeous they may look on the marketing photo.
Trusting in what? Well that depends how much they’ll be expected to talk. Trust in the support of production staff if the speech content is significant and trust in the music research and the clock format if they’re just hired to read liners.
Andrew and Kate are both clever, experienced news people who should have something interesting to say and thoughtful questions of others. Yet how much they speak may not be determined by their talents but by Smooth’s intended source of new listeners – Magic or Radio 2.
For every three Magic listeners in London four are tuned to Radio 2. Is the new Smooth designed solely to keep Magic off Heart’s territory or could it help commercial radio win back some listeners from the BBC?
Radio friends Paul Easton and John Collins have also reflected on this news on their respective blogs.