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Ideas and technique to help you promote and image radio

You choose the news

Last week, the news team at Metro Radio handed over their years of journalistic training to the listener and let them ‘choose the news’. The day became ‘News You Choose Day’, with listeners voting via Facebook, Twitter and online for what should be in bulletin running orders as well as suggesting their own content ideas.

The morning news prospects meeting was available to watch on-line and contributions invited via Twitter. A number of listeners put forward their own ideas which were taken forward and others suggested questions for interviews.

We spoke to Justin Kings (@newsleader)-  Metro Radio Head of News to get under the skin of the project.

ES: Great project, it would be great to understand a bit about where the idea came from and why you did it?

JK: Metro has done a lot of work in the past year to build likes and increase interaction on Facebook. My news department has been heavily involved and I thought ‘News You Choose’ would be a different way to engage users quite intensely over one day. We used Facebook primarily to allow users to build the running order for the news bulletins. We used the ‘Question’ function and asked them to vote on what story they wanted to hear more about. A video of the morning news meeting went on You Tube allowing users to comment and make their own suggestions. Our Deputy Editor live blogged in what became a discussion about various stories and our reporter asked followers on Twitter for their help through the day.
ES: What were the challenges – did it affect the general flow of the newsroom?

JK: It turned our usual way of working completely on its head, so there were lots of challenges! When we asked users to select stories for the news we were able to track the most popular throughout the process but it wasn’t until quarter to the hour that we could finalise what to run. We always try to think about what the listener cares about and what she is talking about but we were able to check in directly with her throughout the day. I know my Deputy Editor found it useful to discuss news with participants on the live blog which required a high level of interaction on his part. We were all careful to reply to as many Facebook messages, tweets and blog posts as we could which was a demand on everyone’s time. All in all, it was a day which took the team out of its comfort zone which is never a bad thing.
ES: In terms of a marketing / engagement activity – what results did you see? Has it helped in a marketing build for the station?

JK: The level of engagement was good with a high total number of users on Facebook. Each vote on there about what stories we should include pulled in about a hundred votes. We included a number of stories suggested by listeners too. One of these made the breakfast bulletins a few days after News You Choose Day. The live blog attracted a very dedicated albeit small number of contributors. All in all we felt the concept worked well for us. It is early days but I feel it could also help our marketing team in their mission to expose Metro to as many people as possible.

ES: Will you be doing it again? Was there any things you learnt and you would pass onto other newsteams?

JK: We’ve identified some improvements. For example, we won’t attempt to live blog throughout the day. This was a big commitment when the majority of interaction was based on Facebook. We will instead live blog during our listeners lunch break and give them the chance to catch up with the day and chat with the team then. I’m also considering using Audioboo, the audio microblogger, as part of the day. For obvious reasons I think this social media platform has huge potential for radio news. So, News You Choose will return on the first Tuesday of every month on Metro. I’m going to trial it next on TFM Radio on Teesside.