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Building the ‘digital first’ radio station

Handing out leaflets for a station event

Leafleting for a station event

Local radio’s conventional operating model is centred on a broadcast outlet supported by a branded website, various channels of social media presence and some station events.

Now one market town in England is turning that convention on its head as it prepares for the launch of its new radio station.

What founder David Harber jokingly calls “the imaginatively named Andover Radio” will serve the Hampshire town from April but it developed its digital offer more than a year ago and launched into the community with a public event that attracted around 14,000 people. The radio station is the final piece in the jigsaw.

Love Andover website

Love Andover website

Its website is a fully-featured news, information and events portal for the town, updated several times a day. With its mix of community news, visiting celebrities and bin collection updates the site regularly attracts 12,000 unique browsers a month among a local population of 52,000 people.

This ‘digital first’ phasing established David’s enterprise in the town early and enabled the station to secure the right broadcast premises to support its socially-driven ambition.

Not for Andover Radio an invisible studio on a light industrial estate on the periphery, but 2,500 square foot of centrally-located accommodation that will house the radio station and provide an attractive collaborative workspace for Andover’s creative innovators.

Andover Radio studios - before

Andover Radio studios – before

Andover Radio studios - after

Andover Radio studios – after

For David, the combination of public events, digital media, radio and project work with local business all adds up to what he calls “social gain”. It’s the concept that drives the not-for-profit organisation behind the station and has seen David labelled locally as a social entrepreneur.

Cuddle

He’s known in Andover. David was a member of the team behind the town’s first commercial radio station. Andover Sound launched in 2008 and picked up Radio Academy and New York Festival awards before being sold to Celador Radio which absorbed it into their regional brand The Breeze in 2012.

David Harber

David Harber

One quarter of Andover faces some kind of deprivation, says David. “It’s a town that needs a bit of a cuddle” and he saw with Andover Sound how local radio can pull together all the social value in a town affected by economic, cultural and social problems.

“The local newspaper doesn’t really do the town justice. If all you do is read the local press you’ll think Andover is full of burglaries and peadophiles and all the negative stuff that sells newspapers. What radio can do is give space to all the huge number of positive groups, organisations and events happening around the town.”

When David won a community tier radio licence for the town he secured support from the local council, the lottery fund and local business for his venture and moved back to Andover at the end of 2016 to work on the launch plans.

These plans have never been just about radio. David says the revenue-raising restrictions placed on community radio by the Communications Act and the limitations of a 25W transmitter mean that any such station will find it really hard to stand on its own in this community.

Military planning

As plans advanced, the business morphed into an events management company, running a Proms in the Park night and Andover Armed Forces Day to which 14,000 people turned up. The British Army is headquartered in Andover and this was the first time local people had been introduced to the radio station and what it intends to do.

Andover Radio's Steve Randall reports from Armed Forces Day 20177

Andover Radio’s Steve Randall reports from Armed Forces Day 2017

A bird of prey at an event organised by Love Andover

Not the Eagle. That would be hawkward.

David and his team developed an umbrella brand that works for all the organisation’s activities. “Love Andover” covers the events it runs, the Love Andover website and social media activity. On air, Love Andover becomes the positioning line, neatly integrated into the radio imaging by Tim James of Bespoke Music.

“With Love Andover the radio station becomes just one part of what we’re trying to achieve. I wouldn’t do it without the radio station but people buy into brands.”

For that reason, he’s confident he’ll secure sufficient advertising support to sustain the station, and that radio’s ability to build awareness, drive footfall and its sales efficiency will support Andover’s local economy at a time when local business is struggling under rising council rates.

Having the website and events established also makes a difference when selling to local business.

“Even though people can’t listen to the radio station until launch, people know who we are. When I phone up to sell a web banner or a 13 week campaign on the radio it helps that people have heard of us already.”

Where is Andover? Halfway between Salisbury and Basingstoke.

Where is Andover? Halfway between Salisbury and Basingstoke.

David says Andover is contained by its geography and can be a little introverted, only occasionally “peeping over the fence” to neighbours Basingstoke or Reading where competitors Celador and Global’s sales teams are based.

Targeted to beat The Breeze

Targeted to beat “nearby” Breeze

David is bullish about audience projections too, expecting to double the reach achieved in the town by The Breeze but, above all, he and his project remain driven by the notion of social gain.

“I’ve worked on 15 to 18 stations of varying sizes. I’m taking all the best bits of radio programming and radio sales experience from my career and turning it into something where I can make a difference in a community. I feel good about it.”

Andover Radio launches on Sunday 22 April, broadcasting locally on 95.9 FM and via online platforms.

One Comment

  1. I am looking forward to having our own radio station, and being part of this in a small way :), bring it on guys.

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