My predictions for GB News. It will have a good first week. Andrew Neil will ‘beat’ the news channels. It won’t be as right wing as people think. This will likely annoy the more gammon-y end of the market. Some of it will look a bit cheap. Some of the new presenters will find this stuff is pretty hard and the guests, outside of Andrew Neil, will be a bit average alongside loads of Tory MPs.
Its ratings will drop off pretty quickly. They’ll be lots of ‘according to BARB no one was watching these shows’ and they’ll come back with ‘look at all the retweets we’re getting’. Less people will watch Andrew Neil.
The resonating stuff will be all the right-wing malarkey and six months in they’ll have a mini re-launch and it’ll be all blowhards, all the time. The BBC imports will be moved to the edges. Andrew Neil will start to be a bit uncomfortable with the company he’s keeping and will end up doing a weekly show as he’ll say he needs to spend more time with his business interests and that this was always the plan.
Of course in the old days, this would be accompanied by ‘advertisers are abandoning ship’ news coverage. This time I’m not sure that’ll really matter.
It seems, according to the FT, that the telly bit is really a loss-leader and their real aim is to sign-up superfans to a fiver a month voluntary subscription. For this extra money you’ll get exclusive access to GB News ‘talent’, newsletters, podcasts, forums, events etc.
It’s not a bad idea at all. There’s a good chunk of people who want to use their support of the channel as a badge of honour to ‘own the libs’ and battle the woke etc, extracting £5 off them is probably relatively easy. The ideologically similar Telegraph’s had a great lockdown with over 400,000 digital subscriptions and overtaking The Times.
Subscription businesses are all about funnels, getting as many people in the free, top bit and then getting better at converting them to paying subscribers at the other end. A well-distributed TV channel generating loads of right-wing Twitter indignation is probably a pretty good way to do that.
With conversions based on passion, some decent features and importantly good community building, there’s probably a chance to keep churn low.
With TV news channels notoriously unprofitable, looking at a different model will be essential to any success they have.
Bauer’s Subscription Announcements
Bauer’s taking a somewhat different approach, announcing yesterday that they’re going to make subscription versions of Scala, Planet Rock, Kerrang Radio and Jazz FM.
For £3.99 a month you’ll get an ad-free version of the main station and the ability to skip (every hour up to six) songs, 20 spin-off channels per service and some ‘special content’.
This isn’t the first go at subscription radio, in fact Planet Rock, under the previous owner did their own £4.99 subscription service in 2012. It was different times then, but the listeners were unhappy and the owner Malcolm Bluemel even sent a grumpy open letter back to them. Perhaps unsurprisingly he sold the station three months later.
I think the Bauer execution will likely be a pretty good one and with online listening on web, mobile and smart-speakers spanning many listening environments, having something that works across all of them makes sense. It’s important to remember that we’ve only been able to do that relatively recently.
Subscription though needs to be a scale-led business and if you’re involved with digital music then there’s quite a few costs before you get going. So of the £3.99, take off VAT, you’re down to £3.33. Strip away the 30% Apple will take, you’re left with £2.56 and, assuming you're paying around 75p per subscriber for music rights, you’re left with £1.81. And that’s before you’ve spent any money on the technology, additional content or the marketing.
10,000 subscribers might pay for the tech costs, and the next 10,000 might pay for the content team. However, once you’ve cleared that hurdle there’s pleasantly little variable costs for adding new subscribers (though you do need to spend some money on keeping the ones you’ve already got).
Making it a success for a single radio station might be hard, but re-deploying the gear for lots of stations, not just in the UK, but across Bauer’s European portfolio, might have a better chance of adding a new revenue line for the company.
The product they're launching though seems pretty function-led. To me, the key value is probably the ad-free listening. If I listen to Jazz FM on internet-connected devices all day, £3.99 is probably a good investment to lose the ads. I think they’re the first type of subscribers. The second group are probably the completist superfans of the stations. Like the GB News fans above, they’re the people that have the strong emotional connections to the station.
I think there’s a big opportunity in that group, not only to get them to give you money every month, but using it as a catalyst to strike up an even better relationship. That could be things that generate greater value - through products, like events or merch or even by charging more a month. The challenge though is it requires real effort at customer relationship management and working out ways to provide more value to these superfans.
It would be such a waste if all the heavy lifting that was done to get the technology to work isn’t then supported in ensuring the experience continues to be a good one. Listeners get annoyed when the things you think are benefits turn out to degrade the experience:
A purely functional experience - ‘no ads’ - once the wrinkles are ironed out, is easy to deliver but runs the risk of keeping yields (and success) low. This means you spend more and more effort getting people in the top of funnel, but the real benefits come from working out how to widen the bottom bit - so more people sign up.
Podcast Day 24 - Monday June 7th.
With my British Podcast Awards hat on, we’ve been working with the Radio Days Europe team to create an amazing online event - Podcast Day 24. It’s three conferences on the same day - for Australia, Europe and North America. Your ticket means you can watch all of them, live or on-demand.
In the Europe leg we’ve got a great selection of sessions including what makes a hit show with The Receipts and a guide to commissioning from Acast's Clarissa Pabi and Spotify's James Cator. RedHanded are one of the world's most successful podcasts on Patreon – generating over $60k a month – find out their tips to be successful. Fearne Cotton will tell the story of building a mindfulness brand around her number 1 podcast. We’ve also got Adam Bowie talking trends and Tony Phillips (ex BBC and WNYC) reflecting on lessons from the past and how they might offer direction and clarity for the future.
Outside of the UK, we’ll hear from Genstart: Denmark’s No.1 Podcast, NDR's chart-topping Coronavirus podcast, Rasmus Kidde from Denmark’s DR on appealing to different demographics, Petter Sommer from NRK about using Dogme rules for podcasting, ARD's award-winning youth history podcast, seeing how Whatsapp works for podcasting, newspapers and podcasts and still more to be announced...
And that's just the Europe leg! We've got over 20 more sessions from Australia and North America from the likes of iHeart, Spotify, CBC, NPR, ARN, Mamamia, the ABC, Triton Digital and Amazon Music.
Tickets are £99+VAT, but you, dear reader, can get them for £75+VAT (if you use the code: BPAINSIDER). See, a real subscriber benefit.
If podcasts are any part of your career or business, this will be the essential event for you and your colleagues. Sign up at podcastday24.com and I’ll see you on Monday 7th June!