Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Bookends

It's long been an accepted wisdom in radio that you have a strong late-night programme so that those people who go to bed with your station wake up with it first thing in the morning because their bedside radio alarm is still tuned to you.  Even if they change it once they're awake you've still had the chance to persuade them to keep listening.

Over the years presenters such as Pete Price, Alan Robson, Allan Beswick, James Stannage, 'Scottie McClue', Ian Collins and James Whale have all been extremely successful in that slot with 'must listen' phone-in shows.  Late Night Love with Graham Torrington worked well for GWR/GCap's stations and in the past few years Iain Lee has  been building something of a cult following on Absolute Radio.

These days, though, fewer stations are doing late-night phone-ins; probably because it's cheaper to have someone play a few tunes (perhaps even automated) than a live presenter, especially when good phone-in hosts who can generate good calls and engage well with their audience don't come cheap.

It's still a format that works, though. As you can see in an earlier post, LBC dominates the highly-competitive commercial radio market from 10.00pm through until 7.00am. Station stalwart Clive Bull has been a regular fixture in the 10.00pm - 1.00am weekday slot for many years, which has helped to build heritage and audience loyalty, and the station itself often refers to him as "London's Late Night Legend".

Here's a look at the share of listening in London at that time of night. You'll notice that I've also been able to include the BBC nationals, as well as BBC London 94.9, Classic FM, TalkSPORT, Sunrise and Premier.

(Click on graphs to enlarge)


If a strong late-night show can help build the breakfast audience, many stations also consider 'Early Breakfast' starting around 5.00 as a strong 'warm-up' for the main Breakfast show, as well as providing something good for those people who need to be up at that time (and in London there are plenty of them).

In that slot another LBC stalwart, Steve Allen, has the second-highest share of listening between 5.00 - 7.00am.

Steve is very much a 'Marmite' presenter. Each weekday morning  he talks for two hours, pausing only for news, travel and commercial breaks, and mainly by himself; he does have a few regular contributors a few times a week. It's not a phone-in but he does read out texts and emails from listeners.

What seems to pull in the listeners is his lack of time for those Z-list celebs, especially Katie 'Jordan' Price and Kerry Katona, who have a seemingly-constant desire to appear on the front page of the 'red-tops' as often as possible, or who seem to be famous just for being famous. Benefit scroungers and those who abuse disabled stickers on cars are also on his list of bĂȘtes-noires and, as a result, equally likely to feel the sharp end of his tongue.

On-air Steve comes across as eccentric. We know he is diabetic and because he is so scared about losing his feet (gangrene and amputation can be a problem with some diabetics)  he never wears the same pair of socks twice; each day's pair are thrown away and he buys them in bulk from M&S.  He drives a Bentley, the boot of which seems full of stuff he's bought but never quite got round to taking into his home; which itself is probably piled high with DVD boxsets.  Oh and he buys two of everything!

Whether you choose to believe everything he says on-air is another matter, of course, but it's all a carefully-crafted act, and one that works well for both him and LBC.

It's certainly one of those shows where you feel you want to keep listening because you don't believe what you're hearing, or want to know what he's going to say next; and that's a factor that's not too common on radio these days. Sadly.

(Note: The figures shown for LBC are those for 'LBC (ILR)' which is a combination of LBC 97.3 and LBC News 1152; which simulcasts 97.3 from 1900-0700.  Even without the additional listening on AM, LBC 97.3 still has the second-highest share of listening in both of those dayparts).