Irelands top PD’s at Radio Days

Staff Writer

Dublin has a population about the size of Brisbane with a competitive culture equal to the worlds major radio markets.

I was about to say London, Sydney or New York but in some ways it’s more competitive.

This is a market where radio stations still spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on outdoor marketing, on-air promotions and contesting.

They also have the most exotic promotional vehicles from Hummers to Minis, and transformer style trucks as OB units, and that’s just the Commercial operators! See some pics of these vehicle taken by Earshot Creative here.

So what can Australian Programmers learn from their Irish counterparts?

Ireland’s top PD’s explained their approach to managing their product in a competitive environment at Radio Days Europe:

Gabriel Cummins, CEO and PD of  Beat 102, explained that as a 15-35 targeted music station they remain market leader by making sure the music is right.

Obvious you might say, but do you run fortnightly online music research with a database of  300- 400 people? They also invest in twice yearly auditoriums with fans, and non-fans, of the station.

Cummins said: “Music is key, but other content separates us out, as does social media which is an extension of our brand.”

There are challenges for regional stations who have a larger TSA (service area) than city stations and national competitors:

  • It’s hard to match salaries.
  • Lack of openings for new talent.
  • Finding someone who fits the target market, and has something relevant to say.
  • Talent who are able to provide content across all platforms

Dave Kelly, FM104, is a long standing Dublin Programming talent who began in the early days of Commercial Radio and has seen them come and go.

His obvious pride in his stations show when he says FM104 has dominated Dublin ratings for over 10 years. It is larger than life (see the Hog Truck above!). The station has a wow factor with big, creative prizes.

He made the point “We don’t copy our competitors”. The level of competition in the market has been ramped up with 98FM attacking FM104 after a period of ‘ratings wilderness’.

FM104 develops ‘brands within brands’. For example, a decade old Strawberry Alarm clock breakfast show brand that has seen a number of different star presenters. Irish radio has a unique culture of late night talk radio with a big star Chris Barry now back on the air; important because late night radio adds valuable reach (cume) to the ratings.

Of course, Facebook and Twitter play a big part, however is without doubt the promotional push that sets FM104 apart, not least of which the huge FM104 big red Road Hog truck with 5 VW Beatles in convoy following.

After a number years being challenged by new radio players, incumbent public service national radio station 2FM CEO Dan Healy (left) says that he has to “destroy 2FM to rebuild a brand”.

He is going through a rebrand and rebuild of the national institution, designed to recover their territory in 15-25’s.

The music on 2FM has changed, and there are no titles from prior to 1999 on the playlist. As a PSB they are regularly attacked by national press, which he says proves that radio still matters, and that as a national station they are not aimed geographically, but at the space between listeners ears.

Liam Thomson, Group PD of Communicorp, had a well thought out, strategic numbers look at the market.

He focused on the macro issues, that is the population over 35, and commented that he worries about under 25’s and how younger targeted stations will survive financially through the next decade. Perhaps he was playing mind games to rattle the younger competition, but still a valid argument.

Communicorp stations are 98FM, Today FM, Spin Talk and Phantom.

Today FM is the largest independent station, and its target is  20-44, with a firm focus on 30-39. To Liam, Today is not a music-formatted station, but largely a speech driven personality station playing pop rock. Music is not the differentiator, personality is.

Ireland’s unique news and current affairs quota forces Programmers to find people who can talk and create a deeper engagement with audiences. A big task on a  music station.

So whats the key take away for Aussie PDs?

  • Ireland, in particular Dublin, works harder than most markets.
  • Music is harder to really differentiate.
  • It’s the stuff around the music that differentiates the stations.
  • Promo tools in these markets are some of the best in the world.
  • Marketing gets lots of attention.
  • Events stunts are as innovative today as with the best of the 90s stunting.


Dirk Anthony is at Radio Days Europe for Radio Today, Dirk is an internationally recognised radio consultant, and can be contacted here.



Comment Form

Your email address will not be published.

Recent comments (0)
Post new comment


See all