Ollie Wards on how to launch a successful new radio show: ‘Don’t come in honking horns’
Triple j’s former content director, Ollie Wards, has warned of the pitfalls of launching a new radio show, particularly when on-air talent makes it all about themselves.
“Don’t come in honking horns and blowing whistles and coming up with these huge sketches,” he offered as his key advice to launching a new talent lineup.
“I think this was a pitfall that Ben & Liam fell into when they started on triple j, where they came in very high energy – like in-your-face high energy. ‘These are some content ideas that we’ve got’, and had planned out how each story arc would go all the way to the end before it had even gone to air, and that just completely removes the audience’s agency and being involved in your story,” he said at the recent Australian Audio Summit.
Instead, he said, successful shows need to trick the audience into thinking content and evolving story arcs are their idea.
“No one’s going to be mad when you hold up a listener’s idea and made that a cool thing, rather than trying to hold up your own idea,” he said, noting the audience should always be “the star of the show”.
The Ben & Liam show took over from Matt & Alex in the triple j Breakfast slot during Wards’ tenure.
They have subsequently moved across to Nova Adelaide to host the local Breakfast show, however they are temporarily broadcasting to a national audience again as part of Nova’s summer lineup.
Wards has also since moved on, joining TikTok as director of music.
Wards also warned of radio talking itself out of existence, and said its self-depreciating attitude could harm its longevity.
“The radio industry shouldn’t ever let ourselves be scared by [new platforms] because radio’s done it forever, adapted to the new environment of different platforms coming and going and being complementary to it, rather than fighting it,” he said.
“There’s this kind of nervousness or self-depreciating nature of radio where people are constantly saying ‘Oh, TV killed the radio star’, kind of thing. People have always been saying that, and so you have it in the back of your mind like ‘Oh shit, is this the moment that TV does kill the radio star?’ And it doesn’t happen, you know?”