What was that about video killing the radio star? One of the UK’s most popular radio stations, Radio 1, has been working hard to become a video star over the last couple of years. At the MIPTV conference this week in Cannes, its head of visual radio Joe Harland explained how and why.

Harland was one of the guests at YouTube’s ‘digital screening’ session at the conference, interviewed by Michael Stevens of YouTube science channel Vsauce (left, above). The Radio 1 exec admitted that he had an “inherently ludicrous and daft job title” before explaining why it wasn’t actually that ludicrous or daft at all.

“All of our content has to fit a model of listen, watch, share. Very few people will share an audio clip. They’re gonna share a video. Hence listen, watch, share,” he said.

In Radio 1’s case, that has meant putting much more effort into its YouTube channel, and its video presence within the BBC’s own iPlayer service, with a channel that launched in November 2014.

The station has also been evolving in the kind of video content it puts out. “We had to look at what the audience were doing: which bits of our content were they most talking about and responding to? Well that’s what we should be doing more of,” said Harland.

He added that radio and television broadcasters alike need to think about making new videos honed for the platforms they’ll be watched on, rather than just filming a radio studio or cutting up clips from TV shows.

“You will struggle terribly to have success on YouTube if you say ‘we found this funny clip on this funny TV show that we made’ and just put it up there,” he said. “The audience aren’t going to respond to that. They don’t want to share around or watch an afterthought. They want something that was deliberately made for them.”

YouTube video

That’s changing the skillsets required of producers at Radio 1. “I expect all of my radio producers to be aware of what will and won’t work in video,” said Harland. And if something doesn’t work, he expects them to “keep on trying until they’ve had a good idea”.

What’s the goal? To build Radio 1 into a trusted video brand as well as radio, for starters, without any taking for granted that young viewers will want to become radio buyers again.

“We have DJs that don’t even own radios, which is extraordinary but to be expected. If you are finding 20-25 year olds they are unlikely to have bought a radio, from owning apps and so on,” said Harland. “The idea of going to someone and saying ‘Did you like that video? Buy a radio’… it’s just too much of a leap.”

That doesn’t mean they won’t listen to radio through some of those other platforms though. “The opportunities for YouTube helping business and helping programming is enormous. Radio 1, if we have an Ed Sheeran video that gets 4m views, just by clickthroughs we can get them to the full programe, to a half-hour Ed Sheeran programme on the BBC,” said Harland.

“You have to fish where the fish are and then lure them into your net. But you can’t have success internationally if you don’t fish where the fish are.”

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