"The star must not become bigger than his home station".

To prevent radio stations from losing listeners to streaming services, they should focus on their strengths, says Berlin-based Radio One boss Anja Caspary in an interview. And turn presenters into brands, for example.


Werbewoche: How important are personalities really on the radio? There are certainly people who simply want to listen to music and get informed, who perhaps find it annoying when presenters market themselves too much.

Anja Caspary: The success of streaming services like Spotify shows that many people are satisfied with being given an unmoderated list of music. According to the motto: If you the like, you like the also. Nobody tells them anything about the artists, but that doesn't seem to bother many. Still, I think that's unsatisfying in the long run, because people like to follow people and want to hear what others are saying. Especially at my radio station, it's important that the presenters are credible and know what they're talking about. We have mainly adult listeners and hardly any 15-year-olds, for whom it is enough to say: "That's awesome." If a personality says why music is good, or why it's not good, or why it's imitated and therefore maybe uninspired because it's been done before - that's an added value that streaming services don't have.

Is the strategy of positioning presenters as brands also an attempt to stand out from music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music?

An attempt that has always existed. Radio has been made with people from the very beginning, for a hundred years. I do believe that in the wake of competition from streaming services - because yes, of course they want to grab listeners from us - we need to focus more on our strengths. The three big advantages of radio are: personal appeal, topicality and regionality. Streaming services can't say all that about themselves.

The three big advantages of radio are: the personal address, the topicality and the regionality.

What did losing Jan Böhmermann and Olli Schulz to Spotify mean for Radioeins' listener numbers?

The show worked exorbitantly well as a podcast and attracted fans of Böhmermann and Schulz to our media library. But we now have a show with Serdar Somuncu in its place and he has the same good ratings.

Other radio stations are also losing popular personalities, perhaps for different motives. For example, the morning presenters of Energy Zurich and SRF 3 have decided to leave: Patrick Hässig is becoming a nurse and Mona Vetsch is temporarily focusing on television. What are possible ways to continue without losing listeners?

On the one hand, of course, it's great if you have personalities as a radio station that many are fans of. But if they become bigger than the station itself and then go somewhere else and take the listeners with them, it's not good either. The star must not become bigger than his home station. There's no danger of that with us, because we don't just have prime time in the mornings, but we provide information all day long with serious word features. Our presenters are not always important personalities, but must first and foremost conduct interviews well and be familiar with the music. Of course, we also have presenters who are well-known and more popular than others. But they also polarize - there are always people who don't like them. If we lose a funny presenter, that's not a problem for us. You just have to make sure that you attract new talent and don't just focus on one personality.

You need authentic people who perform one-to-one in front of the mic as they would in real life.

What would be a way to make unknown stragglers a brand - or part of the station brand, so to speak?

There is no patent way to do this. People have to bring something special to the table on their own. It helps if they don't have the typical career path: School, university, radio. They have to be career changers, people with life experience who can put themselves in the listeners' shoes, who have seen something different, who are unconventional. For example, it's hard for us to hire presenters from former private stations because of the way they speak. But when you meet people with potential, as interns or in nightlife - you have to test them. Some are not shy in front of the microphone, but others fall into a role and that's not good. You need authentic people who perform one-to-one in front of the microphone as they would in real life. Only then do they come across as credible.

What causes listeners to become "attached" to presenters? Not just to like them, but to be happy for a long time when they present?

There are three aspects: The listeners must feel that the presenter is interested in them. He should conduct interviews vicariously for them, in the service of the listeners - not superficially, but in such a way that he really wants to know something. Moreover, the presenter should not be arrogant, should not put on airs, but should remain humble, especially when interacting with the audience. It is also good if he reveals something from his private life. It doesn't have to be much, but if someone also talks about their own feelings, it's easier to identify with them.

When would the point be reached - as you said earlier - when a personality has become too strong a brand, i.e. when listeners are more loyal to it than to the station itself?

When someone is such a strong brand, every program director tries to keep that person. Böhmermann and Schulz left us for Spotify because of the filthy lucre. We simply couldn't offer that much. That's why you have to make sure that you hire others in time who can absorb such a departure. Radio is not just about one person. It's also the case that people are curious about new things. Sometimes, in retrospect, it's right that people have left. Then the time was ripe for something new.

If we look into the future of radio: When the streaming services start producing themselves, do you have any other ideas on how radio could compete with them?

It's still the other way around: streaming services are trying to compete with radio. I think we can still be relatively relaxed. We, too, curate programs from an overabundance of information, just as they create their lists. But we have the advantage that experts can tell us why one song is good and another is not. That we can tell a story about the songs, which you could also Google together, but no one has time for that. People are happy when they get a choice from the oversupply. And we should work with more specialists, with people who really know something about music and can't just announce and cancel a title. Of course, it's also great that we have the opportunity to strengthen regionality, whether in Berlin or Zurich. Saying what's going on here, "There's a great band playing around the corner, they're from your circle and you don't know them yet?" Streaming services can't do that. "Later, LCD Soundsystem are playing a secret concert, the world only knows about it today, and we have the free tickets for it." These are strengths we've always had and should continue to focus on in the future.

One construction site is, after all, radio advertising, which is usually more bad than good, at least that's our impression in the Werbewoche editorial team. Do you have any ideas about where the journey could go to make advertising better and listeners less likely to switch over?

We actually receive a lot of mails from listeners who are upset about the ads. We at Radioeins also find them annoying. From a purely legal point of view, we have to play them and can't refuse - unless they have inhuman or misogynistic content. The broadcasting laws would have to be changed so that a station that doesn't want to play advertising doesn't have to do so. There are national stations in Germany, such as Deutschlandfunk Kultur, that do not have to play advertising. Private stations can't finance themselves without advertising, of course, although I often find that advertising isn't that negative on private Dudelfunk waves. But it does with our public indie rock station.

We actually receive a lot of mails from listeners who are upset about the advertising.

In terms of advertisers, would you have a suggestion on how they could improve radio advertising to make it less annoying?

Radio is, of course, a great radio drama medium. You'd have the opportunity to tell intelligent little stories, although there's probably not enough expensive time for that. But it would help if people didn't shout in your ear like that. Also that women are often portrayed so stupidly: "I bought the car because it was blue" and then laugh artificially... Replacing this artificial, screaming in favor of high-quality mini radio plays would be better.

Content marketing for the ear, then?

Or just say succinctly what they want to say, not writing. That would already help.

Interview: Ann-Kathrin Schäfer

Anja Caspary will speak at the Swiss Radio Day 2017 on August 24, 2017 in Zurich about the topic of "Personalities as brands". The 52-year-old has taken over the public radio station Radio Eins in Berlin, which has always been known by the slogan "For adults only" advertises, with. For a long time, Caspary worked as a presenter, and since 2015 she has been head of music at the station.

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