Head of CLyde 1 Paul Saunders is ready to take on the competition on the next round of RAJAR figures.Once again, the quarterly RAJAR figures have been announced, and there were no surprises for guessing who has grabbed the largest share of the cake in the west of the country. Clyde, which celebrated its thirtieth birthday earlier this year, was no doubt overjoyed to see that its share of the market was still higher than its nearest competitor, Real Radio, although the GMG-owned station is catching up. However, there have been changes afoot at Radio Clyde, following on from its successful RAJAR showing in the past year. SRH has barely been out of the headlines since the beginning of the new year, most notably the sell off of part of the company’s shares to EMAP by SMG. Talk of take-over bids has been rife, and certainly the next two years of the group’s future will be interesting, to say the least.
At the same time, Clyde 1 and Clyde 2 have gone through somewhat of an overhaul, with current joint head of Clyde 1 and Clyde 2, Ross McFadyen, stepping away from the day-to-day running of both stations. In his place comes Paul Saunders, who has been recruited to take on the newly created task of head of Clyde 1. Saunders comes from another SRH station – prior to his appointment he was programme director at Vibe FM in the North East of England. So, what made him want to come to Scotland during this turbulent time in radio? “I had spent two years at Vibe FM in the North East of England as programme director. Vibe went through various changes of ownership until, most recently, SRH came and took it over in the summer. And with that I then started talking to people within SRH and got the chance to come here.
“I started at the end of December – a very interesting time to start because there were all the Cash for Kids events happening, the Hogmanay event at George Square in Glasgow and the radio station was celebrating its thirtieth birthday. It was a really, really busy time to start and I suppose that it was quite a strange time to start, but I have been working away here since the beginning of the year.”
The Scottish radio market is a small lake (or loch) for many of the big fish involved, and the West of Scotland market is an even smaller pond. Stations such as Beat 106, Real and Clyde 1 and Clyde 2 are aiming for the same listeners. The task for Saunders – to keep Clyde 1 at the top of its game – is undeniably a difficult one, but how does the market compare to other areas of the UK as a whole? He says: “I don’t think that I have seen a station that has been so dominant in the marketplace. People in Glasgow seem to be very passionate about the radio station that they listen to; they seem to be passionate about the city. There is a lot that happens in the city and there is a need to find out about what is happening and we can give that information to our listeners. And we have been offering this mix for the past thirty years.
“The listeners are very loyal to, and passionate about, the station. We have a stronghold and a really big-sized radio station and that is even when some larger stations are coming into the market. I think, in answer to the question, this radio station is a big part of people’s lives and we aim to reflect that in what we broadcast to them.”
So why did Radio Clyde decide to change the tried and tested job structure? Saunders believes that by bringing him on board, Clyde 1 can now really focus on making the station sound its strongest, which in turn will help with forthcoming RAJAR results. He says: “I think that there is so much that goes on in both the radio stations that we needed someone who would be able to concentrate on each of the brands separately. For me, it means that I can concentrate on all that Clyde 1 does. I can get on with a lot of the details of what it means to run a radio station – from a one-to-one basis with the presenters to dealing with the music side of things, to coming up with promotions for the station as a whole.”
But the radio market is changing – from the announcement of Saga Radio winning the much sought after West of Scotland licence to the shake-up of the radio industry as a whole in the next twelve months. Saunders admits that his job is not an easy task, but he appears to be relishing the challenge of a good fight: “You are always fighting for market share and whenever a new station comes into this area we will be fighting against it. And that is what Clyde likes to do – fight for the market share. Clyde 1 appeals to a wide audience and that is part of its success. It means that we are at the top of the game. It comes back to the idea of not being complacent. The last thing that we want to do is be complacent. It is great that there is competition out there as it means that we have to be bigger and better than the stuff that we have done before.”
While Saunders is relishing the start of his new job, he is also realistic about the state commercial radio is in at the moment. With a downturn in revenue making headlines last year, Saunders understands that advertisers need incentives to put their money where their mouths are, if they are to take advertising with the station. He comments: “There are always good times and not so good times in this industry, and you have to work hard to give your clients the solutions that they need. One thing that has really worked is giving advertisers great promotions to be involved in. Last month on Clyde 1 we gave away a thousand-pound holiday every day to our listeners, which, I think, is a great prize to win. It’s good for clients, and good for listeners, and is something that a good creative radio station can do really well and create some interesting radio to listen to.
“We are very happy with what we have at the moment. I think it would be a shock if we threw out what we have achieved in the past thirty years. We want to work hard and we want to create good ideas and make it exciting and throwing everything that we have achieved out and starting again would just be a stupid thing to do. So, we will hold our ground and make the station even more entertaining and better.”
And, with Real Radio closing the gap on Radio Clyde in the latest quarterly figures, it looks as though the next year could be a very interesting one in terms of both the growth of radio in Scotland and also the future of Radio Clyde.
And remember Saga will be hitting the airwaves soon.