Talk 107 Profile
The hotly contested Edinburgh FM licence was given to Talk107 earlier this year, introducing the first speech-based radio station to the east of Scotland. The station has hired a plethora of ex-journalists as presenters, something managing director of the station and former MD of Glasgow-based Search Recruitment, Peter Gillespie, was keen to achieve from the start.
The station has managed to put together a heavyweight line up of well known Scottish opinion makers and shaker; former BBC Radio Scotland journalist Alex Bell presents a morning show, former Scotsman journalist Simon Pia presents what’s billed as a ‘Hitman and Her’ style show with Heather Dee and, Scottish television personality Stephen Jardine has also been brought on board.
\"We wanted people with ability,\" says Gillespie, sitting down to talk to Adline prior to the station’s launch. \"I’ll take very little credit for identifying most of those people. Colin (Patterson, the station’s programme director) did an awful lot of the work identifying, screening and singling out the available talent. Calum (Macaulay, the station’s launch director) first went out and spoke to everyone and his uncle when he was hiring me, so once Colin was on board there was a list of people that Calum had spoken to, a lot of whom weren’t right. It then became obvious to us that people with a strong journalistic background were a good fit for what we were going to be about.\"
The style of the station is obviously news and current affairs affecting Edinburgh, Fife and The Lothians. The launch advertising campaign, created by IAS Smarts (formerly Citigate Smarts) and now handled by Edinburgh’s 1576, kicked off at the beginning of February. Like any launch, the cynics have speculated that only cranks and weirdos call in to speech radio stations and, while all the callers while I’m there sound intelligent and articulate, following the launch I hear that a few drunk people call into the evening show hosted by Micky Gavin. Sounds like a laugh if you ask me, but what about those detractors who have suggested that a sppech based readio station wouldn’t work?
Gillespie bristles. \"Lots of sensible people phone in about lots of sensible issues who just want their voice heard. We’ll get our share of crackpots and pub bores and a lot of other people who want to talk about things that are relevant and important to them. It’s all about personal choice.\"
Advertisers are clearly flocking to the station, with Gillespie admitting that the station is \"115/120 per cent over budget\".
\"We set a modest budget, but it wasn’t unrealistically low, it was still relatively challenging,\" he says. \"We’re ahead of our target because we’ve had more people respond positively to the whole idea of advertising on speech.\"
He believes the attraction to be a mixture of the unique format and their attitude to frequency of commercials and length. \"There’s a certain category of client that we’d be a natural fit for, an audience that’s going to be predominantly over 30/35, slightly more upmarket than your average profile. Now they’re quite hard to find in commercial radio, even in Edinburgh,\" he says. \"We only carry four ads in three commercial breaks in an hour. If you look at other commercial stations not just in Scotland, they’ll sometimes play up to eight to ten ads in a break with six breaks an hour. Longer ads work better, fewer ads work better and speech ads work better, we do all three. Now that to me is something that differentiates us before you even say ‘how many listeners have you got?’ We’re selling the promise of what we think we can achieve.\"
One of Gillespie’s early hirings was the former (now defunct business daily newspaper) Business AM sales director Hilary Douglas, who joined in November. She built up the team of six to work on the launch, only two of whom have worked in radio before. \"That’s part of the excitement,\" she says. \"Apart from two, they’ve not worked in radio. They’ve all sold advertising space, but just in different mediums. That’s quite exciting because they give a much fresher look to everything. Because nobody’s worked in a speech-based radio station, they come without any thoughts of how it should be. And because they’ve not had the feeling ‘I’ve sold radio before so I need to go to these type of people’, they’ve actually managed to get a wider scope of advertiser in.\"
As I glance around Gillespie’s office, I notice a magnum of Champagne. Nosily I ask who it’s from and Gillespie holds open the card. It’s from GMG-owned Real Radio. He admits the support from the industry has been great. \"One or two other programme directors and Ofcom have emailed and said it sounds like we’ve been on air for a while, which is what we wanted. We were remarkably calm, we’d done such a lot of press, and such a lot of preparation that there was very little drama. Last time I launched a station we were in until one in the morning. It wasn’t as prepared as we were this time.
\"Commercially we should be growing the cake for radio stations. More advertisers will see us as a relevant choice. In some cases advertisers who use radio will use more of it. We are projecting 11 per cent weekly reach and eight hours. The reality of the matter is that if you launch a station like ours, you need to be humble. We think we can achieve the numbers we’re projecting and we obviously hope we do.\"