James Cridland: Radio while you shop

Photo: Endre Lundgren

James Cridland writes about in-store radio this week. This form of radio caters to an enormous amount of people every single day – often more than any “normal” radio station. In Australia one of these in-store stations has made the leap to DAB+.

I wrote a long article for the Radio Magazine in the US recently about “Australia’s largest radio station” – Coles Radio. It’s the radio station you hear when you walk around a Coles supermarket, the most popular supermarket chain in Australia. It’s available on DAB+ in metropolitan areas of the country too, so you can listen at home and in the car. Many do.

“Australia’s largest” was my claim, not the station’s, incidentally – it’s the largest station if you consider total listeners. 5.5m Aussies walk into a Coles supermarket at least once a week, so that’s a weekly cume of over 22%.

Jay Walkerden, the GM of NOVA Entertainment in Brisbane who put the station together, told me something interesting about the station’s programming: it’s catering to two very different audiences.

One audience is the shopper, who might spend only five minutes in the store, or might spend over 45 minutes. They’ve had to be clever with the commercial scheduling – the ad breaks are more frequent, though shorter.

They’ve also had to be clever with the music. Thinking about it, you could run the entire station with a 60-minute rotation, given a typical shopper will not be in store longer than 60 minutes. But it would be a good way to really annoy the people who work there: so they don’t. Indeed, they even make it a bit louder and more high-energy when they’re likely to be stacking shelves.

They’re not the only in-store station, of course; Asda FM in the UK is a similar store radio for Asda stores, and is carried live via satellite. HSBC, the bank, had a little radio station when I last had to queue up to pay a complicated US check in to my UK bank account; and there are plenty more. It’s a good employee retention tool, as well as a piece of marketing. I pity the poor person who has to work the three months to Christmas listening to the same CD.

It’s never been cheaper to produce simple, straightforward radio of this type. The internet offers a great distribution platform, as do side channels for HD Radio or DAB multiplex space. It’s interesting to see some radio broadcasters – and some pureplays – producing radio stations for niche audiences like this.

James Cridland is a radio futurologist – a writer, speaker and consultant working with the brightest radio brains in the world. He has worked for the BBC and Virgin Radio in London. Join over 2,500 other radio professionals and subscribe to his free weekly newsletter (in English) at https://james.cridland.net

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