As part of its World Radio Day focus, the EBU is profiling three public service broadcasters which are tackling head-on the challenge of how to become more relevant to young people, who represent a relatively small part of our audience and a potentially big role in our future. The key lies in understanding how to lure this highly connected tribe.
Radio PULS was (re)launched in May 2013 by Bayerishcher Rundfunk (Barvarian Broadcasting, BR), a member of the ARD consortium of public service broadcasters based in Munich. It targets people aged 18–29, and in addition to cable and satellite, is available online through DAB+ and a mobile application. The station has received awards from CNN and Deutscher Radiopreis for outstanding journalism. Thomas Mueller, whose responsibilities include formats, reflects on its success.
1. How would you describe Radio PULS?
PULS is a DAB+ and web-based radio station that appeals to younger listeners seeking an alternative to standard AC or Top100 FM stations. The format is a unique mix of hand-picked indie, electronic, urban and Bavarian music with some stand-out hits. PULS devotes a lot of resources to music journalism with a focus on youth movements, Bavaria's popular culture and life in the digital age.
2. You’re using a combination of distribution platforms. Do you have a preference, and if so why?
DAB is certainly interesting, but still has limitations for a mobile generation. That's why we're offering a wide range of different channels. We know that many listeners are using the mp3 stream on their internet radios and computers, but an app is also a great way to listen in when you're not at home.
3. What led to the station’s launch?
The insight that to maintain its market position, Bavarian Broadcasting must address the needs of young listeners. Our message was straightforward – not all youth radio stations are the same, that is, format-heavy and light on news.
4. How did you refine the format?
A mixture of market research, common sense and instinct. We had our name tested and also benefitted from the experience of earlier experiments. We also know Bavaria and its diverse young audience very well.
5. How did you make your young audience aware of your existence?
For the launch of PULS, we combined a classical print and billboard campaign with social media. To reach the audience in their ‘natural habitat,’ we ensured we were present at major music festivals in Bavaria during the summer.
6. How long did it take to have a sense that the format was beginning to work?
PULS has been up and running less than a year, but already, our live-stream traffic has doubled in audience. Official figures are unavailable, but on average, our listeners stay tuned to our web streams for more than an hour, which to us, is a good indicator that we are offering our audience what they want.
7. What’s the biggest difference between programming a radio station for young people and more traditional audiences?
Young people are highly selective and scorn content that tries ‘too hard’ to market itself. So we try to stay as authentic as possible. Our presenters are true to themselves on air and address their audiences as they would their best friends. Our graphics unit is constantly developing a distinctive visual style by throwing out fun info-graphics and photo-memes to attract young people using social media.
8. What about resources?
We have six full-time employees and a bigger pool of freelancers that takes the team to a total of about 40 people,
9. Looking back, is there anything you might have done differently?
In hindsight, we could have taken more time to recruit young talent and craft a more focused launch. We kind of had to do everything at the same time – develop our music format and our broadcasting schedule, build a team, invent a logo and visual style, craft a new slogan and marketing message. Everything worked out well in the end, but the impact could have been even bigger had we not pushed ourselves to launch so early.
10. What advice would you give to other public service broadcasters looking to the future?
Recruit cool young talent and build a team with a single vision. Young journalists, graphic designers and PR experts have a broad choice of employers ranging from new media outlets (like Vice Media and Servus!) to new and exciting web services. PSM needs to pursue young talent aggressively to stay ahead of the competition. In turn, management can provide support by giving the team freedom to speak as the voice of their generation.