Wednesday Feb 19

When managers Attack 2 or Why The Schedule Lineup Keeps Changing

Eve Radio News

I was up pretty early this morning so all my usual daddy related chores are out of the way and I've got a little time to followup on my previous post about When Managers Attack.

Like before, I get asked all sorts of questions about various things I can't be bothered to explain individually. Since some of you like to be reassured about changes which make you uncomfortable (you lot can be so girly at times) hows about I explain our current scheduling direction and perhaps give you a comforting cuddle to soothe away the tremors?

Anyway, it's all pretty simple.

In the past we've generally taken on DJ's regardless of what they prefered to play and let them fill any old hole in the schedule. We did this because we wanted live DJ's on air instead of loads and loads of jukebox.

Occasionally we would put some though into the process and try and position the DJ's who had a flair for playing our favoured genres in slots where it made most sense. As an example, putting dance DJ's in periods where we appealed mostly to those listeners who got a boner while tuned in. This was most evident by positioning mix DJ's and those heavy on dance/electronica in the european prime time and evening slots instead of having them spin their tunes on a monday afternoon where most folks are still hungover or hard at work in the office and can't really get into a string of songs running at 72843646 bpm.

Other than that though we wasn't too bright. In fact we were positively dumb at times. Dumb and lazy.

The US side of our listener base bore the brunt of this carelessness and had to endure a mish mash of random genres and poorly thought out DJ placement. This "oversight" went on for a long time - years in fact - mostly because the majority of the policy makers were EU based and prefered to sleep at night instead of tune into ER through the quieter hours to see what was going on.

Sure, occasionally we'd pull an all nighter and discover something was very, very wrong on the US side of the schedule and we'd make appropriate changes. However, until very recently this was only dealt with on a slot by slot basis. What we had to do was completely rethink our music deployment strategy and do away with established conventions. By established I meant do away with the chaotic free for all on the US side.

So a few months ago I sat down and published that listener poll to help confirm some suspicions and clarify a few points I was a bit fuzzy on. Good news was it did the job very well. On the negative side, it also highlighted a lot of problems with our US scheduling which meant a lot of work was needed in order to correct it. Looking at the raw data and then at the lineup in US periods it became very clear that there was no quick and simple patch to correct the problem, the entire US side of the schedule needed to be completely overhauled.

Change is always hard for some people to accept - especially long term listeners who have gotten used to the chaos that is Eve Radio. I knew that by making grand sweeping changes it would likely irk some folks so instead of doing it all at once, I decided it was better to start on a smaller scale and eventually expand the changes globally.

First job began with planning the new look weekend lineup on Eve Radio. This I am actually rather proud of.

Weekends were already our strongest days as we had an abundance of good DJ's filling those slots. However, it wasn't optimal (by my reckoning) and a few placement changes could strengthen things further and turn weekends from being good into absolutely fantastic. Fortunately, most of the changes were easy to do as there was already some movement going on which opened up some new oppurtunities. A move here, a replacement there, a quick brush up or two and bingo, we have todays current lineup. Go have a look at it if you are unfamiliar. It's a great line up of established DJ talent and currently bring a nice ballance of dance/electronica and rock/metal to the weekends. It also has two massive event days thrown in for good measure, saturdays Lemmings Leap with Sam and the Eve Radio Mega Lottery with Blacklight. It also has the reintroduction of DJ Xman on sunday nights which is never a bad thing. I dare you to tell me that's not awesome.

Anyway, after nearly a month of this new lineup I can quite happily say it's worked wonders for our weekend ratings. Peak periods have upwards of 500 people tuned into Eve Radio at any one time which we havent seen on the network since our golden period in 2005. Of course I was back on air in those days and tuesdays were the biggest night of the week - but I digress. The results speak for themselves and everyone on the schedule over the weekend has seen a large upturn in their numbers so obviously we're doing something right.

Moving on, there were also some changes to the weekday EU lineup which was snuck in at roughly the same time. Although these changes were less obvious due to the weekends taking center stage, the result has been very good as well. Peak numbers on the EU side are up a lot and the gap between weekday primes and weekend primes isn't all that huge even considering the massive gains the weekends have made.

The next trick was to replicate that for weekday US periods. Not quite as easy as I mentioned before.

For that to work we had to impliment the complete overhaul of the schedule awe had begun to plan in early December. This involved looking at the schedule in completeness, comparing the poll results with our own long term data and then looking at the placement of DJ's and their primary broadcast genres.

What we came up with pretty much divided the EU and US side of the schedule between various musical genres. On the EU side, we had a bias towards dance/electronica and on the US side the bias was more on rock/metal. Confusingly, the second most sought after music on the EU side was rock/metal and likewise on the US side, dance/electronica. This meant we had to represent both major genres almost equally on either side of the atlantic without it being a confusing mish mash of random DJ placement. We basically didnt want to see listeners going from a heavy rock show smack into a hard house set without any kind of bridge to ease them in.

The only way we could do this was by divding the schedule up into set days where one genre dominated moreso than the other without it being completely onesided.

As you can see by this rubbish graphic (Yes, I used paint cos I wanted to quickly illustrate my thinking to staff and I had a baby sitting on me) each day during the traditional peak periods for the key audience (Evenings GMT for EU, early morning GMT for US) are dominated by the primary genre but are still represneted on certain days by the secondary. This rationale diverges slightly on the weekends where EU daytimes are generally fairly rock heavy which meets the needs of the weekend EU audience rather than fill it with the schedules daytime easy listening periods. Listeners are usually playing games and chilling out on the weekends and we all pretty much think a few hours of good solid rock is just what you need to keep the blood pumping before heading out for the evening or staying in to get blasted by our weekend dance DJ's.

Overall it is the most optimal solution of genre coverage and DJ placement we have at present. The last piece of the puzzle is making sure our existing DJ's can slot into this lineup without any major problems. As of 0700 gmt this morning, that has been achieved.

While the schedule may still look pretty barren at times we now have a very clear roadmap as to what we want to have in place and can look forward now to optimal applications filtering through the recruitment process. We will no longer have to go through the process of interviewing folks and then trying to get them to find a place on the schedule that works for them and the listeners as it's all documented on the Recruitment Section of the website on a slot by slot basis. We (and prospective applicants) now know exactly where they can go and what they will be doing when they sign up rather than the chaotic process we had in place before. All this is possible thanks to standardisation of the slots.

Of course, some folks won't like what we've done here. A number of you will probably have fond memories of genre chaos from years past and may think this is another step closer to us becoming more like traditional commercial radio. This really isn't the case although the reality of the situation is if we are to survive we need to take certain lessons from established radio media to allow us to grow and flourish once again. We have plans, afterall, and these plans involve growing our userbase and bringing in more revenue to allow us to do cool things in the future. We can't do this by sitting on our hands and leaving things as they are. We need to move forward and the first step in this process is making these changes.

Overall, it's good for us, good for you and good for the future.

We hope the majority of you will agree.



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