headphone silhouetA couple of stories I read this week got me thinking.

Steve Penk owner of Oldham’s Revolution sacked one of his jocks over a row over Armistice day silence. This got a front page splash in the local rag.

Meanwhile on air and on the revolution’s website all reference to the departed DJ disappears overnight.

Meanwhile while browsing through the blogs I subscribe to I spotted this one, not only is one of Absolute Radio’s jocks leaving we are getting advanced notice.

I know this is not exactly the fairest of comparisons one being sacked the other just moving on (or coming to end of contract or whatever it may be) but taking it wider what do you do when someone moves on?

In this connected age there are a number of interesting things to consider.

In the old days it was a lot simpler. I recall in my more youthful days back in the summer of 1991 listening to an entertaining young jock on MFM by the name of Mike Toolan who announced he was leaving for a new job in Leeds. Nice and simple, the listeners were not going to suddenly tune in one night to find him missing and in the pre web streaming days the station was not going to loose any listeners with fans following him to an out of area station. The jocks who followed in his place, the likes of Elliot Webb and Gregg Burns were even able to make reference to their predecessor. I’m afraid twenty years on the exact chronology of the MFM line up escapes me – see my footnotes, but it worthy of note of that the above jocks, and others, spent formative years in local radio in Wrexham before moving onto to bigger things.

So what do we need to consider these days?

The average listener (not just the anoraks and industry bods) can not only very easily get info on where the DJ has gone on the web, they may well be actively interacting with the DJ on social media and can find out before they even tune into the radio station.

Therefore as a radio station you need to ensure the station is as big as the individual personalities. Why should the listener stay with you and not follow the jock to their new gig? Just pretending they never existed is putting all your faith in the strength of the station brand at the risk of alienating listeners by treating them with contempt.

How to handle succession is an interesting one. Every so often you’ll read the press coverage mulling over what will happen when Moyles eventually leaves the Radio One breakfast show. How many of his fans will be lost to Radio One? How many of those who interact with Radio One via social media will be lost. Similar experiences can be drawn of when Chris Tarrant left Capital, and how will they handle Johnny Vaughan leaving?

The same applies on a smaller stage. To take my 90s jock example and bring it up to date. Now Toolan is a major attraction as breakfast host on Key103. My unchecked reckoning sees Mike, in his two stints on Key breakfast as the longest serving breakfast host in Piccadilly / Key 103’s history. When he moves on will Key have to deal with things differently than MFM did?

Question one is the obvious question of what to do on-air, however the further, more interesting questions are to do with social media.

One thing that Key are arguably doing right is channelling social media through station and “Key103 Breakfast” accounts. However it’s fun to see that Facebook recommends ‘Capital FM’s’ page as similar to Key 103.

Say in our example that Toolan follows in his Key breakfast predecessor, Steve Penk and buys his own radio station, assuming it’s local to Manchester he could be promoted right on Key 103’s prime outlet for social interaction with their listeners. No simple answer to this one, but food for thought.

I must point out I’ve absolutely no information about his career plans, I’m using Toolan here as nothing more than an hypothetical example to illustrate the point by way of bringing us full circle to were we started with Steve Penk.

I’m recalling the MFM line up from memory and may have my evening and late shows mixed up.
I wrote the first draft of this article last Friday morning on my phone while commuting. It’s a shame I never completed it as this would have made this even more timely as later that day Capital Radio announced Johnny Vaughan had just done is last show, where from what I’ve read he didn’t acknowledge on air he was leaving. It also shows it is a small world as we hear that Gregg Burns is depping in the slot in the meantime.

Photo Credits: “headphone silhouet” by Philippe Put
“Key 103 Facebook Page November 2011 Screen Capture” by Key 103/Facebook