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“This is a big step in consumer-focused radio”

Listening to the radio and choosing the decade you want the music to come from. Since 20 August, this is possible on Joe's two digital channels. On one of them you can hear only 70s hits, while the other gives you the best of the 80s. Only England has shown us the way in this. Time to talk to Sven Ornelis, presenter at Joe, and Steve Van den Audenaerde, Manager Business Development Radio. 

Why do we introduce these digital channels?

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Sven Ornelis: “We are always looking for new developments. Even though I believe radio will always continue to exist, I do think we should not be blind to the possibilities new technologies offer. And they already experimented with these digital channels abroad. After all, Absolute Radio in England is doing something similar. They broadcast a morning show on various channels simultaneously, but they choose a different system than we do. They use equally long pieces of music on each channel, which has some disadvantages. You will always get abrupt endings when switching to the presenter's voice. And you can never announce or conclude a record. We wanted to do better and have developed something in which we can retain all types of content blocks: news, weather, traffic, etc.”

Steve Van den Audenaerde: “With these channels, Joe responds to the fact that people want to listen to more of their own music. People in their fifties will want to hear music from the 80s, while someone a bit older will prefer 70s music. These digital channels allow people to choose what they want to listen to. This also means that they will stay with us longer, because they can switch between the two digital channels and the mother station as they please. A big advantage compared with playlists on Spotify, for example, is that we have the professional knowledge about compiling a playlist. The flow is right, the songs blend together naturally and there is structure. In addition, we continue to cater for people who wish to keep listening linearly, because a morning show is conversational material, something you can talk about once you've arrived at work.” 

How does broadcasting on two extra digital channels work technically?

Sven: “The announcements for the 70s and 80s channels have been recorded in advance. But we use them in such a way that we can retain the feel of being live. As emphasis is placed on current affairs, and all of that is live. In addition, we now also have an extra editor in our team for the morning show. He puts all the content blocks in the right places. As soon as we have been recording for 20 seconds, he can move it. This means there is a slight lag, but it is negligible. Digital radio has that anyway, so people are already used to it.” 

What role does DAB+ play in this story?

Steve: “DAB+ offers a better sound quality and a bigger range of channels. So thanks to DAB+ we will also welcome new listeners. In general, people who have such a device in their car are exactly the audience that we wish to reach with Joe. While discovering their device, many of them will also discover Joe's online channels, because we have a known brand that immediately attracts attention. In the future, the number of DAB+ users will increase as well. Currently, it is already present in 25% of new cars, but in a few years' time all cars will have it.” 

Sven, what are the responses you receive to the new online channels?

Sven: “We have already received many positive responses. Not only from listeners but also from the public service broadcaster and other channels. After all, we are taking a big step within consumer-focused radio. I think these channels are very interesting for morning shows. During the day, it is fine to create some sort of wallpaper music. But research shows that listeners have the urge to obtain information during the morning and want to be taken along into the rhythm of the day. We all get up together, we all get stuck in traffic together - that's the feeling evoked. In that sense we have a big advantage over more mechanical radio.”

What possibilities do these channels offer to advertisers?

Steve: “We are certainly open to their creative ideas. Take for example a TV programme such as ‘What a year’, that has been running on VTM since September. That also ties in with the decades of the music played on Joe. Imagine that an advertiser wants to set up something around those time periods and wishes to extend that to radio, then Joe's mother station and digital channels are the ideal opportunity.”

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