Wednesday 25 April 2018

Amy Mulvaney: 2FM may pride itself on appealing to younger listeners - but it still has a long way to go

RTE 2FM was hailed as a "world class" station by boss Dan Healy last week, but it undeniably still has a long way to go when it comes to appealing to younger listeners, writes Amy Mulvaney

Jenny Greene and Nicky Byrne get ready to broadcast live from the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS. Pictures Brian McEvoy
Jenny Greene and Nicky Byrne get ready to broadcast live from the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS. Pictures Brian McEvoy
Dan Healy, head of RTE 2fm. Picture: Damien Eagers
The Breakfast Republic crew on 2FM - Keith Walsh, Jennifer Zamparelli, Bernard O'Shea. Audiences for earlymorning weekday shows such as ‘Breakfast Republic’ all increased.
Amy Mulvaney

Amy Mulvaney

It looks like 2fm has cracked the formula for success - at least according to station boss Dan Healy.

Last week, the station fared well in the latest JNLR results on Wednesday, with Breakfast Republic, The Nicky Byrne show and The Eoghan McDermott Show among segments that saw a notable increase in listeners.

After bringing in a roster of newer, younger names over the last two years, the station has rebranded itself from something your parents thought were cool into some genuinely good segments on some genuinely good shows.

But to claim its "world class" against the likes of digital radio stations SiriusXM, iHeartRadio or any of the top quality podcasts emerging from around the world, seems like a bit of a stretch.

The Breakfast Republic crew on 2FM - Keith Walsh, Jennifer Zamparelli, Bernard O'Shea. Audiences for earlymorning weekday shows such as ‘Breakfast Republic’ all increased.
The Breakfast Republic crew on 2FM - Keith Walsh, Jennifer Zamparelli, Bernard O'Shea. Audiences for earlymorning weekday shows such as ‘Breakfast Republic’ all increased.

The increase in listeners is an impressive during a time of struggle for many stations, including Today FM and RTE Radio 1, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.

I'm 22. I'm Irish. I'm a woman: I slot right in to 2FM's intended demographic, yet I have never once tuned in to the station outside of work - and nor have any of my friends. Love Island, First Dates and heading to try out a new hyped bar might be on our radar, but listening to the radio? We'd rather watch viral videos of cats on YouTube.

I acknowledge the loyal audience of listeners who follow Breakfast Republic and The Eoghan McDermott Show in particular on their commute, but I sit outside that bracket because I don't drive to work and a changing schedule which means I miss the opportunity to repeatedly tune in to the same channel or show.

Whenever I get the chance to listen to music, whether I'm in the car, at home or in the gym, I go straight to Spotify without a second thought. Turning on the radio never enters my mind, purely because tuning in to any station inevitably means countless ads and back-and-forth repetitive conversation by the hosts.

For €9.99 a month, I can listen to any song under the sun without ads or interruptions, and I can even listen offline. RTE, and other radio stations for that matter, just can't compete with that level of flexibility.

Along with the rise of music streaming services lies the growing popularity of podcasts, offering the perfect alternative when music doesn't fit the bill. No matter what topic you're interested in, there's guaranteed to be a podcast about it.

Whether it's sport, comedy, motivation, beauty, crime - you name it, there's a podcast on it waiting to be heard. Aside from sponsored episodes, advertising during podcasts is pretty much at a minimum, and when you hit play you know exactly what you're going to get.

Podcasts also offer a luxury that radio just can't match: you can play them at any time. Yes, radio offers the option to 'listen back', but realistically the interest in playing a segment back diminishes pretty quickly due to the majority of radio shows being focused on current topics. Podcasts are created to fit in with the fast-paced nature of today's world, allowing you to listen to as many podcasts as you like whenever it suits you, whereas radio needs you to match its schedule.

Dan Healy, head of RTE 2fm. Picture: Damien Eagers
Dan Healy, head of RTE 2fm. Picture: Damien Eagers

Speaking about the emergence of the JNLR figures, station boss Mr Healy said: "Three years ago, we started a programme strategy to appeal to younger listeners and this is now paying off as most of 2fm’s growth has come from listeners under 35 years of age."

Based on my personal knowledge of anyone under the age of 35 and the constantly evolving media landscape, that growth originates from a relatively small group who still listen to the radio in the already minor demographic of young people.

The revamp has undoubtedly been a huge success for the station and its presenters (Breakfast Republic alone increased by 27,000 listeners since this time last year), the station will need to continue adapting to its intended audience's 24/7, on-demand lifestyle in order to survive.

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