Why I’m Giving Up On The Apprentice

This started out as a Tweet in support of a Stuart Heritage article in The Guardian today. But I ended up developing it a little on Twitter and Facebook, so I suppose it might be good to spell it out here.

Basically, I’m tired of The Apprentice. It has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure. Sure it’s “reality” TV – in as much as any TV format is reality (i.e. it’s not). But it can be fun, and if the “characters” are interesting you begin to root for them.

Certainly there’s lots of selective editing. That’s especially the case in the early parts of a series when you can’t get to know all the “candidates”. But usually a handful come through and you hope Lord Sugar doesn’t punish the for perceived slights along the way.

Over time things have changed. Once upon a time, the opening narration used to talk about the show having some of “Britain’s brightest business talents.” I didn’t buy that then, and in its BBC One year’s I certainly don’t buy it. The prize used to be a job at a company run by Lord Sugar with a £100,000 salary. In fact most of his businesses are pretty boring and he probably doesn’t need an overpaid wannabe on his books, annoying his loyal staff. So now candidates come with a business plan in which Lord Sugar will invest £250,000 (not all money you understand, but in value).

But this time around I’m falling out of love with The Apprentice. This series so far, I’ve not even had the patience to sit through a full episode without hitting fast-forward on my PVR remote (I record them in advance).

Frankly its embarrassing seeing people running around London in suits and heels trying to flog potatoes. Or a sub-team of FIVE people turning up to try to sell something to a single person. Isn’t there some kind of sales rule that your team should never outnumber the client’s?

In general, I think the format is tired and needs some tweaking if it wants to last another ten years. Going from 16 to 20 candidates just so that you can fire two people in a single week isn’t really enough.

– I wouldn’t have so many sales tasks – we’ve effectively had three in a row now. Not everything or everyone in a business is about sales. Show us something else – but not “make a TV ad” again. Because businesses employ ad agencies to make ads. A marketing director might only be called in to sign off on a creative decision, not act in and direct the ad themselves.

– In any case, the sales task generated aren’t real tests. The public will buy something because there are TV cameras around. Companies buy products because it doesn’t really cost them any money and they’re not going to actually have to stock their products. They like exposure on BBC One, and kind of hope that their company is correctly pronounced (“Carat” anyone?).

– The contestants know too much about how the game is played – avoid being project manager (“PM”) in the first weeks; play a low-ish key role in the team; gang up on whoever Sugar sees as weak in the boardroom regardless of what actually happened.

– They’re looking for too many “characters” when they’re casting the programme. Are any of them even over 30? You can start from the basis that anyone who’s going on the show is really in it to become famous. Weed them out to start with.

– The show’s premise makes no sense. Lord Sugar has the candidates’ business plans, but he’s not going to look too carefully at them until the penultimate week when he’ll suddenly find lots of flaws in them. Isn’t this the weeding out you do when people first apply for something? You don’t wait for Claude to find the lies on their CVs after taking ten weeks to get to that point.

– The bits of the candidates saying brave/stupid things at the start of the show are less realistic than those recorded pieces to camera of contestants at the head of the course on Total Wipeout.

Actually. The most interesting part of last night’s show was an understanding that having a fire-sale of all your stock to meet an arbitrary deadline is a terrible way of doing business. You’ve just killed the market. If I ever come across an Apprentice team flogging something in a market somewhere, I’m inclined to tell them that I like the product, but I’ll come back and buy it in three hours when they’re really desperate and have cut the prices. And yet in 9 out of ten weeks that’d have been irrelevant. Plus if the losing team had sold one more candle they’d have won and we’d have heard no more about it.

That’s an hour a week of my life back!

RAJAR Q3 2014

RAJAR Q4 2013

This post is brought to you in association with RALF from DP Software and Services. I’ve used RALF for the past 6 years, and it’s my favourite RAJAR analysis tool. So I’m delighted to be able to bring you this analysis. For more details on RALF, contact Deryck Pritchard via this link or phone 07545 425677.

Another RAJAR and I’m still here having a look! And as ever, these are my personal views.

Now it should be said that this is the RAJAR that covers the summer, and so we do see some falls over that period.

First things first though, and for the second quarter in a row, Radio 2 has taken a bit of a tumble, now only just peeking over 15m listeners. The hours decline is a little more serious, down 4% on the quarter. But this is probably good news for just about every other radio station in the land. But overall, radio fell a little across the land, down 1% in reach (and flat in hours) – the same for both BBC and commercial radio. And to be fair to the station, they’re up fractionally on the previous year in reach.

Radio 1 was down 2% in reach and up a fraction in hours, while Radio 3 saw its usual Proms improvement, gaining a little in reach but up 5% in hours. Radio 4 was fairly flat, but Five Live had a disappointing quarter down 7% in reach and 8% in hours. Although this quarter included a chunk of the World Cup, an ignominious England performance probably didn’t help.

Indeed Talksport didn’t fare a great deal better shedding 7% in reach, although just down 2% in hours.

Elsewhere Classic FM was also down in reach (-4%) but flat in hours.

Absolute Radio had a rather decent RAJAR, up 4% in reach and 17% in hours. While across the whole Absolute Radio Network they got over 4m for the first time since the heyday of Chris Evans on Virgin Radio back in 2000. And a 10% jump in hours is pretty decent too.

Digital stations have done rather well this quarter with various records being set. 6 Music has another all time highest reach and hours figures. It’s just 6,000 listeners short of 2 million. And with over 18m hours, that means their listeners are incredibly loyal listening for 9.2 hours a week – only a couple of hours off what Radio 4 achieves with its loyal audience.

Absolute 80s also achieved record figures (contributing to that Network number) – with over 1.4m listening each week, up 15% on the quarter. 1 Xtra had more listening hours than ever before – up 21%, and Heat had record figures.

And spare a thought for The Hits – soon to be reappear as “3” branded services locally. It was up 22% in reach and, er, 71% in hours (OK, its figures yo-yo a bit).

At breakfast, Nick Grimshaw was down a little on the quarter, but up on the year – 4% in reach and 10% in hours (Oh, and his audience’s average age has gone up fractionally to 33.7. As I’ve mentioned previously, this will be impossible to get down). Meanwhile Chris Evans had a shocker! OK – he was down, but given the scale of the audience that isn’t so terrible. Down 6% on the quarter, and 0.5% on the year in terms of reach.

In London, it’s not been a great quarter for Global. Capital drops below 2m again, although it puts on a few hours. Capital Xtra seems to be suffering badly in the same week that Ofcom rejected complaints about it straying from its format – down to just 323,000 (it used to get around half a million as Choice).

But the really bad news is Heart. It’s down to 1.4m reach and just under 8m hours – 21% and 31% falls on the previous quarter. It’s difficult to say what this is. They had some appalling RAJARs a couple of quarters or so back, but looked like they’d improved until this quarter.

And I can’t say it has been a stellar RAJAR for Bauer in London either. Kiss was down 3% in reach and 10% in hours on the quarter, and 9% in reach and 8% in hours on the year. Magic is modestly up on the quarter in reach and hours, but worryingly down 16% on the year in hours.

That all means that Capital gets sole rights to be number one in London in reach and hours.

Finally, I should say something about digital, because it’s now reached 37.8% of listening – a new high. DAB is up to 24.5% of listening, a new record, and internet listening (including phone apps) is up to 6.4%.

(Trying Datawrapper for charts for a change)

And yes – I’m missing my bubbles. They’ll follow soon(ish) – so you’ll have to put up without them for the time being.

For more RAJAR analysis, I’d recommend the following sites:

The official RAJAR site
including another nice infographic
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
The recently renamed Media.Info (née Media UK) for lots of numbers and charts
Paul Easton for analysis
Matt Deegan may have some analysis
Media Guardian for more news and analysis
One Golden Square for more Absolute Radio details
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
And there are always RAJAR Smilies
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending 14 September 2014, Adults 15+.

Disclaimer: These are my views alone and do not represent those of anyone else. Any errors (I hope there aren’t any!) are mine alone. Access to the RAJAR data is via RALF from DP Software as mentioned at the top of this post.

Election Fundraising

democrats

Last week Jon Stewart did a very good piece on the emails that the Democratic campaign has been sending out ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections.

(Theoretically you can see the video here. Except that in the UK, you can’t. It suggests you go to Comedy Central’s UK site, but that only has some extended interviews, and little in the way of the political pieces.)

Anyway, that’s all very well. What bearing does that have on a Brit like me, not living in the country and not having a vote?

Well for some unknown reason, I’ve ended up on the mailing list of the “Ready for Hillary” PAC. Now I’m sure that I could have taken myself off this list if I’d used the unsubscribe button. But I thought – why not get an idea of how this all works and what gets sent through? So I’ve been quietly ignoring and “archiving” their emails for months. I’ve ignored all the hullabaloo surrounding a not-very-good book. I don’t want to pay thousands of dollars to go to a meal with her. I don’t want to sign her birthday card. In general, I’m a disinterested observer.

But while we wait to see if Hillary actually runs (OK, wait to see when she runs), my email address must have been shared with others in the Democratic campaigning world. Because I’ve been getting an awful lot of emails about an election that I don’t get a vote in, and taking place in a country I don’t live in.

In this instance it’s the “House Majority” PAC or Political Action Committee. And in a relatively short time, they’ve been sending a lot of emails over a relatively short period of time. This is what Stewart was talking about.

Since 28 September, so about three weeks ago, when I think the emails the started, I’ve had close to 60 messages. That obviously means plenty more than one a day – more like two a day. Then last week it was:

Oct 13 – 2
Oct 14 – 4
Oct 15 – 6
Oct 16 – 7

I think there was some kind of cut-off around then for fundraising. But 7 emails on the same subject in one day?

And then there are the subject lines. Full of gloom and despair:

“I am worried Adam”
“good news and bad news…”
“it gets worse…”
“we weren’t expecting this”
“utterly crushed”
“even more of a shock”
“no easy way to say it”
“..not in a good place”
“our kitchen sink is next?”
“we are still grinding away”

Well I suppose that last one was vaguely encouraging. But otherwise, those are a selection of subjects (with punctuation intact) in chronological order. Given the overall nihilistic tone of this campaign, I don’t think I could summon up the will to “Chip in $25″ after that lot.

I know the Tories and Labour have all been hiring their American election campaign managers and strategists. Top tip: don’t go all gloom and doom on us.

Update: I’ve received another THREE emails between first writing this piece earlier this evening, and hitting publish just now. I’m also slightly concerned that 38 Degrees are using the “Did you see this email…” format that sees multiple emails being sent with the same subject line.

Betas

One of the exciting things you can do in our digital world is become a beta tester. Lots of companies and organisations let you test out their new upgrades ahead of rolling them out to the population. It’s quite good fun if you like that sort of thing. They let you see features ahead of the population at large, and you can feed back your thoughts about a product – perhaps sorting out bugs and small problems before the push the product out more widely.

But they usually come with some kind of health warning. Things might break. Badly. It’s your choice.

I’m in the Android Twitter beta programme. The Twitter application gets refreshed quite a lot as their development team test out new features and ways of presenting things.

Unfortunately, their current Android app build is broken. It only broke for me at some point last night, but looking around – on Twitter, of course – it seems that others found it to be broken early during the weekend.

As things stand I can’t update my timeline or send a Tweet. I do have alternatives – the website for starters, and Tweetdeck on desktop (the Chrome app lives permanently in a tab). But I’m surprised how long Twitter has taken to sort out the issue. The easiest thing to do would be to roll back to the last working version. But as I write at 4.30pm on a Monday, it’s getting on for a full 24 hours that it has been broken for me.

A workaround is an uninstall/reinstall. But that only works for a quick refresh. Then the problem comes back.

A more permanent solution would be to drop out of the Twitter beta programme. If I was heavily reliant on their app, I would. But I’ll stick with it for now.

Such are the perils of being a beta-tester. And no Twitter on my phone for a bit is probably quite healthy (as long as I don’t go to Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest etc).

Unbundling HBO

I find it really interesting what was announced today by HBO. Essentially from some indeterminate point next, HBO will sell a service direct via the web.

Now in a world where we have Netflix and iTunes, this might not seem like a big move, but the pay TV market – and the American one in particular – is an interesting beast. HBO is a premium cable channel. That is, you buy it via a cable or satellite operator. But those operators will only it sell it to you in addition to a basic cable package. In other words, even if you only want to watch HBO, you have to take a big package of channels to be able to subscribe.

The US isn’t alone in this. It’s the same way that Sky and Virgin Media retail their channels. You take some kind of basic package, and then you can add, say, Sky Sports on top of that. The difference is that “basic” cable packages in the US tend to be bigger. And the US equivalent of Sky Sports, ESPN, tends to be included in that basic package. ESPN, incidentally, gets a decent chunk of your cable bill – probably somewhere around $6 a month. They use that pay for their sports rights. But before you say, “Wow – $6 a month is pretty cheap,” you need to think about the economics. It’s only that “cheap” because every customer is effectively forced to pay for it. If you’re not interested in sport at all, you’re still paying $6 a month for sport. If it was an add-on, then fewer than the 100m+ households that take cable (or satellite) would pay it. The costs would remain the same, so the price would go up. That’s why in the UK we have to pay £24+ a month for our Sky Sports package.

There’s a lot of talk in the US about “cord cutters” – those who don’t want to have to buy a full $80 a month cable TV package. They still want to watch Game of Thrones at the same time as everyone else though. So it’s a question of how they get it.

Many channels of course provide what the industry terms Over the Top (OTT) services. But these services tend to be within the walled gardens of the cable TV operators. It’s obviously not in cable TV comapnies’ interests to let that programming just swim around free. Indeed, they don’t really like letting customers pay for it on their own. If we can all start just buying the shows we want, then why should we have to pay for dozens of channels we don’t want? That ecosystem does support a broad range of channels. But it’s arguably propping them up too. You’re paying perhaps only a few cents a month for a channel, but that makes it profitable.

So OTT services like HBO’s HBOGo work hand in glove with your cable supplier. You have to enter your subscriber details to get access to the service. Typical you’ll be limited to a small number of devices to prevent you giving out your details to all and sundry. Although that doesn’t stop lots of kids who moved away from home using their parents’ cable bills to get their HBO. The so-called “millennials” are particularly likely to do this.

Ironically there’s also the problem that it’s those same cable TV companies that are about the only place you can get internet connectivity in the US. It makes them effective monopoly suppliers, and even triple-play phone/broadband/TV packages are still vastly more expensive than in territories where true competition exists, such as the UK.

But time marches on, and cables are being cut, although probably not to the extent that is sometimes portrayed.

And viewers still want to watch Game of Thrones regardless of whether they have cable or not. A campaign called “Take My Money HBO” was even launched.

Well it sounds like they’re now going to do it. And this is where it gets interesting. HBO is an enormously profitable part of Time Warner. Once upon a time, Time Warner also owned a big cable operation, but Time Warner Cable was spun off in 2009. Today Time Warner’s big divisions are Turner (including basic cable TV channels such as TNT, TBS, and the CNN stable), Warner studios (the movie and TV production divisions), and HBO.

HBO itself is enormously successful. In the 2013 Annual Report, it saw revenues of nearly $5bn – a combination of subscription fees and content sales (sales of programmes to non-HBO owned channels, and home video revenues). That generates about $1.8bn of Operating Income. But the Turner division generates nearly $10bn revenues and an Operating Income of $3.5bn. So in other words, there’s a sizeable chunk of business still being done in the cable TV market.

That’s important because of the potential ramifications that annoying cable operators could have. Could we see consumers cutting the cord and just buying HBO?

I suspect that while some will, it won’t be all that many.

There’s a lot of good TV these days, but it’s spread thinly over many channels. I got very excited about the forthcoming new series of Twin Peaks the other day. But that will be on HBO’s premium cable rival, Showtime (owned by CBS). Customers who cut the cord and want to watch Homeland or Twin Peaks will need to subscribe to a similar service from Showtime – assuming they make one available.

Then there’s the cost.

Looking at what HBO tells us about their revenues, based on the 2013 Annual Report, it turns over $4.231bn in subscription revenues. Now the report doesn’t break that out by territory, and there are other versions of HBO around the world. But it does note that HBO Nordic and HBO Asia combined have subscription revenues of around $48m. I’ve plucked $50m additional revenues from other territories out of the air. But to be honest, even if I’m $30m out, it doesn’t make much odds to the maths.

We’re left with $4.133bn for US subscription revenues.

According to this Variety piece, SNL Kagan (a company who model these things closely) say that HBO has 29.2m customers.

So if you divide $4.133bn by 29.2m and then by 12 months, you get a cable bill for HBO of $11.80. And that sounds right. This piece from last year has a range of prices for HBO broadly between $15 and $20 a month. But there are lots of offers, bundles and other things. Plus there’s almost certainly a cable company mark-up. So $11.80 feels right.

Interestingly, an Atlantic piece from 2012 suggested it was $7. I suspect, even allowing for a couple of years of Game of Thrones, that this was low.

What this all says to me is that consumers can be looking at something more like $20 a month when the new service launches.

This will appease cable operators who can say, “Hey, HBO is cheaper with us.” And yes, it’s at a premium compared to what Netflix charges, or Amazon Prime’s implied cost (Amazon did a big $100m+ deal for older HBO programming recently), but it’s not out of the ballpark. There are 70m cable households not currently paying for HBO. And even if some of them only subscribe for limited periods – the ten weeks of Game of Thrones – then it could make sense for all concerned. Yet another reason why those Game of Thrones DVDs take such a long time to get released.

I’m not sure that there are many other companies who could do this. HBO revenues aren’t related to advertising, and cable companies can’t get too annoyed and pull HBO. If they did, then they’d simply lose customers. It’s certainly an interesting move!

This whole piece is probably a bit academic for a UK audience. But it’s interesting that Sky is effectively already doing this same thing with Now TV. £9.99 for a day’s sport is a rip-off compared to £24 a month. But £10.99 for the Ryder Cup weekend might be something of a bargain.

Twin Peaks – Again

Yesterday I was very excited to learn that Twin Peaks is coming back.

I even jumped through the rigmarole of getting a YouTube embed code from a mobile device (seriously – it should be easier).

What you also need to know, dear reader, is that I was an impoverished student when Twin Peaks first aired in the UK. Well less impoverished than I might have been, since I was on a placement year, and that meant I got a small wage.

But nonetheless, I bought myself an ex-rental VHS VCR (new was out of bounds), to plug into the small TV in my Edinburgh flat, solely to record the series onto cassette. I think the VCR cost me £99.

The first season of Twin Peaks began airing on BBC Two in the UK on 23 October – a Tuesday (it also got a Saturday repeat each week). A sultry Sherilyn Fenn was on the front cover of that week’s Radio Times. It had aired earlier in the year on ABC in the US, running between April and May.

Fortunately, the BBC began season 2 just after Christmas on 8 January 1991. That was actually pretty good for a US import at the time. Starting a series in the New Year meant that UK viewers would get it uninterrupted until the end of the run, by which time it would almost be in sync with the much more interrupted US scheduling model. And so it was that Americans saw the final episode on June 10, 1991, while UK viewers saw it just a week later on June 18.

Twin Peaks was also the show that introduced me to internet discussions. Now that was a pre-web internet. But I’d learnt about Usenet and was using that a fair bit. Yes – I was reading, and very occasionally contributing – to alt.tv.twin-peaks.

I had Angelo Badalamenti’s awesome soundtrack on cassette, and I bought the Penguin edition of the “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer.”

In the UK we had the strange version of the pilot episode that wrapped things up as a TV movie, but I could never find that. Then I bought season 1 of the series on DVD, only for them not to release season 2 for ages, until finally we got the Gold Box set back in 2007 (I picked up an American copy – concerned it would never make it across the Atlantic).

Now of course there’s the “Entire” Mystery boxset on BluRay to watch. I need to get hold of that asap…

TV Ignorance

There’s a lot of ignorance both on television and around it. That’s why I’ve never watched an episode of Gogglebox (and almost certainly never will). But that’s not what I’m talking about.

It seems to me that as I live more and more of my TV life through a combination of PVR and On Demand playback, I’m becoming much less aware of what’s coming up – even though I’d be really interested in the programmes. Now behaviour may be atypical – news and sport being the only two things I usually watch live – but I think that this is still true even as a generalisation.

Two recent cases in point.

On Sunday night there’s a new three-part Simon Reeve programme – Sacred Rivers. The first episode is about The Nile. I only learnt about the series a few minutes before I started writing this piece. If I hadn’t seen a preview on the BBC’s intranet, I honestly wouldn’t have known it was coming up, even though I’m certain it has been heavily trailed.

Then on Tuesday, the new Brian Cox series starts – Human Universe. I’m 99.9% certain that this has been massively trailed – but I’ve seen none of them. Again, it was an internal communication that alerted me to it (And I also saw Cox himself, alongside, I think, Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, being “mobbed” in the building yesterday).

To be clear, these are both programmes that I certainly want to watch.

Now to be fair, I think I’d have spotted both of these when I made my weekly PVR selections from The Guardian’s Guide supplement on Saturday. And because I read a daily newspaper, I’d have got a second opportunity on the day of broadcast. I might even have spotted the programmes in the EPG. And even if I’d missed the transmission, I might have found out about the series after the event and caught up on iPlayer.

But I do think that all broadcasters are going to have to carry out cleverer marketing to alert viewers to upcoming shows. It always amazes me, if you visit a big city in the US, the extent to which outdoor advertising is used to promote upcoming TV series. Indeed, if your show doesn’t get that advertising, producers often hold it against the network if the show is subsequently cancelled.

What I don’t want to see is more intrusive in-show advertising. But one thing strikes me as interesting – I think the BBC has less of an opportunity for PVR watchers like me than the population as a whole. Because while I might fast-forward through ad-breaks, the sponsorship break-bumpers and the invariable trails either side of those, means that Sky Atlantic is able to do a much better job of alerting me to The Knick during the season ending episode of Ray Donovan, than the BBC can during Doctor Who.

Retargeting – Mostly a Waste of Money

Even though I live and breathe the internet, I only recently learnt what “retargeter” or “retargeting” companies are, and what it actually is that they do.

You’ll know it even if you hadn’t heard the term either.

You know that thing you were thinking of buying? Well perhaps you looked at on Amazon/John Lewis/Asos/wherever. But you didn’t complete a purchase. You looked at the specifications, perhaps read a few customer reviews. But for whatever reason, you failed to buy it.

Well retargeting companies use the fact that you nearly bought something, or at least had a look at it, to sell display ads that appear on other pages of the internet that you subsequently visit. So when it appears that you’re being trailed around the internet by a camera or duvet you browsed for earlier? Well you are. They know you were interested, and you’re theoretically the easiest conversion to make. You just need to be pushed over the line, complete the purchase and everyone’s a winner.

In case you didn’t know, when you visit the average ad-funded page, a real-time auction is taking place based upon what the ad networks know about you, to deliver appropriate advertising. This all happens in milli-seconds as the page loads, and it explains why you seem to be followed around the web so much.

So much for the theory. In practice, it seems broken in many ways. In a world of big data, it’s remarkable how many companies don’t do it right.

On many occasions, something in the system completely and utterly breaks, and I’ll find a company with who I completed an actual purchase, still retargeting me with the same item that they’ve already shipped to me. This isn’t a one-off occurrence, it happens multiple times.

Waste of money.

Not only that, of all things in the world that you can sell me, very probably the last thing I want to buy right now, is the very thing I’ve just bought. Even amongst FMCG brands that I regularly purchase, an immediate need for additional items is unlikely. Seriously, you’re better off trying to flog me a Ferrari that I will never ever buy, than the door-hooks I actually just bought.

Then there is the fact that retargeting seems to take surprisingly little account of price. I was recently shopping for a £2.99 bike-light mount. This is a low value item, and basically I just wanted a retailer who stocked it. I didn’t really care where it came from. I find it amazing that it’s worth even a fraction of a penny to advertise that item to me. This isn’t a considered purchase – a laptop or a television, for example. This is a no questions asked item that I just need.

Waste of money.

Much worse than any of this is the fact that the retargeting companies don’t take account of the fact that most of us do our own price comparisons if the item is of any significant value. I research the model blender I want. I search a few retailers and check the prices. Then I buy from one of them. Except, the other retailers don’t know that I bought it from a competitor. So I’m followed around by blender ads for days afterwards.

Waste of money.

It gets really odd when a big company should know better. Real case in point. I searched YouTube for a new song by an artist I liked. The song appears on a new album, and I get a pre-roll for that album. Fine. That makes sense.

Then I go to Google Play and buy that very album. Back on YouTube, any video I watch is now deluged with pre-rolls for that very same album. Google knows I own it.

It’s a complete waste of money for the client. They should be trying to sell me anything else in the world apart from the album I just bought.

Perhaps in that instance there is some kind of Chinese wall between Google Play transactions and YouTube, but I’d bet that some kind of terms and conditions that I’ve accepted – without reading – allows that data to be shared.

Personally I think while I get a bit annoyed about it, and it feels a bit creepy that companies and ad networks know so much about me, it’s actually the client companies that are losing out. They are flushing their marketing budgets down the toilet in the belief that this is some of the best marketing cash they could spend.

No wonder Dominic Mills in an opinion piece at Mediatel earlier this week described retargeting as “a grubby business.”

I wrote this piece because I was seeing adverts for something that is currently in my Amazon basket on other websites.

I will be buying it.

I just wanted to get something else at the same time, and I don’t need either item for a couple of days. No rush.

In the meantime, some agency somewhere is wasting a client’s money spending cash advertising something directly to me that I’m in the process of buying. Brilliant.

Radio Update

There are various bits of radio news over the last few days that are worthy of note:

Capital has a new advert – Using all those artists who showed up for the Summertime Ball and did bits in front of a green screen. It’s a neat trick that they’ve been doing for a while – and very effective.

Radio 3 has a new controller – Radio Today was so excited, it Tweeted the news about 100 times (a server crashed or something). And why is that Radio 3 can stir up the most vitriolic things I’ll read anywhere on the internet with regards to radio? Passion for a music or a station is a wonderful thing, but…

BBC World Service English has a new Controller – Probably not at the top of anyone’s radio news digest, but World Service output has an audience that dwarfs all the other stations I’m mentioning here.

Sky Sports News Radio is closing down as a live service – I think this is a little sad, and I’m surprised that Sky never tried to make more of this service. It would have been great to see a Sky service on an application for the upcoming “D2″ second commercial national multiplex. If nothing else, a broadcast radio service might have acted as full-time marketing for their paid services, constantly advertising the breadth of coverage that they offer.

And Bauer Radio has made some significant changes – Gone is the Passion and Place portfolio, and we now get the more defined National and Place separation of stations.

Let’s get into that Bauer news a little more since:

1. I used to work there, and

2. This is the biggest change Bauer has made in recent years, and they’re the second largest commercial radio group in the UK.

The three national brands make sense. This January, Absolute Radio 90s will give way to the London version of Magic on Digital One, while at the same time the “northern” Magic brands that weren’t actually the same as the London Magic FM will rebrand. That makes things cleaner. The local brands will become adjuncts of their FM siblings, Key 2, Metro 2 etc. And we’ve known Magic was coming to national DAB at some point, ever since Neil Fox told Media Guardian sometime around last year’s Radio Festival.

Perhaps the “bravest” part of this move is giving up The Hits brand and making that a younger focused sibling of their local FM brands – Key 3, Metro 3 etc. The Hits is a much unloved brand in many ways. It’s sat there through thick and thin with barely any promotion. Of course it was once the only free to air music TV brand on Freeview, and it gained a lot of traction there. Bauer was an early advocate of Freeview and locked up a good amount of spectrum, at what one would imagine was an attractive price. The Hits TV channel morphed into 4Music back in 2008, but the radio station continued. And despite a relative paucity of carriage, it had some excellent RAJAR figures. Too good to be true even! But Bauer was smart in utilising its brands cross-platform.

I think Bauer is just going to have to bite the bullet with The Hits and it’ll lose audience before the “3s” regain it. What will be interesting is how the 3 stations are presented and marketed to the audience. There won’t be a great deal (any?) local programming on these services, but while the talk is about DAB, the actual driver will surely be internet listening which is very strong amongst the 15-25s that these stations are targeting.

In some ways this is sensible then – killing a generally unloved brand even though it has some significant listening. Let’s not forget that Bauer already has a very strong Kiss brand to compete with Capital, complete with sister brands Kisstory and Kiss Fresh both of which are getting expanded DAB coverage.

The short term loser is Absolute Radio 90s. But with D2 on the horizon, it’d be hoped that some existing as well as new services will make it onto that platform. We’re a month away from applications needing to be in for D2. I expect many in commercial radio to be very busy over the next few weeks!

Incidentally, aren’t we still awaiting Global adding a Heart sub-brand to the D1 mulitplex to replace Smooth? They got permission a while back.

Matt and James have both opined on the Bauer subject, and I’ve tried not to duplicate what they’ve already said. Note that, as always, these are my opinions, and don’t represent those of my employer – or my previous employer come to that.

Finally, I’ve carefully avoided getting into Radiocentre’s new piece of research on audience impressions of Radio 1 and Radio 2, upon which I believe that they are basing their response to the BBC Trust review of service licences. It’d be a bit of tightrope to walk. Read the summary at Media.info.

I am looking forward to seeing details of their other new research though, which is being released today at a big event in London.