Njoy The Silence. Why Cornwall’s DAB Station Was Doomed

It’s always tragic when someone’s pet project fails, especially when the owner has ‘shed blood and tears’ to deliver it. Today, the owner of Njoy radio has announced the closure of the Cornwall DAB service. I understand that their representative was working hard in December offering 2017 annual advertising packages to potential clients, so the DAB service’s closure must be a blow, particularly at this bleak time of year. Was I surprised? Not really.

It can’t have been easy trying to encourage advertisers to sign up when Cornwall’s business community has grown up with RAJAR. Yes, Njoy’s DAB-only status could present an additional hurdle but I don’t think that lack of audience data dealt the fatal blow. There’s always a deal to be done. Some clients will take a punt on an attractive offer for emotive reasons and emotion can be a big part of your sell in a geographically peripheral, proud community like Cornwall. With that in mind, Njoy was wise to incorporate the St Piran flag in their logo, harnessing a strong sense of Cornish ‘nationality’. That’s where their vision appeared to end. There was the occasional sweeper and the website banged on about being Cornish but in reality, Njoy sounded like a generic ‘lights on, nobody is home’ jukebox. There was nothing else Cornish about it. Njoy wouldn’t know whether the cream goes on the scone before the jam. Pirate, Beeb Cornwall and Coast would know! (Jam first in Cornwall!)

Njoy’s ‘ordinary’ presentation standards and haphazard playlists meant that it didn’t stand a chance against the strong, professional and focused Pirate FM. That station oozes Cornishness like a sweaty pasty in a paper bag on your lap. You won’t find a better example of outside-the-box thinking in sourcing unique local talent than their headhunting of Johnny Cowling, the Cornish comedian who co-hosts drive. All Pirate presenters are doing a ‘proper job’. Pirate’s news service beats the lazy, formulaic BBC local in terms of breaking news, story count and multimedia innovation too. Pirate bags a respectable 32% reach because of all this. Their 10.4% share should climb now they appear to be reducing the clutter of sponsor credits and promos in their exceptionally busy adbreaks.
Heart’s 22% reach and 7% share is also reasonable, whether us radio types choose to admit it or not.
And, to be fair, BBC Cornwall does deliver great figures with 29% reach and a 15% share. Coast is also an exceptionally strong community station in West Cornwall.
So Njoy clearly had its work cut out. Whilst other Cornish services major on local information, Njoy decided not to offer any news. In a weird way, they could have made this a selling point in 2016 (!), but no. So what was their programming proposition? How did they embody their “Proud to be Cornish” strapline?

As I listened to Njoy’s breakfast, morning and lunchtime sequences I often heard non-stop music. That’s fine if it’s a well-structured and targeted playlist with light and shade and good transitions with polished imaging within that flow, like Jack FM . Njoy just sounded like an emergency tape, with listeners probably wondering whether the DJ had gone for a very long poo. Every day. You’d often hear a succession of current tracks “Cornwall’s freshest mix” sloppily auto-segue into a 1970s song and then we’d be back in charts. Random. I have no idea what you’d call their format. It wasn’t CHR. It wasn’t AC. It was an odd hybrid. Let’s call it CAC.

I have actually become concerned that programmers of some of these newly launched stations I’ve heard actually believe the liners on Jack-style stations. They don’t REALLY play what they want, you know.

In July, I tried to identify Njoy’s advantage from a listener perspective. My note read, “Low commercial loading” which didn’t bode well.

As Cornwall’s third Duchy-wide station, Njoy should have searched for and identified a market gap and then super-served that group. As a listener, I was never told what Njoy stood for, what they did and how they were different. And the programming wasn’t giving any clues.

This won’t be the last new DAB station failure. I’d hate the digital platform to shoulder all of the blame. There’s others making the same mistake of getting excited by a countywide footprint and trying to replicate long-established ILR but badly and with no budget. You might as well just burn tenners in a skip in your car park. Whether you’re launching a station on medium wave or a MUX the same radio rules apply! With even more choice and competition every station needs to offer listeners something they cannot get anywhere else. Whether that’s local information, personality or a musical format depends on your market and what it is missing from it.

Sadly, I doubt that Cornwall will be missing Njoy.

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