BNR remains a stable factor in the Inspiring 40 list for marketing and business professionals. While their appreciation for BNR is growing every year, the inspiration value has decreased slightly on three of the four pillars. As the only radio channel in the ranking, BNR has transformed itself into a platform for business news and insight. Faced with the ever-increasing popularity of internet and video, head director Sjors Fröhlich says, ‘We make radio a bit more personal’.
experimentation – the dna of BNR
On 16 October 1995, the movement that would grow into one of the foundations of the FD Mediagroup started as Veronica news radio. On that day, Veronica started a new adventure which was unfortunately aired on an AM channel with a low audience reach. Eventually, monthly losses forced their stakeholder, Quote, to pull the plug. Following bankruptcy, the channel started up again in 1997 as TalkRadio, featuring presenters like Theo van Gogh and Paul Haenen. To ensure the channel would survive, Van Gogh traded his monthly salary of 12,000 guilders for shares.
In 1998, the channel kicked off a series of surprising developments. Under the new name ‘Business News’, the channel created 20-minute blocked-programming segments featuring business and financial news. In 2003, the FD Mediagroup took over the channel and acquired an FM frequency soon after. Michiel Bicker Caarten was head editor at the time. In his book, ‘Knerpend grind’, he shares his experiences from the beginning, ‘After the first news bulletin of 40 minutes, we still had 13 hours and 20 minutes left to fill. And we had nothing.’ The news bulletin was, therefore, broadcast in a loop and the Netherlands’ first commercial news channel was born.
renewal is part of BNR
During a conversation with Sjors Fröhlich, a stream of new initiatives and experiments is thrown on the table. ‘Renewal is part of BNR. Things fail. But we move on and try something different. We also don’t just do anything: it really has to be relevant.’ The organisation exudes curiosity and seeks a connection with its target audience. ‘All of our presenters are entrepreneurs: they make radio, but also lots of other stuff. entrepreneurship and renewal are closely related.’
FD Media is mostly known thanks to Het Financiele Dagblad but also from activities like Fondsnieuws and Company info, which are part of the same portfolio. The publisher took a chance in 2003 that other publishers did not. He embraced internet and radio. Fröhlich describes the entrepreneurial spirit of the organisation, led by eugenie van Wiechen (from LinkedIn) since 2014, ‘We keep searching for ways to make things possible. We found a little Spanish company of two entrepreneurs that – using the BNR app – were able to track the listening behaviour of our followers minute-by-minute. So we learned what was really relevant to our listeners. Today, they’re working at the office of FD Mediagroup in Amsterdam. When we catch on to something like this, we improve it and speed it up. Maybe listeners also think we are inspiring because we are constantly bringing them something new.’
attractive dynamics, but unknown direction?
BNR remains at 19th place on the Inspiring 40 list in 2016 for marketing and business professionals. But this position is under pressure. People who know the brand are primarily enthusiastic about BNR’s score on the relationship pillar. This is probably because of the interactive nature of their programming, the events at which listeners can participate and meet the presenters, and because of the BNR BusinessClub. The organisation’s inspiration value decreases at the vision, organisation, and product pillars. This stands out because the organisation and its contributors such as Roelof Hemmen, Petra Grijzen, Bas van Werven, and Bernhard Hammelburg all project energy and enthusiasm. Anyone who walks into the editorial office of BNR, located near the Amstel Station in Amsterdam, experiences this vibe. Everyone can take a look inside. The solutions pillar (in this case mostly the programs, the app, the site, and the events) can be explained more easily. Even with an innovative organisational personality behind the reporting, news remains news. And programmed specials at less popular hours reach a much smaller listening audience. However, there have been some notable experiments of late, such as Ruud de Wild’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ (on air until 1 October 2016). These smaller developments, which characterise the organisation, are less visible to the market. The decrease at the vision pillar can be explained by the fact that BNR’s mission is not overtly social. Much like when Michiel Bicker Caarten was the head editor, adaptation and movement remain the central criteria for growth and success. The organisation is on a mission to do things differently, but in a culturally relevant way. In the past, cutting-edge radio programming was largely about shaking up the market. BNR’s most important opponent was Radio 1. Now, however, BNR’s ‘resistance’ happens behind the scenes more than on the air. For listeners, site visitors, and app users, the ‘news’ is still central.
news as an inspiration source for organisations
The true vision of BNR is one that is not necessarily publicly accessible. The company seeks to make news ‘applicable’. Sjors Fröhlich suggests this is done through images, infographics, apps, and in-depth specials on the site. Fröhlich says, ‘We think much more broadly: radio is our base, but we are continuously occupied with what we do online, on social media and on the mobile platform. We need to be everywhere: mobile has become the platform for radio. And more often, this means ‘visual radio’. We’re looking into the possibility of adding our own content in video. You can listen to radio while you are doing something else, but on the site and in the app we want to add more concrete content to the news. Radio is traditionally a ‘slow business’, and we want to speed things up. We do this on other channels, powered by curiosity and optimism. Radio can be a good motive for relevance in other channels.’