When Starr FM was barely 3 months old I had a discussion with a friend over their prospects and potential impact. I said to him, ‘dude shall we have this conversation in about 8 or 12 months’ time?’ I felt it was way too early to even consider a review how much more do a comparison with 10 and 20 year old stations. As a matter of fact even one year may be inadequate, but since Ghanaians love celebrating milestones, I figure one year gives a good reason to do an ‘assessment’ of Starr FM.
First of all the fact that we remember that an FM station was established a year ago means Starr FM has done well. Yes please. That counts for something. Mind you there are about 40 stations broadcasting in Accra and you and I know there are some whose names we have never known. But then TOMA (top of mind awareness) is not enough in assessing a station in the sort of competitive environment we find ourselves on the Accra airwaves.
Let’s start from the morning!
Question: Have I been compelled to move from my preferred English station over the past year? Answer: No. I remember when I began paying attention to Radio a long time ago, Kafui Dey was one of the names that stuck out. However I don’t feel he is cut for today’s morning radio. I wouldn’t trade KD for Bernard Avle, Alhassan Suhuyini or Kojo Yankson. No disrespect but chale hosting a morning show is so not the same as emceeing an event – an activity Kafui is very comfortable with. Kafui sounds rigid and makes what should otherwise be a conversation sound like anything but it.
Bola Ray and his managers were very bold in picking Naa Ashorkor to do the mid-morning show. To be honest i was expecting them to have used Naa Klordey who plays on Starr- sister station Ultimate Radio in Kumasi. Luckily for her she didn’t have to contend with Jessica of CITI FM who had moved to the late afternoon but them she was thrown to the wolves nonetheless with Queen of the Mid-morning, Doreen, still on top of her game like started 18 or so years ago. Naa was horrendous from the start. She was new to Radio so really that was not much of a surprise. She may have grown over time but I still won’t pick her above Doreen or OK from CITI FM. I also am yet to find her signature on the show. Perhaps a good way to own it will be for her to choose and play her own songs like her contemporaries do. To be fair I feel she is quite ordinary and she reminds me a lot of some juniors I witness try their luck whiles I was a senior at Radio Univers. If Naa Ashorkor wants Accra to be as faithful to her as it has been to Doreen, then she must own the show, create her own identity, and get into the flow of things. Some people are natural, others must learn. She is not a natural (I think) with this so she must learn, and fast too.
Late Afternoon & the Drive!
Starr FM’s biggest star was and is their Managing Director (or is it CEO). Bola Ray had held down the Drive Time on Joy FM for years and it didn’t require a connoisseur nor soothsayer to know that the idea of placing the ever busy Bola Ray on air was to seek to draw some of the following he had at Joy FM to Starr FM. He may have succeeded somewhat but not enough to make nonsense of Drive Time on Joy.
In Lexis Bill, a worthy replacement had been gotten and I think that is pretty obvious. What I love about Starr FM’s Drive is the Starr Chat (I will come to the strategy of using celebrities to draw audiences later).
The Starr Chat has so far succeeded in bringing through folks that listeners love to hear and with stories they may not have known much about, and if at all, not much of. But is it the city’s preferred drive time show? I’m not sure it is. Adding Anita Erskine, whose forte is principally TV hasn’t added that oomph to the show methinks.
Drop Off with Jon Germain
To be honest I think the shows after the 6pm news bulletins usually attract the least ears. Some stations make it an extension of the Drive and others just squeeze in music or do things that rarely have immediate recall. I have listened to the ‘famous’ confession segment of Jon’s show a few times and I was frankly not as awed as people were. It is apparently that segment that an otherwise credible research agency tracked and Starr FM announced that they were the most listened to station in Accra. But since the after 6pm news slot is a free for all zone, this is all I have to say. It’s nice though that Jon Germain has done it for a year. Usually these celebs start and go AWOL after a few weeks.
I trust the news team at Joy FM than any other. I don’t think anyone was expecting Starr News to be the numero uno in in a year. But at the same time I personally think they haven’t done enough to sway a lot of us from our preferred news stations to theirs. I know and I have worked with a lot of the guys in that team but they still haven’t been able to kick ass just yet. News credibility has had a lot of things going into the mix and as of now, competition has a lot ahead of the Starr News team. If I asked which station you last tuned to for your news what would you say? The team needs to do a lot more. I have worked in at least three newsrooms and I know what I am talking about. To stay relevant and to be trusted by the news-listening public you need to give them reason to. And oh, that little fracas between Patrick Ayumu and Mary-ann Acolatse will count as one of the lowest ebbs in the first year of Starr FM. That’s all I can say on this matter.
Weekend on Starr
I frankly had a problem with running a 4 or 5 hour show with 4 DJs – very strong and capable DJs. I mean DJ Black alone does that all the time. I felt it was more of an attempt to find ‘jobs’ for all four rather than to enhance the show. To be honest, I am struggling to appreciate the concept.
I used to enjoy Nii Ayi whenever he stood in for Black at Joy. He always held it down, and yes, I noticed Nii Ayi loves to play the songs he loves, but why not? Then along the line Bianca joined. Did she add anything to the show? Yes. She added a female voice. But did that voice make me choose Club Arena over both of DJ Black’s shows? Sorry, it did not.
Radio stations behave very much like telcos – one gets a brilliant idea and before you say Jack, the others copy. Sometimes they copy with some elements of innovation and at times, the obly difference is the name. Same with radio stations. There are versions of Morning Zoo on Joy FM and CITI FM. Interesting, the guy who does it on CITI FM used to do it on JoyFM (Rammie still there?), and one of the guys at Starr FM (Nii Ayi) used to also do it on Joy FM. Yes some variety in the Saturday laughter space is good. But then a certain Ruddy Kwakye and Ato Kwamena Dadzie showed up at Joy FM again.
Starrfmonline.com – Your most trusted news hub
Not sure I agree with the tagline but Starr FM’s online portal is ranked as the 37th most visited in Ghana by www.alexa.com. That is a huge achievement especially when one considers the fact that they have been online in a relatively short period. Myjoyonline is 8th, and citifmonline is at 16 though (please bear in mind I keep referring to these two because they seem to be the ‘official competition’ for Starr FM). I have had issues with the website. The one and only time I made a public comment I had some folks from Starr FM jump on my neck as if I was some ‘enemy’ out to destroy. It was about a story I felt they misrepresented Stonebwoy on.
The news portal seem to suffer some identity crisis when they started. It seemed it was torn between being a gossip cum sensational site (ostensibly to boost visitors) and being a serious source of news. The strategy may have worked culminating in their rather high position of 37th. Creating a serious identity and sticking with it helps. Some of the many issues other websites suffer from is their bad writing styles, shallow content on news and very poor editing. Sadly starrfmonline is caught in this web too. If they manage to extricate themselves from this and focused on good, properly written content and an understanding that online can be as profitable as mainstream radio, they will become an important news source. For now, I am afraid it does not count among my top 5 news websites in Ghana.
It’s a wrap!
Starr FM chose to start the morning show an hour earlier than competition – not sure it has worked. Naa Ashorkor started off at 9am instead of the traditional 10am – but when Doreen comes she takes her audience away. May be it will take a bit more time for that to work.
It is impressive also that virtually all the big names that moved to Starr FM have remained there a year on. We know big names often have a lot of energy at the start of adventures like this and then it tapers off quicker than lightening. So that is worth commending Bola Ray for.
The strategy of using celebrities to attract listeners is not new in the industry. What I have always wondered is whether it works. To start with I think that fact that someone is an actor does not mean he will be great on radio; fact that someone is cool on TV does not mean she will be awesome on radio. TV is also not an upgrade for radio so fact that someone has done TV does not mean he will find the perceived less grade radio easy. End of the day is the talent and hard work and willingness to learn that matter.
One of the other means that stations want to penetrate and consolidate themselves in the market with is events. The folks at Starr FM are very good event organizers too. We have had a few pretty cool events from them and I am sure more of these will win them a fair share of the small Accra pie currently being scrambled by too many people.
So Yaaaaaayi Starr FM is 1; but are they en route to #1? No they are not. There is a lot of work to be done now. But I know Bola Ray and I know he will push the team to win. He also knows that to thrive in this market and to count, the leader must be ruthless but with a smile on his face. Bola Ray does not lack smiles and I genuinely wish him well.
Oh before I go, I mist say I find the “Simply the best” tagline of Starr FM to be “someway” – for the want of a better word. Reminds me of how secondary schools that do not often rank on any table forcefully call themselves “Great” this and “Great” that. Find some other tagline. If you are the best, the world will see it and tell you. Don’t tell us. I know Kwaku Sakyi-Addo once said if you have your horn, you blow it. In this case you don’t quite have the horn yet so don’t blow it – ‘it’ is what is not there!