This works: It's Grime Up North

This Works… is a series of short films from the BBC Academy that celebrates outstanding innovation and best practice across the industry. In this film we see how Radio 1 and 1Xtra are using visualisation as a key weapon in their fight for youth audiences, with the innovative radio documentary It's Grime Up North.

Producing an hour of televisual content on a radio budget – a unique challenge for Radio 1Xtra presenter Charlie Sloth and producer Sam White. Their mission was to bring new content to hard to reach youth audiences. The result: It’s Grime Up North, the first multiplatform documentary from BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. The documentary followed Charlie and Sam on a road trip ‘up North’, to find the hottest rap talent and to find out why rap talent in the UK is dominated by the London scene.

"It’s a lot to expect a young person today to make an appointment to sit down next to the wireless and listen to a radio documentary."– Sam White

Alongside the traditional radio broadcast on Radio 1 and 1Xtra, the documentary also had a visual layer which meant that audiences could watch the documentary online and on the red button. Sam explains, “It’s a lot to expect a young person today in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to make an appointment to sit down next to the wireless and listen to a radio documentary. That was the motivation behind making It’s Grime Up North.”

For a demanding audience used to having the majority of the content they consume visualised, enhancing the programme with graphics and video felt like a natural development. Joe Harland, head of visualisation at Radio 1, goes further: “The audience insight into what they wanted absolutely dictated how this idea came about.”

For Radio 1 and 1Xtra, visualisation has become a key weapon in their fight for youth audiences, but it’s not without its own challenges. “Young audiences are consuming radio, but for far shorter periods of time. It’s a much more competitive market to get time in their ears,” adds Joe.

Overall, the It’s Grime Up North experiment seems to have worked. Documentaries on 1Xtra attract around 30,000 listeners – so far, the documentary has attracted 162,000 YouTube viewers, and counting.

 

*With thanks to Skibadee and Tempo Agents