Louisa Compton on the challenges of editing Newsbeat

Louisa Compton

Radio must be seen to be heard, says Louisa Compton, the new editor of Newsbeat and 1Xtra news, who starts on Tuesday.

'Radio 1 strategy is really clear - it's listen, watch, share,' Compton tells Ariel.

Gone are the days when radio was simply a medium for listening - particularly when it comes to Newsbeat's target audience of people between 16 and 29 years old.

'If you ask [young people], "When did you last listen to the radio?", often the answer is going to be "Oh I don't know, I don't listen to the radio",' says Compton.

Instead radio content is primarily accessed online, she says, whether it's the Newsbeat website, YouTube or various other social media platforms.

'Hard leaving'

These are some of the challenges and opportunities that enticed Compton away from her role as daytime editor of Radio 5 live, where she'd been since 2005.

For the past five years she's forged a successful partnership with Victoria Derbyshire, launching new programmes and winning several awards - with two more Sony Award nominations this year.

'It's really hard leaving a station that you love; they have been some of the best years of my life,' she says, 'but Newsbeat felt like a really exciting challenge, with a couple of big things coming up for [it].'

Newsbeat is already a popular source of news for younger audiences, boasting a weekly reach of more than nine million. So Compton arrives at a programme in good health, something she keenly acknowledges.

But she's not short of ideas on where it should go next.

BBC Three collaboration

Compton envisions more of a 'programme feel' to Newsbeat, as well as aiming to capitalise on the somewhat controversial move of BBC Three to online. She wants greater collaboration with the channel and would like to see Newsbeat pitching short-form documentaries and producing special feature programmes within the next 18 months.

'The radio side of it is as important as everything else,' she says, 'but I've spent a lot of time with Radio 1's target audience [and] they live their life through their phone. That age group is visually led, we should absolutely be aspiring to make more of our content visual-led.

'The youth audience that I've met so far, they want news to come to them, they don't necessarily actively seek out news.'

One of her immediate priorities is to launch 'a radical new website, with a focus on entertainment stories and original journalism', which she hopes will be ready later this year.

'Trojan horse'

Entertainment news, the editor observes, is like the 'Trojan horse' that will draw people to Newsbeat, simply because people are interested in celebrities, music, film, and TV.

She adds: 'So that will always be a big driver and always something that we should care about, but original journalism has got to share an equal priority.'

Compton is the permanent replacement for Rod McKenzie, who left the programme earlier this year amid complaints of bullying. But Compton doesn't see the cloud under which he left being much of an issue.

'Everyone I speak to at the team seems to be really happy and in a good place, and they are a really talented and creative group of people,' she judges.

'My priority will be to win over their trust and to persuade them that I've got some good ideas, that we're going to work together as a team, and I want to listen to what they've got to say - and hopefully nurture some strong ideas and strong talent.'


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