Radio: the emergency service. But what about your website?

New figures from Stray FM shows your online infrastructure gets a battering, too.

By James Cridland
Posted 20 January 2016, 1.00am est

We all know it: when there's a local emergency, that's where radio comes into its own, as new listeners tune in to your station in their droves.

However, a station in Harrogate knows that it's not just the radio station that gets increased figures - but everything they do online.

During some serious floods across the Yorkshire Dales over Christmas, Stray FM saw online listening had tripled; social media reach had quadrupled; and they had over fifteen times more traffic to their website.

Stray FM, part of UKRD, uses its own CMS to run its website. It's run by UKRD Labs, an internal division of the radio company.

Managing radio station websites demands a skill that many find unusual: that of coping with significant traffic bursts. Typically this happens in unusual weather events: unusual snow, high winds, bush fires or (in this case) floods.

A few years ago, radio stations used to flip over to a simple, text-only version of their website: but with advances like Amazon's CloudFront or the independent CloudFlare CDN system, radio stations can continue to serve their websites without interruption. And, of course, increased use of social media means relying less on stations' own websites and more on services like Twitter and Google.

Streaming, too, comes under pressure. Many radio stations run servers with relatively low maximum concurrent listeners, adequate for their normal listening but regularly reaching their maximum under stress. Unlike a transmitter, online radio typically sets a maximum number of listeners (though there are increasingly robust ways to overcome this: not least a new streaming technology called HLS).

It all goes to show that it's important to look beyond the transmitter mindset: and ensure that everything a radio station does is relevant and updated - not just the stuff on-air.

Press Release

Over 1,000% web traffic increase due to flooding over Christmas

The Christmas period saw some devastating floods across the whole of the North, including the Stray FM TSA, with Ilkley, Otley, Skipton, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge among the towns heavily affected.

As the floodwaters started to rise more and more, people turned to Stray FM on air and online at for all the latest information.

On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the website saw an amazing 1,555% increase in page views, as people wanted to find the local news, travel information and weather forecast. Online listening tripled and social media reach quadrupled.

Sarah Barry, Managing Director of Stray FM, said: "When a crisis on this scale happens, the impact can be huge and devastating, and this is when true local radio comes into its own.

"People turn to us first, because we can be there, in every sense, when our local community needs us, whether this be for information or practical help.

"The ability we now have to reach thousands of people via the website and social media enables us to give more accurate information, more quickly - often within minutes. "It also allows our audience to engage with us and others affected, with the use of photos, comments and updates specific to their own experiences. The sharing of information helps to bring the whole community together, which is so important in these circumstances, not just as it's happening, but also in the aftermath as the clean-up gets under way.

"It goes without saying that Stray FM will continue to support those affected in whatever way possible."

More information

Greatest Hits Radio Harrogate & The Yorkshire Dales
Harrogate, Ripon, Knaresborough, Boroughbridge, Ilkley, Otley, Skipton, Wetherby and the Yorkshire Dales.
James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.


5 years, 3 months ago

Back in the days when we had a major snow fall in the first winter after the launch of Stray FM we changed the whole programme schedule. It later turned out that we were the only local station in the area broadcasting 'live' from our own studios. BBC local radio was coming from Manchester and the neighbouring commercial stations were not 'live'.

This was back in the mid-1990s when the only mobile phone we had seen was wheeled in on a cart by our transmitter providers.

So on that night we were receiving calls from people wondering where their husband or wife had got to and we were putting out their messages over the air. We had people in their cars, which were stuck in the snow, listening to Stray on 97.2 FM and we even had someone getting off the 36 bus in Harewood and thanking us for the message. We also had people phoning in to tell us the best routes, which were 'passable' from Leeds and Bradford to Harrogate and that avoided Pool Bank or Harewood Hill.

It was quite a night and I remember leaving the car in the Stray FM car park and walking home across the snow-ladden Stray early the next morning.

We later heard that we had gained many new listeners and it was later shown in our research figures.

Well done Stray FM and it shows that 'real' local radio lives on today.

5 years, 3 months ago

Good point, and I've heard many a tale of websites falling over, in particular parents searching for school closure information. Aiir's (formely GMedia's) system is particularly good and certainly when Quidem first started using it not long after taking the Touch stations over from CN, it gave a text-only front page with a link through to the rest of the website.

With the information available to us via the Internet, harvesting that local information has never been easier. On a snow day, headteachers can flag their school as closed without having to make a phone call (and anyone who's worked in a radio station knows it becomes a call centre very quickly on a snow day) and Google Maps and similar give quick overview of the traffic hotspots.

5 years, 3 months ago

I had a two week Workation (is that an actual word - or have I just invented it?) in York during August last year and I was very impressed with both Minster FM and Stray FM.

The localness of the two stations and the very quick responses to actual events happening within their service areas was very commendable, whilst Radio Aire, Viking and TFM kept repeating the hits and saying almost nothing about their areas, except for rip-and-read news bulletins that those stations squirmed at for having to do as much as two minutes of actual informative and worthwhile public service broadcasting.

Of course, on Planet Radio Forum, Minster FM, Stray FM and just about any UKRD station is the absolute worst, the pits and disgustingly awful radio (despite what the RAJARs say), mainly because they don't play enough station jingles and the presenters don't repeatedly ID the station and promote premium rate competitions to within a trillionth of a second of the vocals of a song starting, therefore it's not slick, not worth listening to and not worth radio anoraks tuning in to play with their genitals at the same time.

5 years, 3 months ago

Did you know that Art hates stations that ID themselves?

No? Well, Art really hates stations that ID themselves. He just can't stand stations that ID themselves. He even complains about stations that ID themselves to Ofcom, such is his hate of stations that ID themselves.

Once, or maybe twice, on this very forum, Art has mentioned about how much he dislikes stations that ID themselves.

Did you know Art hates stations that ID themselves? Not a lot of people do.

Bring something new to the party Pal, this isn't DS.

5 years, 3 months ago

Of course, on Planet Radio Forum, Minster FM, Stray FM and just about any UKRD station is the absolute worst, the pits and disgustingly awful radio (despite what the RAJARs say), mainly because they don't play enough station jingles and the presenters don't repeatedly ID the station and promote premium rate competitions to within a trillionth of a second of the vocals of a song starting, therefore it's not slick, not worth listening to and not worth radio anoraks tuning in to play with their genitals at the same time.

And there was me thinking it was due to UKRD's random music scheduling which is programmed from Cornwall and automated output which keeps those stations local without networking, not to mention that some of their stations continue to underperform, i.e. Star Radio Cambridge.

However, I doubt anyone will dispute that UKRD's USP is how local the non-music output is, in particular news, but the AC format used on the majority of their FM sites isn't to my taste. (Juice continues to be locally produced due to it's format).

5 years, 3 months ago

Ah, Martin. Don't feed the troll.

The irony is I've got a lot of time for UKRD. They're doing what they do well and they command an audience. Yes, it isn't as slick as Global but it doesn't need to be. Both can co-exist and, frankly, the market will decide which they prefer. Which varies from region to region.

5 years, 3 months ago

I have to admit that I find it more than slightly ironic that Art points to UKRD stations as an example of stations that don't repeatedly ID the station, considering that the station that actually started this trend was... Pirate FM.

When Pirate launched in 1992, the MD at the time, Mike Powell created a house style guide that said that the station name needs to be ID'd between every song, and the first words out of a presenter's mouth on every link, had to be the station name. So if you weren't doing a link between songs, you had to play a jingle.

The UKRD style guide got picked up by many other stations and tweaked to become the situation we know of nowadays.

5 years, 3 months ago

I was once told by Martin Mumford, the man behind Rugby FM's incredible success in the early-mid 00's, that "it is impossible to imagine a situation where the radio station is over-identified." That's always stuck with me. When the CN Group took over every link had to begin "107.1 Rugby FM; Great Music, Local News" and end with "Rugby FM". Ten years on voice tracking for expats I've not been able to bash that one out of me!

My personal view is that the station should be identified within the first ten seconds of a link (thanks be to Andy Green for that one in his Passion Oxford days.) Unless you're on a V/T network show across multiple brands or similar, there's no excuse for not IDing the station.

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