Sjors Fröhlich – BNR Nieuwsradio

Sjors Fröhlich – BNR Nieuwsradio

Sjors Fröhlich is the former Chief Editor at BNR Nieuwsradio (Newsradio). He was responsible for innovation and digitalisation of the radio station. At the recent Online Radio Awards, he was named Online Radio Ambassador of 2019 for his work on podcasts and radio innovation.

Main KPI’s for growth

Sjors explains that BNR’s most important KPI lies with their listening figures for BNR: “How many people are listening, and for how long? Next to these traditional listening figures, we also refer to the number of listening actions. So, for example listening on demand or listening to podcasts. This consist of 2 components; the number of listeners; reach, and listening time. Listening actions is an important variable for us, because this is where the strategy and the future lies. Next to that, we often study how the brand itself is doing.”

BNR’s listening figures are a result of BNR’s overall idea; delivering high-quality journalistic content. Sjors: “Above everything else, BNR is a news brand. So, all our content should be of high quality and independent.” To stimulate their growth in listening figures, BNR uses marketing. Sjors: “By broadcasting a BNR product – such as a socially important topic – to as many people as possible, we generate a broader physical availability. To broaden BNR’s scope, we have for example used digital out of home as a distribution channel for news content by partnering with Hillenaar. Another example of this is that we were the first to partner with Spotify to offer on demand news content a more prominent place.”


When it comes to innovation, Sjors highlights BNR’s revolutionary Smart Radio application. “We are always looking at technical possibilities and how we can become a frontrunner. We have a small team, which allows us to work fast. With Smart Radio, people can listen to personalised content, whenever and wherever: audio on demand. News media are often focused on getting the scoop, or delivering in-depth articles. Smart Radio is kind of in between. Yes, we want to be first, but we also want to provide depth when the consumer asks for it.”

“It’s important that innovations fail, because then you truly uncover what doesn’t work, and you can move on with the things that do.”

Smooth sailing

However, the process wasn’t always smooth sailing. Sjors: “When it comes to innovation, it’s very important to have a few people in your organisation who are very passionate about it, and are willing to go all the way. Smart Radio wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for our people continuously looking abroad, or thinking of new things to do. When we were first working with the idea of Smart Radio, I thought; you can’t build this. Listening to radio with a computer, that’s not going to work. Next to that, we don’t have an extensive budget for innovation. We started off with a small subsidy, which gave us the opportunity to see whether the idea can even be realised. And the first project failed. There’s two things you can do at this point; it’s a good idea, but it’s not going to work, or you can think; this way of working doesn’t work, but what will? We chose the latter. By then, we received a bigger subsidy and started a new way of working which proved successful. To me, it’s very important that things fail, because then you truly uncover what doesn’t work, and you can move on with the things that do.”

Sjors: “We can do all sorts of things when it comes to innovation, but because we are a substantive journalistic company, we can’t make something for the sake of it, and risk it being not interesting, or good enough. You can have an awesome innovative app, but if it’s not relevant, it won’t be successful. You have to make sure the content and the quality of the content comes first, that’s our birth right.”

Main source for innovation

Sjors explains that BNR’s main source of inspiration is looking abroad: “If I go back to Smart Radio and on demand, we found a radio station in New York which had an app where you could choose to listen to different audio fragments, and listen to their radio station live. And we thought, we have to do something like that. So, we looked at how we could translate it to fit BNR. We looked at what our target group – professionals with a busy schedule – would want. They want to use their time in a relevant way, and from this thought, we created Smart Radio.”

The rise of podcasting

According to Sjors, on demand watching and listening to content is one of the most important consumer trends within their category. “People watch and listen whenever they want. In addition, the use of voice control is an important trend. To us, the rise of podcasting goes hand in hand with the development of voice control. Podcasting is ‘cool’, and services such as Spotify have truly embraced it. I believe podcasting will continue to grow extensively in the next couple of years, and BNR couldn’t be more ready!”