From balancing the books to riding the airwaves
Gregory Watson (Accountancy, 1986) is the Managing Director of radio business Folder Media. We asked him about his career and what advice he’d give to students and recent graduates wanting to get into the industry.
He says: “I had always had an interest in radio and worked on URE (University Radio Exeter) in my first year of University, although at that stage it was really just a bit of a hobby.
“When I left Exeter I joined KPMG and became a chartered accountant, but quite quickly realised that wasn’t the long-term career for me. I started to branch out into different areas of finance and business management.
“I joined the Radio Authority, the radio regulator created in 1991, as the Deputy Head of Finance. As well as overseeing the day to day finances, I was also involved in analysing industry data and assessing licence applications. Over this time I got to know a lot about the industry and scrutinising business plans for new stations to make sure they knew what they were talking about!
“I found this really interesting so jumped at the chance to work at GWR Radio (now Global Radio) to become Head of Special Projects at a time when the industry was moving into DAB digital radio. This was an incredibly exciting time and I got to be involved in lots of areas of the business, including helping with the merger with Capital Radio in 2004.
“Then in 2007, myself and a couple of colleagues left to start our own business, Folder Media. A whole range of new local DAB multiplexes were becoming available and we started to apply for them working with a range of radio partners.
“Today we manage 16 local multiplexes across England, Scotland and Wales. We also produce audio content for the BBC and ITV. These are generally interviews and documentaries but we also create podcasts including for Love Island where we worked overnight for eight weeks to have a daily episode ready each morning. This has had more than 3 million downloads.
“In addition we created a children’s radio station called Fun Kids. As well as entertaining children with great music, we also create audio and video content to help children learn. Recently we have created a series with Public Health England on antibiotics, on teeth and dentalcare for Philips and also one on Victorian Child Labour. And now we’re working with Google on smart speakers, using new technology to engage with children."
Gregory has had a varied career since leaving Exeter thanks to the combination of his degree and his passion for radio, and says both elements are key for being successful in his current role.
“There is a lot of competition in the industry, so do whatever you can to build your skillset while you’re studying. Student radio is great but we also have students come for one year placements as part of their degrees, or over the summer for a short internship, which gives them great experience. These opportunities are available at many organisations so do seek them out.
“Also, demonstrate creativity. Roles can have elements of creative writing, social media and coding, as well as understanding the technology of radio, so thinking about some of these things in advance is beneficial. And don’t worry if your degree subject isn’t obviously relevant. It’s so hard to know what you want to do in life before you arrive at University so if, like me, you find yourself wanting to work in a different industry, look at all the transferable skills from your course. My accountancy degree was invaluable at helping me develop my business skills so that I can now run my own company.”
Date: 3 January 2019