Me, Friends Reunited, and Radio 4

So out of the blue I got a call from BBC Radio 4 to go in and talk about the recent relaunch of Friends Reunited on the You and Yours programme.

“Friends Reunited has relaunched?” thought I. Fortunately I managed to pull enough from my dusty memory banks sufficiently quickly to convince the assistant producer I was their man.

Two days later and I was outside Broadcasting House, having fairly thoroughly researched the topic. That was fortunate, because the questions they asked me – live, on air, in front of millions of listeners – weren’t actually the questions they told me they were going to ask.

I knew all about its history (set up by Julie and Steve Pankhurst in 2000, 3,000 users after one year, 2.5 million after two, 15 million by 2005 then sold to ITV for blah blah blah). I’d even figured out why some networks succeed and others fail (combination of luck and basically just being better), and why some major acquisitions hadn’t worked out (mostly the same reasons). This is because the assistant producer told me that’s what they were going to ask me.

Imagine, then, my surprise when Julian Worricker turned to me and asked my opinion of the site having played around with it. Fortunately, I had played around with it, for about an hour, without actually getting anywhere with it. Unfortunately, I had to be frank and say so, sitting right next to Chris van der Kuyl, CEO of BrightSolid, the company behind the Friends Reunited relaunch. He didn’t seem to mind: he was very well media trained and put up a good fight, I thought. For what it’s worth I thought he was an extremely nice chap and we had a very good chat before the programme.

Julian also asked my take on the name. Again, I wasn’t entirely positive. But I tried to get some conciliatory stuff in, such as Friends Reunited’s brand recognition and the way that focusing on nostalgia is potentially effective (although, I fear, in reality, not very).

Anyway, you can listen to the clip here. I’m probably not supposed to host it but heck, I pay my license fee and if the BBC wants me to take it down, I will. I was frankly surprised when a BBC radio journo friend of mine asked whether they were going to taxi me in. “No”, I replied, “But I’m interested to find out that’s the kind of thing my license fee is paying for.”

If they do use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, then I will graciously crack, in which case you can (at the time of writing) listen to the programme here.

So, I’ve had my fifteen minutes of fame. I just wish it hadn’t started with me coughing and saying ‘Excuse me’. How terribly British of me.

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