Handbags at dawn

In the cut-throat world of breakfast radio, female listeners are the holy grail. Ciar Byrne meets the presenters of the show that's grabbing their attention

She is a smart young girl about town with a weakness for shopping, he is a wisecracking Aussie dad of two who loves nothing better than a good ole barbie - on paper the pairing of Heart 106.2FM breakfast presenters Harriet Scott and Jono Coleman shouldn't work.

But when I meet them after their show on a balmy day in London's perennially hip Portobello Road market, their easy chemistry is immediately apparent. While having their pictures taken, they horse around among the fruit and veg stalls, juggling with oranges, dancing the tango and pulling saucy poses with a cucumber.

Heart, London's second biggest radio station, is banking on the duo to triumph in the battle for listeners in the highly competitive London market. And their competition? Johnny Vaughan, who recently replaced Chris Tarrant as the breakfast-show host on rival Capital 95.8FM.

After briefly overtaking Capital in the Rajar radio listening figures last year, Heart slipped back to number two in the first quarter of 2004. In his last three months on air, Tarrant increased his listeners by 133,000 to 1.38m, while Jono and Harriet's audience figures slipped by 39,000 to 833,000. The arrival of Vaughan, who is a newcomer to radio, leaves Scott and Coleman with everything to play for.

It is a war Heart hopes to win with an arsenal of melodic pop hits to get its target thirty-something female listeners dancing round their handbags on the school run or the way to the office. And Scott is Heart's secret weapon.

In an arena dominated by "blokey" presenters, she is the only woman who enjoys equal status with her co-host. Vaughan inherited Becky Jago from Tarrant, but she is still very much a sidekick.

"It's so annoying for us, because most women in radio just get the sidekick tag," says Scott. "No disrespect to Becky, but at the moment I'm certainly the only one fifty-fifty with a voice."

"I feel sorry for Becky, she doesn't get a word in," agrees Coleman. "When you look at breakfast radio these days you've got Terry Wogan on Radio 2, who's a bloke, you've got Pete and Geoff on Virgin, very blokey, you've got XFM which is Christian O'Connell, blokey, and you've got Johnny Vaughan on Capital. We're the only alternative to that."

The 31-year-old Scott believes that she typifies Heart's listeners. "My best compliment is when people come up to me and say, 'You say just what I'm thinking'. I'm me and I don't try to be all things to all people, but I think I've lived quite a varied life. I'm not married with kids, but I've lived with boyfriends. I've had quite a few experiences but I'm not some mad ladette party girl who doesn't enjoy the simple things in life like having your friends round, or staying in and watching TV."

As a teenager, Scott's DJ heroes were Radio 1 legends Simon Mayo, Steve Wright and Simon Bates. "There weren't particularly any female role models for me at that time, so mine were really guys. I wanted to play the men at their own game. I wanted to be a DJ and I deliberately did not want to be bimbo the weather girl; I always wanted my own show and to stand up for myself in what was then a man's world."

Scott admits she has always been cast as "the girl next door". But beneath her approachable exterior lies an unswerving ambition that has seen her land plum jobs at a relatively young age.

Scott started out in hospital radio at the age of 16, before choosing to study at Hull University because it had a student radio station, a BBC station and an independent local station.

Her big break - after several years in local radio - came when she was head-hunted by Chris Evans at Virgin Radio. In 2002, she moved from Virgin to a weekend slot on Heart, before taking over from Emma Forbes as Jono's co-host in April 2003. Forbes defected to Capital, only to quit a month later when it became clear she would not be given a co-presenting role with Vaughan on the breakfast show.

But what about the music? Don't the pair ever get sick of listening to cheesy pop songs?

"I love it," says Scott. "I'd been at Virgin for four years wanting to slit my wrists to the Manic Street Preachers, and then I came here and I thought it was hilarious that you could get paid for sitting there and playing Chic and Abba. The music has changed, even from when I joined the station. We're a lot more trendy now and we'll play Outkast and Jamelia."

Jono is slightly less enthusiastic. "We work in commercial radio, so people want to hear their favourite songs. Because we hear them every day we might get fed up with this Anastasia song or that song from Will Young, but you have to remove yourself and say, 'I'm playing this for Helen and Steve - it's their favourite song, it's their anniversary today.' "

It is a musical formula that is proving a hit at other radio stations up and down the country. When Capital Radio bought the Century network four years ago, it was a decidedly unattractive proposition, listened to mainly by downmarket men over the age of 45. Capital set out on a mission to alter Century's listener profile to 25- to 44-year-old females and dreamt up a role model to personify its new brand.

Debbie, a name arrived at by looking back at statistics to discover the most popular name for baby girls 33 years ago, is married with two kids. Her husband spends his weekends watching football, while she watches soap operas and Sex and the City. She likes to keep in touch with current musical trends, while also reliving the disco hits of her 1980s youth.

The result has been phenomenal. Century now accounts for 30 per cent of Capital Radio's revenues, and its Manchester-based Century 105.4FM has knocked its long-established rival Key 103FM from the top spot.

Century's managing director, Nick Davidson, sums up the appeal of this new wave of "handbag radio". "Ours is a very emotional radio station. Our particular success has come from females who want a relationship with us. Women want to connect when they listen to the radio, whereas men want to get away from it all."

It is a message Vaughan should bear in mind if he is serious about staying number one in London.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?