Sing if you're glad to be grey, says Saga Radio

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The Independent Online

Media Correspondent

Saga, the company whose success is built squarely on the "grey pound", has fixed its sights on a lucrative new market - radio for the over-55s.

Its application for the new Yorkshire FM licence, like its other activities - which include holidays and direct-marketing insurance - displays its now customary commercial nous.

Saga is one of 13 groups competing to win the largest, and potentially the most lucrative, radio licence outside London. It includes Sheffield, Leeds, and Hull, and covers more than 3 million adults.

While every other application for the eight-year licence - to be awarded in the next four months - offers a well- rehearsed recipe of speech plus indie, dance, soul or easy- listening music, Saga pledges to target people either in, or approaching retirement.

The group has built its direct marketing insurance and publishing business by selling to the 18 million people in the UK over 50. Of those, the 1.3 million in the Yorkshire area spend an estimated pounds 11bn a year.

Saga's research shows that commercial radio commands at least 50 per cent of listening share in every age group - apart from those aged over 55, where the share dips to 30 per cent.

More than half of older people think the media does not treat them seriously, and 45 per cent listen to the radio "less often nowadays".

"In the radio industry it's a neglected market," says Tim Bull, strategic planning director for the Kent-based Saga Group. "One just has to look at the formats available to see they aren't designed for an older audience."

Mr Bull said Saga would offer half speech and half music in its daytime schedule, together with an information-based approach, offering tips and leads on pursuing hobbies and pastimes - particularly gardening - and advice on personal finance and health.

If awarded the licence, Saga aims to go into profit in the middle of its third year, then to make at least pounds 750,000 a year.

In 1984 the group relaunched Saga Magazine, which is a subscription only product aimed at the same age group. It now has a circulation of 650,000, up 50 per cent in the last two years.

Another success story, serving the same age group, is Yours, which has seen circulation rise every year since 1989.

Its editor, Neil Patrick, said: "I think the majority of other magazines are condescending towards people this age group. Our readers tell use what interests them and almost dictate what the content should be."