Radio and mobile phones
Posted on Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 at 11:15 pm. #
What do you use your mobile phone for? Angry Birds, obviously, but excepting that, you probably use it for email, the odd phone call, a text message or two, and the occasional bit of web browsing.
Among the highs and the lows of the new RAJAR figures, UK radio’s quarterly listening survey, comes news of another use of a mobile phone… as a radio.
17% of adults aged 15+ say they’ve listened to radio via a mobile phone: a figure that’s up by almost a quarter year-on-year. For 15-24s, over a third claim to have listened to the radio in this way. This figure’s growing, particularly for older, 25+ listeners.
Is this good news for radio?
This figure from RAJAR doesn’t break out the method of listening. In the UK there are a fair amount of mobile phones available with an inbuilt FM chip; but it’s a reasonable estimate to assume that much of this listening is done through mobile phone apps.
Radio stations promote their mobile phone apps heavily on-air. They can monetise their audience in this way by displaying advertising and, in some cases, forcing user registration. Use of GPS can give stations valuable information about where audiences are listening, which could make advertising more relevant. (Imagine an ad for Tesco that directs you to your nearest branch).
Most importantly, the user experience through a mobile phone app is a colourful and enjoyable one. The big colour screen on a mobile phone can add visual accompaniment to radio; simple ways for audiences to get more information, latest football scores, or news headlines.
For audio delivery, FM is clearly a better way to listen to the radio. It’s free, and there are no bandwidth costs. It’s great for battery life, since you don’t need to use the battery-sapping 3G connection to tune in. It’s good quality, assuming you can get a signal. However, the user experience on a mobile phone is not good. An FM tuner on a phone normally displays a big number – a station’s frequency – and, normally, little else. On almost every FM-equipped mobile phone I’ve used, the FM app is easily the worst, most clunky app on the phone. It certainly won’t get digital natives listening.
It’s clear that people want to listen to the radio on their mobile phone – and the increased audience figures for this method of listening is heartening for the future of the medium. The radio broadcasters might consider whether focusing on exclusively 3G connections is a future-proof approach: or whether hybrid radio, using broadcast FM radio together with an enhanced experience via the internet, is particularly applicable for a device like a mobile phone.