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The future of radio – the worst thing

Posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 3:00 pm. #

Sony Ericsson using the radio.

Yesterday, I published the first question in a questionnaire I took part in recently, and my answer. Today, it’s time for the negative side.

What is the worst thing that could happen to radio over the next two years? Why?

The worst thing to happen in radio over the next two years is that the radio business doesn’t make its content relevant to younger people.

We’ve a growing problem – not huge, but growing – with young people spending less time with the radio.

If we think of radio as a speaker in a box, we can’t take this medium much further; and we can’t protect it from other media. But if we think of radio as great, audio-focused entertainment and information we’re on the right lines. We have to use functionality from devices that radio is now in: mobile phones, PCs, photo frames, TVs… on a smart new mobile phone, if radio is just a grey screen saying 93.8 on it, we’ve failed an audience who expect their audio to come with lush visual content and interactivity.

(Do you agree? Or do you think that the ‘Heartification’ of radio, to appeal to an older age-group, is part of the problem? Please do give your thoughts in the comments.)


commenting at July 28th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Completely agree. ‘Heartification’ (or ‘Heart’ attacks to be comical!) is indeed part of the problem, resulting in CHR stations turning to ‘today’s best mix’ with music not relevant to the majority of the younger audience. I would love to see a survey of how many young people have dumped their local One Network station for Radio 1, MP3/ipod or services like Spotify.

As well as Heart, where are the national CHR stations? DAB hasn’t got CHR on anymore, now that the excellent but underfunded and unloved Core was closed. What about kids/youth radio? Capital Disney, another unpolished gem, is gone, with only Fun Kids keeping the market going.

The ‘Heart’ audience is what the advertisers are wanting and what makes money. However, this is too much of a short to medium term view. Imagine you are say 18-25 years old – what radio station to you listen to? Unless you are well served by a good, relevant local station, which is lacking in most locations, or you are lucky enough to have a jukebox or voicetracked CHR on your TV platform or DAB, you are stuffed!

Today’s youth are tomorrow’s audience – will they want to listen to radio after being underserved for years? I think the answer is staring us in the face!

commenting at July 28th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

There is a sense of community that comes from listenning to the same thing as lots of other people – even if those people are not with you. Finding your favourite song playning on a national radio station is exciting in a way that finding it playing on your iPod is not. The sad thing is that I’m not sure where that insight gets me.

commenting at July 28th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

James, the essence of your statement yesterday is true. Content is what makes radio come alive for people and it’s we they listen. They don’t listen because it’s FM/DAB or Internet: those platforms are just ways to receive the content they love. But how can the industry stop talking about platforms? Platforms determine the content. You can’t easily ‘listen again’ on FM; for many travel news is most relevant when they are sat in a car (there’s only one mass in-car platform today) & if you want to listen to great content from Fun Kids then FM isn’t where you’ll find it.

But both content & platforms cost money. Is it really the best use of limited cash to pay for multi-platform distribution?

So, IMHO, the worst thing individual stations can do in the next two years is not decide which platform they want to be on. When that’s done, they’d better start spending some of the money saved on making the best content for the platform they’ve decided to use (which includes the great content for the non-audio parts of devices). Audiences will fragment and, by selecting a platform, an individual station will not be universally available but if that allows for investment in innovative content then it will find an audience.

Andrew Stuart
commenting at July 28th, 2009 at 5:59 pm

I have posted a full reply on my blog, andrewstuart.wordpress.com but also here, I’ll post it here:

What’s the worst thing about radio? It’s the worst and best thing. No pictures, essentially. Not as much interactive content. Why? A lot of people find it too hard to interact, or don’t want to use facebook. They don’t have the time to go and look at a video. They are too busy to sit and watch Chris Moyles talk at a microphone for 3 and a half hours (or when he turns up in the morning.)

The internet has a big community out there, but the internet hasn’t always been there – however the community has. Think of John Peel, and the Pirate stations.

Also, it’s not “cool” enough to listen to radio. There’s the whole iPod generation that I haven’t touched on.

Essentially, there isn’t a worst thing about radio. It’s a challenge – it’s the sound. People who want to and can (this includes stations and listeners) engage in interactive content can. But it must all link back to on air. Radio isn’t visual. TV is.

Adam Westbrook
commenting at July 28th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

The worst thing that could happen in radio over the next two years? That it stays exactly the same…if in 2011 we still have only a few national all speech stations, if the majority of commercials stations are bashing out their hits of 50 odd songs that would be the worst thing.

I haven’t got my hopes on the commercial sector coming to the rescue investing in speech – I think it’ll come from internet pioneers who’ll reignite our passion for amazing radio. Then the big boys will follow. Idealistic I know…and probably niaive…

Chris Stevens
commenting at July 29th, 2009 at 1:18 am

The worst thing that could happen to radio?

James is spot-on with his answer, but here’s another thought: The worst thing that could happen to radio is that radio continues to compete with itself.

It’s all very well trying to have a better breakfast show than the other station in town, but what about having a more compelling evening slot than ITV does, or having better entertainers on the weekend than ITV, or… dare I suggest it… a better music service than Pandora/MTV/your ipod.

Anyone who’s heard the traffic services on Sirius/XM should be warning the AM newstalk stations here in the states that times are going to get harder.

It all comes back to the same thing… content. Radio has chosen the cheap option at pretty much every turn over the last 10 years. However, it doesn’t matter how many Ofcom concessions or how much license fee top-slicing there is… unless the content is on a par with other media, it’s buggered.

Of course, winning content may require different funding techniques and suchlike, but they should be gained in order to create compelling radio, not in spite of.

commenting at July 29th, 2009 at 6:32 am

The worst possible thing would be any pandering to the “leave FM alone” brigage.

These people represent the past, and they WILL move to digital radio because such commitment is really to the content, not the platform.

Chris Stevens, I’m sorry but “a better music service than MTV/your ipod” sound so very old fogey. MTV has not played music for years, and the idea that linear radio can compete with music on demand is not one that stands up to much analysis.

I’m not convinced by dumbledad’s assertion “sense of community that comes from listenning to the same thing as lots of other people” can really apply to anything other than talk radio.

Clive Dickens
commenting at July 29th, 2009 at 8:16 am

I agree with your sentiment about the younger demographic and radio, we need to do more.

But an even bigger problem is our currency ‘Rajar’. It currently fails to even capture current listening amongst this audience. Paper and pencils are hardly the way to engage this demo, roll on ‘measurement not research’ for radio and we will begin to better understand how the world is changing.

One possible answer is ‘Connected Radio’s’ with ‘Connected Content’

No site da rádio, texto ganha destaque « Charles Cadé Blog / Comunicação, tecnologia e cultura digital
commenting at July 30th, 2009 at 1:55 pm

[...] em rádio….  James Cridland analisa o futuro do veículo. Para ele, as empresas de rádio erram ao não investir no público jovem. Como solução, uma [...]

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