Radio is facing its biggest challenges as we progress in the 21st Century. Gone are the days when there were a limited choice of listening, especially in the UK, where it was dominated by the BBC and after 1973, a small but growing collection of commercial stations.
Today there are very real threats to the hundred year old medium….
- Streaming services such as Spotify allowing you customize your listening, and for a small monthly fee remove advertising
- MP3 shuffling of your favourite music
- Tight budgets resulting in the merging of stations and less local broadcasting
- The increasing use of set playlists, making it hard for new music to be heard
- Easily access to music on the Internet using services such as YouTube and Vevo
- Lack of freedom for presenters to choose music for their shows
- The focus on music that attracts the biggest audience so drawing advertising revenue
- Employing well known people who are not experienced in Radio, in the hope that this will attract audiences
So how can this be addressed when there is so much choice and there is growing evidence that under 25s are moving away from daily listening?
Radio has a ‘Unique Selling Point’ which technology cannot replace…The presenter. Most listening takes in the car, providing a one to one radio experience although there maybe thousands listening! That personality can bring company, insight, humour and be the catalyst for new music which you might of missed.
In the UK there is a growing collection of’Community Stations’ offering local people interacting with the surrounding area.When supported, these can become a major part of local life. There will of course, always be a place for nationwide stations, providing a familiar voice wherever you are but the local element is impossible from such stations.
New technology enables more diverse broadcasting, with the increasing introduction of Specialist Stations (sometimes listener supported). DAB allows many more stations to be heard (although costs can be high). The internet also offers infinite space for new stations and with mobile devices, access anywhere (when you have internet!).
The slow but steady return of presenters not restricted by a limited playlist, can reflect listeners requests and offer the personal touch-introducing new music they have personally discovered for example.This can be extended to Hospital Radio stations who can interact with patients and staff, where no one else can!
Social Media offers an unique communication tool with the listener, which can work extremely well in finding out what listeners want to hear and promoting a show. I have found this tool invaluable.
I firmly believe radio has a strong future, not as a jukebox trying to compete with a computer, but as an interactive, personal medium not forgetting who it is there for..THE LISTENER!