Radio isn't dead

12 May 2011  |  James Cridland 
James Cridland

James Cridland, managing director of Media UK and a radio futurologist, says in a world of on-demand, video-with-everything, iThat and iThis, it's easy to forget that while broadcast radio is not shiny or 'new', it is an established and successful part of the media landscape: indeed, one that according to today's figures is getting more popular, not less...

A few months ago, I was reading an article from a tech journalist on a respected news website, speculating on some of the new music services appearing online. It started by telling me that radio was 'nearly killed off', and speculated on who would be next. And I seethed inside.

It annoyed me, because it was wrong.

Indeed, the latest radio audience figures, out this morning, show that more people than ever are listening to the radio in the UK (91.6% of the population); and they're listening for longer than ever before (1,058 million hours a week). These are new records.

Radio isn't dead. In fact, radio is stronger than ever before.

But the real story is how people are listening: because, once more, we're being distracted by the shiny things.

Digital listening - through the television, a DAB radio or the internet - is now up to 26.5%. Well over a quarter of radio listening is done on a digital platform.

If you're not in radio, you'd automatically assume - as many do within the radio industry itself - that the internet is the most popular way of listening to the radio on a digital platform. I asked this exact question two weeks ago to a radio company, and everyone plumped for the internet as being the most popular new platform. It's the shiny, new, exciting thing, after all.

But, as ever, the internet remains the LEAST popular way of listening to the radio. It only accounts for 3.6% of all radio listening. (That's nicely up, incidentally, year on year).

The shiny launch of the RadioPlayer (which came too late to have an effect in this survey), and the popularity of radio apps on mobile phones, have captivated the tech journalists, who hover around the bright lights of new technology; and also captured the bright young things who work in the periphery of radio, whether making the content or selling the advertising.

It is notable that radio's continuing success is being driven by broadcast - whether that's FM or DAB.

In this world of on-demand, video-with-everything, iThat and iThis, it's easy to forget that while broadcast radio is not shiny or 'new', it is an established and successful part of the media landscape: indeed, one that according to today's figures is getting more popular, not less.

The next time a tech journalist tells you that radio is dead, ask yourself whether he's been blinded by the shiny lights.

Your Comments

Thursday, 12 May 2011, 14:23 GMT

James is right that radio listening is robust - stable in many countries, and growing in a few (like the Netherlands). iTunes has no personality, it doesn't really build conversations. But I do think the radio industry needs to ensure that it continues to invest in its digital future. I am concerned that as the car industry starts to roll-out combined navigation and entertainment systems in the car, that the "share of ear" for music based radio may drop, especially if the radio stations don't label their content properly. Fortunately, some clever people, including James, have seen this coming and developed a standard called RadioDNS. This will go a long way to making radio more accessible on devices with colour screens.

Jonathan Marks
Director
Critical Distance BV

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