Press Coverage

Will digital kill the radio star?

Dean Wilson 31 Jul 2012

Dean Wilson, UK CEO and VP International at Active International, says the future of radio lies in “my radio”, a personal and community shaping experience that sets it apart from its Pandora and Spotify streaming and digital competitors...

1973 saw the release of the cult classic the Exorcist, Concorde cut the flying time across the Atlantic by half and the birth of commercial radio challenging the BBC’s 50 year dominance.

Fast forward almost 40 years and Global have paid £50 million for GMG, the imminent digital switchover is facilitating new stations, and to use the phrase coined by the RAB, it appears ‘Britain really does love radio’. Technology has not only broadened the array of listening platforms, but accelerated radio as a community experience beyond audio to visual and social.

Against a fairly sluggish media market radio is making a concerted effort to future proof the medium with a forecasted year on year growth of almost 4%. While the Jubilympics and Euro are clearly in radio’s favour (a winner for stations such as TalkSPORT) it is more than just luck with increases of between 3-5% forecast for 2013.

The government has increased its radio commitment by 76% year on year to take the number one spot, and of the top 20 advertisers, only four reduced their spend in the medium with Tesco tripling and Sky doubling their investment to the tune of £4.3 million and £11 million respectively.

So why are advertisers turning up the dial? In an industry that likes an acronym radio is creating its own form of “stickiness” through TAR - technology, accountability and relevance. In an environment where content is both everywhere and everything, radio has two key challenges, make it easy and make it interesting.

Radio listening in 2012 is platform agnostic, no longer restricted to just home or cars. Accessing radio digitally through radio, TV, online or mobile has helped achieve a 3.3% year on year increase in listening. The future of radio is a hybrid one, developing radio’s online footprint through both Radioplayer and DAB. With the recent announcement of a further £21 million investment in the DAB infrastructure there is hope that the digital switchover may come to fruition before 2015.

Since its launch just over 12 months ago Radioplayer boasts seven million users and this is set to increase with the recent development of its mobile app. With the ability to search, select, personalise and catch up by station, programme or location this is undeniably a crucial tool in radio’s growth.

Of the 90% of the population that tune in to radio, nearly half listen via a digital platform and almost a fifth via a mobile phone, an increase of 24% year on year. At ease with adopting new digital behaviours, mobile listening against 15-24s is double the average at just over a third. Younger audiences are clearly engaging with radio through mobiles and apps - the challenge is to continue delivering engaging, fresh and compelling content in what is a very competitive landscape.

For me the future of radio lies in “my radio”, a personal and community shaping experience that sets it apart from its Pandora and Spotify streaming and digital competitors.

The power of developing strong station identities is in growth of audiences, their loyalties and the commercial benefits this enables. The recent hire of Nick “Grimmy” Grimshaw, well known for being part of the cool celebrity set, is clearly part of the bigger BBC Radio 1 picture to decrease the average of its listeners from 32, to a more Kiss like 29.

Magic, Smooth and Heart are also hot on the heels of Radio 2 with clearly articulated brand personalities that engage listeners and are very easy for advertisers and agencies to understand.

Radio bookclubs are the new bumper stickers, dating sites the new late night love shows increasing radio’s online footprint. Whether it’s Globals’ eight million app downloads or Absolute’s innovative streaming of targeted ads, radio understands the role of technology in enhancing the consumer experience and the power that lies within this.

There is a third and final part for radio’s continued strength - delivering measurability and accountability. In our increasingly data centric world, the launch of radioGAUGE Predict takes the 2008 research one very beneficial step further.

A free online service, radioGAUGE Predict gives access to robust historic data to evaluate the effectiveness of radio campaigns, their role within the media mix and best practice creative work. This is a clear example of a medium that is both listening and responding.

It seems Buggles did not get it right - digital is not killing radio’s star. As Tim Davie, head of audio and music at the BBC commented: “We are moving to an on screen world. Radio needs to accept that, get on with it and enjoy it.”

Sources: RAB, Media Guardian, Media Week

Dean Wilson

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