A new golden age for radio?


Listen with mother – backbone of the BBC light programme schedule form 1950 to 1982.

If there is an orthodox medium that has been given a shot in the arm by new technology it has got to be radio (not Last fm and all that marlarkey) but good old gardeners-question-time type wireless.

Radio is in robust health in the UK, most especially the BBC which has recently seen both reach and share of listening hours increase and part of that success is down to new means of distribution, particularly digital TV and the internet.

So it was nice of those people at RAJAR to put together some charts on all of this when they released the lastest figures for radio listening recently.

According to these figures listening to the radio via the TV is storming ahead. 41% of UK adults listen to the radio with a digital TV, a figure that has more than doubled in the last 4 years, while 1 in 5 listen once a week or more. Incidentally this is one of the reasons why Sky launched their gnome product which allows wireless listening to your Sky enabled TV.
Perhaps surprisingly TV is ahead of the internet for listenership with 24% of UK adults listeninng online and 13.4% doing so at least once a week While just 8% of adults have so far listened to the radio via their mobile phones.
There also is some other interesting stuff on penetration of DAB and of MP3 players (now at 27.3% but with growth slowing) and the proportion of MP3 owners listening to podcasts.
More grist to my belief that agencies need to stop bundling together the TV and radio craft discplines and create a separate sound design practice to give this means of communication the respect that it clearly deserves.
Download the RAJAR presentation here

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10 Replies to “A new golden age for radio?”

  1. It seems not many folks are interested in this medium. With today’s more interactive platforms readily available everywhere radio seems to be a very one-way communication.
    We need to find better ways to expand this medium before it chokes. And more sound gimmicks ain’t gonna cut it.

  2. Quote: radio seems to be a very one-way communication…..
    Tsk, tsk…. you mean music radio. Talk or phone-in radio is the original 2.0 medium and fabulously engaging. LBC have actually published some findings that support the idea that talk radio has a higher level of engagement than music radio.
    Radio is also disproportionately undervalued as an advertising medium in the UK: partly because few advertising and marketing folk personally listen to *commercial* radio; also because few Londoners drive to work. Moreover, unlike in the US, commercial radio did not long predate commercial TV, and so radio advertising has always found itself in TV’s long shadow.
    At the Media 360 conference we got chatting about the level of radio consumption through Sky and Freeview and agreed that both were missing an opportunity to add a low-involvement visual element to the screen – whether news tickers, pretty pictures (remember the Landscape Channel?) or kittens or something. Nokia have something called visual radio on the N95, but I don’t know what this is…..

  3. Ah yes Sutherland – I have long been an advocate of Sky adding a visualiser to the software in the box ala the itunes visualiser. I’m told that there isn’t enough processing power in the box to do this at the moment though.
    I find it staggering that legal commerical radio started in the UK only in 1973 – perhaps our poor use of it as an advertising medium is down to its youth and our inexperience.

  4. I saw some data a couple of years back that showed a correlation between internet usage and radio listening – I think there was a new peak in listening emerging between 7pm and 9pm when people were online at home. So, I suppose the net is a kind of visualiser.
    RAB produced a study a couple of years back too that suggested radio was the most intimate of mediums. We often listen alone, using the radio for companionship whether on long drives, while doing the housework or listening to the net.
    I also remember being told that radio was a good companion to DM in terms of generating response. I imagine that this effect will be immediate if the listener is also online and can google the advertised brand there and then.
    Finally, radio works differently from TV. Its programmes tend to be longer, especially on commercial radio, with their structure of regular features, news, weather, and daily variables like the topics of discussion. The closest TV ever came to a radio structure was maybe Pebble Mill at One with its mixture of chat and music (although it was also excruciatingly dull).
    Despite all this, advertising space is constructed according to the TV model of 2-3 minute breaks every 15 minutes sold off as 10’s, 20’s. 30’s and 60’s.
    What we need is a new advertising model for radio, one that takes into account its inherent responsivenes, the intimacy of the experience, it different use of time and its conduciveness to using the net.
    We’ve had a bit of success in the past seeding brand information into shows by writing pieces of script for DJ’s rather 30″ ad scripts. I suspect the potential is greater than that though.

  5. Have I missed something entirely here? So you can listen to the RADIO on the TV now – derrr! I do that all the time – but – I don’t watch the radio – I LISTEN to it. If the radio had moving images on it I might call it a TV.
    In fact if radio programmes were available on my microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, toothbrush (okay not the toothbrush) – guess what – I’d listen to them too. It probably suggests that people are just using one device now with a better sound quality than trad radio could offer (OK DAB excepted). Personally I prefer the old valve radios that resembled TV’s without the moving pictures – beautiful old things in burnished wood (or bakelite) that smelt of burning fluff as the valves warmed up. What better way to listen to a fruity old nicotine stained BBC voice than good old pure analogue. I digress.
    The issue of listening hours ‘increasing down to new means of distribution, particularly digital TV and the internet’ might need to be broadened out to consider the fact we have content we want to listen to and the predisposition and age to be interested enough – especially as we are an ever ageing population.
    I observe this in myself as my interest and enthusiasm for the likes of Gardeners World, Radio 4 and everything Robert Elms has been piqued by the number of planners, comedians – and that interesting hybrid bewteen the two – the ‘Cab Driver’ that use it as source material. I would still wager that there are very few kids in da hood listening to talk radio – or maybe I am mistaken.
    Incidently why does the family in the pic appear to be sitting facing an open window during a gale?
    And now on Radio Adliterate we bring you Topless Darts from Roehampton…

  6. The stats don’t lie and radio’s growth is most definitely being fuelled by a strong and seemingly always award winning Beeb as well as further uptake in the digital arena.
    I think the two way dialogue of speech based stations is a really interesting area but there is a totally lack of quality speech based radio in the commercial environment. LBC and Talksport are proper cabby fodder and really only promote one sided arguments (needless to say which side).
    I also think radio will always fall short with it’s lack of visual stimulus which is why the development of radio station’s web sites offerings are going to become so important.

  7. Greg – agreed – but a radio station with a website and interactive content and moving images is… telly by any other name surely?
    Content is being labelled by the device that delivers it seemingly – which is going to fuel some interesting ‘content delivery mechanisms’ or new looking radios that resemble TV’s potentially – rather like the large old bakelite ones with the valves – oh dear I appear to be repeating myself.

  8. Terribly unfair to characterise LBC as cab-driver fodder – and so what if it is?
    There is no extreme view overall – Nick Ferrari being balanced by more or less everyone else. Ferrari is clever and witty; James O’Brien a brilliant controversialist. Chrysalis’s owner-chap is, in any case, a Labour supporter.
    That said, just as in the US, radio will always have a slight rightist bias in its audience, being the natural medium of a) motorists and b) people who actually do things: builders, painters, plumbers etc.

  9. This presentation was interesting, as I have just started listening to local talk radio (British radio) just this week here in Taiwan, both at home and at work. I like radio because you give up a lot of the control you normally have when listening to your own music.
    It would also be interesting to know if sales of short-wave radios have slowed.

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