Radio Broadcasting Is Being Redefined

IEEE-BTS Symposium helps technology managers keep an eye over the horizon

The author is an IEEE BTS Adcom member.

Roz Clark

Radio needs to stay attuned to advancements in technology and meet expectations from its consumers. The IEEE-BTS Symposium, held in October, can help.

A lot has changed in radio over the past decade. Technologies that were first perceived to be a threat to traditional terrestrial radio broadcasting, such as social media, streaming audio, multimedia, mobile handheld devices, etc., are now being embraced by broadcasters to expand their broadcasting footprints and pull listeners more closely into their brand and content, rather than push them into alternative delivery paths.

The following is a quick glance at what has transpired in the recent past and what’s on the horizon for radio broadcasters in this era of rapid technology growth. Some examples of how innovative broadcasters are turning these technology challenges into opportunities are also mentioned.

AN EVOLUTIONARY TALE

Looking back from the listener’s point of view, it’s fair to say that 10-plus years ago, “advanced” mobile devices were basically cell phones with the ability to receive email and perhaps listen to downloaded audio. Such devices weren’t nearly as prevalent as they are today.

In that timeframe, radio broadcasters were just beginning to conduct some exploratory efforts with internet services. Websites were rolled out, and streaming audio was just beginning to take hold.

The expansion of cellular 4G and rapid advancements in mobile device capabilities eventually led to a rapid growth in app development, which resulted in extensive growth pains for the radio business. Broadcasters struggled with the challenge of staying current with the technology and finding ways to utilize these new tools in ways that would be beneficial, rather than detrimental, to their core business.

SOCIAL MEDIA, SIMULCAST AND BIG DATA

Clearly, the radio stations that have been successful in maintaining their relevance with consumers have been those that have effectively implemented social media as a means of listener engagement. It’s been shown that listenership increases when stations interact with their audiences on social media, share interesting content online, and even “live tweet” while on air. Social media interaction has been key in building a new listener experience and has been well received in the marketplace.

Beyond that, we are also seeing advancements in multimedia methods of broadcast directly tied to the traditional broadcast audio. For example, a video producer can create supplemental video content live as the traditional program is being broadcast. In this scenario, social media integration, online chat rooms and supplemental pictures or video snippets are added to the online multimedia channel to enhance what is being broadcast over the traditional means thus creating a rich media experience.

Although the base content or audio broadcast is the same, the online multimedia experience is much more rich and accessible via fixed or mobile devices which creates a whole new level of engagement for listeners. The modern consumer has grown to expect such additional content particularly in an age where information and supplemental content is readily accessible via keypad and more recently, voice command.

While radio has stood the test of time, like all entertainment mediums, it needs to stay attuned to advancements in technology and meet expectations from its consumers.

The IEEE Broadcast Technology Society plays a key role — through symposiums, conferences, white papers, etc. — to share information and build consensus on impactful technologies emerging today, as well as those that are “just over the horizon” in the world of broadcast technology.

In doing so, the society best serves the industry to ensure engineers and technology leaders have the latest and most detailed technological understanding. Understanding the present challenges and future technology developments informs decisionmakers to plan for wise and viable broadcast infrastructure investments resulting in customer loyalty and contributing to ongoing business success.

The 2017 IEEE-BTS Symposium will be held Oct. 10–12 at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, Va. For information visit http://bts.ieee.org/broadcastsymposium.

Roswell “Roz” Clark is senior director of radio engineering for Cox Media Group and IEEE BTS Adcom member. He chaired several committees for Cox including Broadcast - IT Security, Automation Standardization, RF Safety Policy, and Broadcast Data Transmission. He is its technical representative in the Broadcasters’ Traffic Consortium, the National Association of Broadcasters Radio Technical Committee, the Nielsen Technical Advisory Committee and the National Radio Systems Committee.



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