Radio World

Radio Keeps Dying but Someone Forgot to Tell the Listeners!

The author is communications manager and executive committee member, Radiodays Europe

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Over the past 10 years radio has been killed off so often that it’s starting to look like we work in an industry that is part of a modern day murder mystery or true crime drama. TV, social media, the internet, aging listeners and video etc., the list of suspects is long with more added year on year.

How many conferences have you been to where someone stands up and says “Radio Is Dead”? Radio has problems but so do all traditional media and even more recent entrants to the market such as Facebook are now facing problems. When will Facebook be proclaimed dead? Fashion is fickle and the next big thing is always on the horizon. But radio has proven it isn’t a fashion, it’s a mainstay.

Rosie Smith

That’s not to say radio doesn’t have its problems. Young people, the must-haves for all stations are elusive, too busy playing Fortnite to be tuning in the Top 40 these days. No magic pill has been found for young people but initiatives undertaken by the BBC, Radio France and Danish Radio, to name a few, are taking on this challenge — with podcasts and podcasters helping and giving a voice to the young in a different way.

LISTENING PLATFORMS

And how do people listen? Via DAB or FM or AM or IP? For some countries the debate rumbles on or, like Norway, just go digital because the listener shouldn’t be choosing the technology platform — they should be listening to radio. In Europe the European Commission feels the same and has stepped in with the EECC Directive mandating digital radio into all new cars by 2020, a bold move which may change the debate about platforms as one of the key places to listen will now also have a digital option as standard.

[Related: EU Directive Reveals European Vision for Radio Digitization]

At Christmas smart speakers were popular. “Smart Speakers increase 78 percent year over year,” according to the Smart Audio Report by NPR and Edison Research at CES 2019 — apparently, out goes the kitchen radio!

But radio broadcasters are doing some fantastic work to ensure smart speakers can search for radio stations in a clever and comprehensive way, see the work of Commercial Radio Australia. And at the end of the day these smart speakers are all about audio, the beating heart of radio.

[Related: Australia Seeks to Improve Smart Speaker Performance]

Fake news of fluff (boring meaningless fluff churned out by the 24/7 news channels) has also caused problems in recent times. Radio is not Twitter. It’s had longer to come to terms with its power and it’s regulated. The radio industry has had to put stronger controls in place and make more of an effort to police content. It’s not right all of the time, but radio is still one of the most trusted medias.

No article on 10 years of radio can gloss over the rise of the podcast, who’s listening and for how long after download still seems to be one of the dark arts of measurement. Searchability and the iron grip of certain aggregators are still to be solved but podcasting has produced some remarkable content, stars and is a breath of fresh air for new, different, alternative formats and so much more. It’s given access to many who would never have been given a voice on traditional stations and it has allowed these same traditional broadcasters to release long-forgotten content in new ways. There are too many podcasts to mention but they offer a new world of radio.

Far from being dead audiences still come back to radio. You could say radio is evolving whether it wants to or not. At Radiodays Europe 10 years on from when the curtain came up, we have seen the evolution of radio, its death, resurrection, death, revival and more.

We’ve tried to predict the future, had the next big thing, the megastars and the newest talent on the stage giving their views on radio and even some predictions of the death of radio. This year we are looking at why “Sound Matters” because radio is all about sound in the home and in the car.

After 10 years of being the “Meeting point for the world of radio and audio,” the one thing we do know is that radio isn’t taking its last gasp and it’s not dead, join us and you’ll see why.

Radiodays Europe takes place March 31–April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland.