Writing in the Radio Times this week the controller of BBC Radio 1 restated his views on the future of radio. he notes that:
We are living with the HD generation – that’s the heads-down generation, who spend all their time looking at a small screen. And here are some scary facts for those of us who listened with Mother, or under the duvet to John Peel: today, one in three children has an iPad, while one in seven has a radio; and compared to ten years ago, radio has lost more than 50 per cent of 10- to 14-year-old listeners.
The challenge here is that the radio under the duvet has been replaced by an iPad or an iPhone. Not only that radio has competition. It must not only share the media day with TV, but also YouTube, social media and streaming platforms like Spotify. There are a number of challenges here. Firstly, to gain attention radio (stations) need to be in the place as the media they want to compete with. That’s simple enough, as apps like radioplayer make listening to radio on a phone really easy, but actually it needs to go further than that. Even before he was in charge of Radio 1 Cooper made the point that radio had to work out what it would look like on a screen, and whilst this experience has improved there’s a long way to go.
Take a look at this new studio at Capital FM. Like their neighbours elsewhere in Leicester Square Global have built a studio that puts video at the heart of what they do. This is not about saying ‘radio is dead, let’s make tv’ but about reconsidering what it is that radio stations do. Do they just turn out radio shows and go home? or do they build branded content that can be pushed out to social media. This might be about cool YouTube videos, silly Vine’s, Facebook Live or videos that can be shared.
James O’Brien’s devastating attack on The Sun newspaper over their hypocrisy on the recent racist attacks.
As well as looking ahead to the other things that radio can do, we must also look over our shoulder at the rush that’s coming up behind us. Next week I’ll be talking at a (academic) conference about Beats 1, a radio station created by a tech company to drive attention to their product – rather than build audiences that can be sold to advertisers or is part of a public service remit. This seems like an endorsement that rather than radio being nullified in the digital age there is perhaps more demand, and also opportunities to innovate. Beats 1 does not sound like Capital FM, and podcasts (mostly) do not sound like LBC.
Of course, for all this to turn the decline in audiences around requires innovation and some tough decisions. There will be winners and losers, but these are exciting times for radio; as Ben Cooper concludes
Young audiences are key to the future of the broadcasting industry and if we don’t adapt, we will die. What happens at Radio 1 today will happen for the rest of the BBC tomorrow. So there is a job to be done to ensure that the teenagers of tomorrow are under their duvets listening, watching and sharing the BBC on their phones and iPads.Long live radio – everyone is watching.