The Future Of Radio 2: The Worst Thing

I’ll have to be very careful how I word this.

Radio Stations thrive from having a sense of community. It’s the best thing there can be, as it encourages word of mouth advertising. And that is free!

And, also, We have been given a free shot at communities. It’s called the internet. It’s like the referee said “Take that penalty from one yard out, and we’ll have no goalkeeper in the world cup final, in the last minute, when you needed one goal to win. Its that good!

There are a few good ones that i know of. Scott Mills has a good following on the Unofficial Mills forums, run by Jono Read. Also, Chris Moyles with Also, essential listening can be had on one BBC talk station for a short while each time he’s on. I can say no more, so SHH!

So, what’s the worst thing about radio? Well, again, according to James Cridland:

The worst thing to happen in radio over the next two years is that the radio business doesn’t make its content relevant to younger people.

It’s true. Even though there is the internet out there, not everyone uses it right. Stations still have some numbers instead of names on a lot of radios (admittedly, these types of radio aren’t RDS enabled). The BBC have tried to use it properly recently, with the visual player. Looking at the inside of the studio. Ben Chapman is the Interactive Editor, Audio and Music Interactive, at the BBC. He blogged about it recently and said of Radio 1:

So we get a lot of text from our listener base – I mean a lot – on a good month 500,000 texts. We’ve seen during this trial that around half of the messages that come in are from SMS messages and half from our visual console. It’s an impressive conversion rate – and I have worked out – (really roughly with some initial data) that people are 60 times more likely to interact via the free messaging – we are getting roughly just under double the amount of texts than normal.

A radio studio isn’t the most exciting place. This is a typical one:

Tudno FM Studio

Faders, a computer, seats. Nothing exciting to the average person. So why is the visual player so good? Well, you can see the texts. You can see your favourite presenter. And you can see information about tracks. So why isn’t it great?

Well, I saw the Five Live one. Interesting. It had Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo on one, with Mark Kermodes Band. They played a few songs. But it was laggy. It wasn’t in time. Presumably it’s because the video and the audio had to be matched, and a lot of people were trying to use it. But it’s also because I had to stay there to see it. Radio isn’t like TV. Radio means i can do anything at the same time. Right now I’m listening to Drive on Five Live as i write this. I had to stop writing this to watch the BBC News at 6. So interactive content – in the form of an application for a smart phone such as the iPhone or Blackberry would be fantastic. Or some easily accessible content.

The BBC can do this well. Red Button, Mobile sites, Facebook/twitter integration, videos, blogs, promo’s. But can commercial radio keep up? Absolute and Classical can, because they’re big, but the smaller stations, even the likes of Heart, can’t – because they would have to make decent localised content, and on the budget that would be possible in todays financial climate, it is next to impossible.

So, what’s the worst thing about radio? It’s the worst and best thing. No pictures, essentially. Not as much interactive content. Why? A lot of people find it too hard to interact, or don’t want to use facebook. They don’t have the time to go and look at a video. They are too busy to sit and watch Chris Moyles talk at a microphone for 3 and a half hours (or when he turns up in the morning.)

The internet has a big community out there, but the internet hasn’t always been there – however the community has. Think of John Peel, and the Pirate stations.

Also, it’s not “cool” enough to listen to radio. There’s the whole iPod generation that I haven’t touched on.

Essentially, there isn’t a worst thing about radio. It’s a challenge – it’s the sound. People who want to and can (this includes stations and listeners) engage in interactive content can. But it must all link back to on air. Radio isn’t visual. TV is.

And for sound, the best thing you can do is go to the BBC World Service Save Our Sounds page. It was run by Kate Arkless-Gray, and she opened up the a world of sounds using interactivity like never before, really. Two documentaries, called Discovery, brought sound to the world. And they were very interesting to listen to. Radio is all about sound. Speech, Music, Ambient. It’s all there.

So sit back and enjoy the sound – or get on with whatever you were doing beforehand.


In this post, I linked to
James Cridland
BBC Internet Blog
BBC World Service Save Our Sounds

All are essential, I believe.


One Reply to “The Future Of Radio 2: The Worst Thing”

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