Disrupt, adapt…or…well, what?

This quarter’s Rajar radio listening figures come out today. It’s a tense time for radio stations up and down the country.

If Rajar figures are up, you can guarantee that Rajar is absolutely the most insightful, most reliable tool for measuring listening hours in the entire history of humanity.

If the figures are down…well, Rajar sucks. Clearly.

But one thing’s for sure – to survive, radio’s gotta attract listeners. And these days, it’s got massive competition.

Over the past few years, radio’s faced enormous disruption. The cause of this is technology – the web, broadband, mobile browsing and new devices that make connecting to entertainment so much easier.

  • Radio’s all about music, right? Well, now there’s music streaming, downloads and the wonder of personalised playlists.
  • Radio’s all about talk. Now there are podcasts, audio clips being shared on social media. Interviews on YouTube.
  • Radio’s all about the news. There are great news websites, apps and who doesn’t find out what’s going down on social media??
  • Um…radio’s all about reliable weather updates. Yep, there are apps for that.
  • But what about sport? Radio’s great for sport, isn’t it? And there are fantastic streaming services…websites…um…
  • There’s always traffic updates. Radio’s brilliant for traffic updates. Um…apps?? Er…

I grew up with radio. I’m passionate about radio. I love it because radio’s your friend, your mate who hangs out with you in your room, your car, heck –  your bathroom, who confides in you, who shares your life.

But radio that sounds like you’re listening to someone else’s playlist? Radio that’s so corporate there’s no space in the links for the presenter’s personality to shine through? I worry for radio that isn’t bold. Because honestly, when there’s so much choice available, who’d want to listen to something bland??

Two things I’m sure about:

  • Radio needs great content. Great presenters, great imaging, great music. And bold, brave suits to run the show backstage.
  • Radio’s got to be where the disrupting forces have already led the audience…which means online…and mobile.

Spotify is doing all sorts of deals with car companies (Volvo, Ford, BMW and Mini to name a few) so music streaming services will be available to drivers with access to the right technology. And when drivers habitually tune into a music streaming service instead of their favourite radio station…well, that’s a scary thought.

Like my Twitter pal Michael Topic, I fear that radio is one clever app away from a very harsh day of reckoning.

Radio’s got to ask itself some soul-searching questions. Is it going to disrupt, adapt, do both…or face the consequences of doing neither?

UPDATE: This Spotify update has just been published this very afternoon. Yowzer.

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Emma is an award-winning voiceover, broadcaster and writer. Want to find out more about Emma?
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