Does audio lack a product focus?

What fascinates me about audio at the moment is that the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each of the different players in the sector, keep revolving and changing. No matter whether it’s Spotify or Apple, Global or the BBC, the audio strategies keep adjusting. There seems little desire to stick to what they’re known for.

I think part of the problem for many organisations, audio included, is that they misunderstand the business they’re in.

The oft-used example is that Kodak thought it was in the photographic film business when actually it was in the memories business. Through the memories lens, digital cameras would have been an opportunity, rather than a product they developed and quickly buried.

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RAJAR’s Return

News over the weekend that the radio industry’s audience measurement is returning.

It’s seemingly been on a longer hiatus than One Direction, as its panel building was somewhat kiboshed by the Coronavirus.

It’s always popular to knock RAJAR (or any research methodology) but most wailing is pretty uninformed. RAJAR is one of Europe’s largest surveys with nearly 100,000 people participating in a regular year. It’s demographically and geographically representative of the UK’s listeners (and non-listeners) and that requires some effort. How do you get someone to fill in a survey about radio listening when they don’t listen to any? It’s important to track that group too!

People also fail to recognise that RAJAR isn’t one national survey, it’s hundreds of inter-locking surveys that give robust data about individual stations’ TSAs (their coverage area). So you need to be representative in Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth individually, as well as across the combined regional area too.

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Radio’s Trouble With The Internet

Radio has always had a bit of trouble with the internet. Or more accurately, the people behind radio stations have some difficulty in getting their online editorial right.

The birth of the web saw radio jump into this medium at the turn of the century. At that point local stations, the predominant form of the wireless, tried to replicate their local credentials by booting up a local portal. I spent most of 2001 sitting in the head office of koko.com, GWR’s attempt to create a hybrid national/local site. It was a good idea, though ahead of its time – in both the tech that ran it didn’t really work, and the audience probably wasn’t quite ready either (a crap name didn’t help). It also had a lot of trouble replicating the content feel of the successful local radio stations. The teams were good at creating compelling audio but no one had taught them how to create compelling text.

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What’s the value of a podcast exclusive?

A couple of interesting articles dropped in the last week looking at different elements of Spotify’s podcasting business.

The first is a blog post from the company talking about them making more of their owned shows Spotify exclusives.

Exclusives, or the slightly weaker ‘windowed’ versions (where a show is exclusive somewhere for a little while) are important elements to help drive consumption on particular platforms.

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Audio Use in the UK

Ofcom’s Media Nations report is an excellent analysis of media consumption and trends, with a great section on radio and audio.

One of the opening paragraphs is a good overall analysis of the sector

Consumers continue to listen to radio and audio content on a wide range of devices. Although listening to live radio on a radio set has been in decline for the past few years, for adults overall it continues to account for much of their audio consumption. Conversely, consumption of digital audio services, including online live radio, music streaming services and podcasts, has grown over time, especially among adults aged 15-34 for whom live radio on a radio set now accounts for less than a quarter of listening.

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iHeart Tunes In, but will Global?

iHeartMedia is the biggest US radio operator – nearly a thousand radio stations, a well marketed app – iHeartRadio, and a strong podcast network. It’s also one of the big players in podcast consolidation, having snaffled up Voxnest, Triton and Spreaker.

As a big player, if run well, all these parts make the sum stronger. Cross-promotion, talent and technology all working together, giving them a strong competitive advantage.

The promo tie-ups of all your different activities are relatively easy to do. Some good media planning can generate real dividends, and if the tech stack’s good, it isn’t that hard to do. What’s more complicated, but potentially very profitable, is where you can use your large work force to help grow the business in new areas.

That’s why I was taken with their announcement last week that they’ve done a deal with TuneIn “the world’s leading live streaming audio service”.

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Your radio station bores me

I don’t wish to be rude, but I think your radio station is pretty boring.

I can be pretty broad with that comment because there’s very little on-air at the moment that makes me excited as a listener and especially very little that would encourage me to change radio station more permanently.

Perhaps my miserableness comes from the fact I’ve just finished my (er, 5th?) re-read of The Nation’s Favourite by Simon Garfield. Easily the best book about radio. It follows Radio 1 when Matthew Bannister came in and shook it up – and all hell broke lose. It covers the end of the dinosaur DJs (DLT etc), the Chris Evans/Jo Wiley/Pete Tongs joining through to the early days of Moyles.

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British Podcast Awards Wrap Up

On Saturday it was the ceremony for the British Podcast Awards. This year we did it live as a massive outdoor festival in Brockwell Park. This is the fifth year of the Awards and it’s been an interesting journey from deciding in a pub with Matt Hill that maybe we should put on some awards for podcasting, to standing in a park with a team of 70 making busy preparations, as I looked up hoping for no rain.

There wasn’t any rain, which was fortunate as 650 people showed up to celebrate a sector that’s seen huge growth.

We decided to do the Awards mainly because no one else was, and we felt it would be a good way for the general public to discover new podcasts. Even then we knew that everyone loves a good list.

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Regulating the media

I’ve just finished a few books that look at the challenges broadcasters have faced – The Remarkable Tale of Radio 1 by Robert Sellers and Maggie Brown’s Channel 4: A History: from Big Brother to The Great British Bake Off (the sequel to the equally excellent A Licence to be Different – The Story of Channel 4 which covers the channel’s early years).

In retrospect the problems Radio 1 and Channel 4 faced were pretty prosaic – from being the challenger (to the pirates and BBC/ITV respectively) to being the challenged (the rise of commercial radio and the growth of multi-platform television). They were both trying to maintain as much of the status quo as possible – broadly audience share and revenue (for C4) – without having to change too much.

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Facebook Gets Into Podcasting

Last week saw Facebook launch podcasts on its platform. Not that you’d notice if you were outside of the US.

The roll-out seems somewhat limited. US listeners are the only ones that can tune in, and participation for podcasters seems invite-only for the moment.

This means that even if your podcast episodes are pulled through and published they won’t show up in an international user’s newsfeed, or even on a Page if you visit it.

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