Last week a new service, Traffic Radio, went on-air across most of England’s local DAB multiplexes. Traffic Radio is operated by the Highways Agency with Trafficlink providing the content. It’s a very simple idea, a rolling speech-only traffic news service.
I was quite dismayed to read on the anoraky radio newsgroups almost a total slagging off for the service. Now, having been a target of these geeko’s in the past, I always try to take any discussion with a pinch of salt. But I just found their views really disheartening.
You see, I think a station like Traffic Radio is perfect for DAB. Yes, it’s niche, but it’s brilliantly targeted at filling a functional need for radio listeners. Rather than wait for Station FM to give you a speedy bulletin before they’re back to the music… this service with a short rotation of news is almost traffic on demand.
Some people think Traffic Radio’s a rubbish idea because there aren’t many DAB radios in cars. Well, if we thought like that there wouldn’t have been any DAB radio stations at all, as in 1999 there were hardly any DAB radios under a grand. Content stimulates take-up, and a nationwide traffic service is actually something that is likely to encourage car manufacturers to put DAB in more cars.
I think DAB content is going the right way at the moment. In the beginning all the group’s wanted to occupy the centre ground in Pop and AC and target the BBC on a national scale. However, they seemed to have realised that actually even with a great mix of music and no ads it’s hard to pull people away from Radio 1 and 2 or even stations like Heart, Century and Real all of which have strong loyalty from their listeners.
By going a little more niche, with formats like Chill, Christian and even Traffic, collectively there’s a better chance to pick off different aspects of large station’s audiences. An hour here or an hour there will add up and begin to eat away at the BBC’s dominance.