Funding Radio

I like radio. You may have noticed.

I like it because a small number of people can put effort into something that a lot of people can then hear.

Clearly the content has to be good, it needs to be relevant to a group of people and they then all need to know about it, but still… it’s something that’s very achievable.

I also like ‘digital’. You may have noticed.

Digital has democratised most things that it’s touched. A great deal of old media’s success came from big barriers to entry. You couldn’t be on television unless they agreed. Or newspapers. Or radio.

With digital, distribution becomes much easier. Yes, you’re now competing with the world, but digital’s also democratised marketing. Twitter, blogs, email has allowed a new generation of media (both amateur and professional) to flourish.

Fun Kids, our digital radio station, can only exist because a digital platform, for us mainly DAB (but also the internet) allows us to reach a large number of people. Also, handily, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to acquire digital space than it would an FM licence. To be honest, if I had and FM licence I wouldn’t put a kids format on it, I’d probably so something more mainstream.

Digital has also meant that content creation is quicker, cheaper and faster and allows us to make audio, video and web content as well as market it, all at a fraction of the traditional cost. In other words we need less money to be able to create something brilliant that about 300k kids consume. Plus we get to pay people (some) money too.


Similar to digital radio, podcasting has grown steadily over the past ten years. It’s definitely democratised the production, for want of a better word, radio shows.

A good idea, some skill, some marketing and some luck means that there’s been a flood of new entrants. Many of which have created new types of radio format (see Serial).

The funding of these is as variable as the content. Podcasting is generally free at the point of use. So people have to be more creative. There’s been tip jars, pay-for specials, attempts at subscription as well as advertising and sponsorship.

In the US quite a few podcasts have been crowdfunded using Kickstarter. In the UK, er, not so much.

I think fundamentally we’re less used to paying for audio content than they are in the States. The concept of pledging is also deeply lodged in the up-market psyche of NPR listeners who hear the regular pledge drives. Here, we pay for the BBC and then forget about it, and then they make excellent speech radio programmes. We’re not used to paying for quality radio, we just get it for free. Therefore when a podcast, even one we really like, pops up, as we get it for free I think we’re more reluctant to put our hands in our pockets.

This is why its so pleasing to see one of our own home-grown podcasters – Helen Zaltzman – be part of a successful crowdfunding drive.

Radiotopia is a podcast network that has great, unique podcasts. It’s a bit of a collective of podcasters and they’ve just raised $250k to support the shows for another year. Their Kickstarter is still going and if they hit a stretch goal of $400k it will allow them to fund some new shows, including one from Helen.

Helen writes about the process here.

I think if you’re a fan of radio it’s worth supporting. Even if you’re not, at the moment, a consumer of those shows.

I think radio is far more than just what’s on Capital or Radio 4. It’s about being a medium that has an amazing relationship with listeners. And there should always be more of it. Whether that’s commercial FM, community radio, DAB stations, podcasts or something else. The more radio there is and the more it’s enjoyed the better it is for all of us.

I also think it’s important that there are lots of different ways for people to get paid to do it.  After all, people who aren’t hungry make better radio programmes!

4 thoughts on “Funding Radio”

  1. Do you think there is room for a UK Radiotopia, or does Radio 4 already fill that kinda roll with its output? You can also make Podcasts pay in the UK, you just have to find the right model and price that a listener is willing to pay. Witness the LBC Podcast subscription service.

  2. I think LBC is the exception rather than the rule and they’re paying for something different than a ‘podcast’ more catchup radio. I think there’s a much wider world than the stuff Radio 4’s decided to commission. Loads of UK people subscribe to US podcasts as well as home-grown new ones. The trick is encouraging UK people to be comfortable paying for new series.

Comments are closed.