I was asked to speak at the inaugural event for the new Radiocentre Ireland last week. The organisation has been set-up to “promote strong, successful and brilliant commercial radio”.
Whilst independent radio has a well-established trade body in the IBI, Radiocentre Ireland brings together all the broadcasters that have advertising – so, yes, the traditional commercial sector, but also RTE, the public broadcaster – which takes advertising too.
Having a singular body promoting the benefit of advertising with its members is a good idea. Each group has its own unique properties it takes to market, but a good united body can sell the benefits of the medium.
It’s an interesting time for a new body to be set-up. Firstly it gets to sell the benefits of audio advertising across its members many properties. Yes, they are over-the-air broadcasters, but there’s also a digital audio offer and a mix of new media and experiential opportunities too.
But there’s also work to be done to sell the scale of commercial radio’s activities and the value of the market. Interestingly, up until now, no one knew how much revenue Irish radio took. If you’re an advertiser or an agency, are you spending more or less than your competitors? What would be the impact, positive or negative, of changing that? Without a shared understanding it’s hard to build. The first data should be released soon, and the expectation is that it’s going to be quite a bit higher than the market currently believes – which should help drive confidence in radio and digital audio. I was asked to do a turn about audio developments around the world, which ended up trying to reflect different organisations’ thinking and delivery. Most nbusinesses activity result from some form of market gap + internal skill + execution. There is rarely one size that fills all – even for companies that exist in different markets.Of course there are some over-arching themes, particularly that commercial broadcasters with strong sales relationships and large audiences can be well- placed to create significant digital audio businesses. Now, heritage businesses can sometimes be too late to the game, or have to spend to catch up, but their underlying activities put them in a good position. In the UK, Global’s DAX has become a key digital audio sales point and in the US both iHeart and SiriusXM (particularly through acquisition) have created strong integrated digital audio businesses. Whilst they may sometimes lack the sexiness of their Spotify-style competitors, they are good at creating new audio operations.
Ireland’s radio market has developed from one focused on strongly regulated local radio stations to something that added two national stations and a round of regional licences. Whilst there’s always been some corporate ownership, that has come more to the fore in the last few years with Newscorp owning seven stations across Dublin, Cork, Limerick and other areas and Bauer Media Audio Ireland now owning national stations Today FM and Newstalk alongside Dublin’s 98FM and two regional Spin stations. There also continues to be a range of local stations (some with common shareholders) and the public broadcaster RTE.
Bauer Ireland have developed an interesting digital offer, with a strong multi-platform sports product in OTB Sport, a digital ad-network AudioXI and a growing podcast operation with app Go Loud alongside a growing podcast network. Newscorp are using their radio stations to promote Irish-streams of Premier league matches with a version of talkSPORT as well as a Sun-branded true crime podcast. Local stations continue to own their areas, a strategy UK commercial radio has moved away from.
RTE, like many public broadcasters around the world, grapples with government funding unpredictability, a raft of new competition and a need to change and adapt faster than it is used to. For RTE which has commercial funding as part of the mix, it struggles with developing its offer whilst balancing its public position and commitments.
Having skipped DAB, which in many markets provides the learning slope to develop digital businesses and thinking, the challenge for Irish broadcasters is to scale up their digital ambitions (and reach) whilst growing their commercial radio business and fighting off new media competitors.
If they are successful with doing that, Radiocentre gives them a great platform to tell advertisers of their successes and the benefit of working with commercial radio broadcasters.
Irish Podcast Awards
One thing Irish audio creators, from commercial radio and further afield can do is shout about the great audio that they’re making. The inaugural Irish Podcast Awards allows them to do just that. It’s currently open for entries with a range of categories around content, sales and marketing.
On The Media Podcast this week, I caught up with Scott Bryan and Trevor Dann to talk about the latest on Channel 4, the ARIAS winners and the changes at the top at ITN and BBC Radio. Listen and subscribe.
Ireland’s new Radiocentre