Radio and TV is a complicated business, and for a medium that used to ‘just’ have to worry about a transmitter network, today’s world means keeping on top of lots of endpoints – places where your content and channels end up.
Of course, the need for wide distribution is now an issue for everyone in the media sector. If you’re a musician are you on all the streaming platforms? If you’re a podcast are you listed on all of the apps and directories?
One of my day jobs is being part of a team that looks after a lot of DAB distribution through our MuxCo network. We look after hundreds of radio stations, broadcast over a hundred transmitters. It’s a network of many elements and many things that can go wrong. We’ve been doing it a long time, however, so when there’s a problem we have a pretty good idea of what (or who!) has caused it, and can get it fixed pretty quickly. Sometimes though, there’s just some outliers that are hard to plan for, as Arqiva found, when one of its key transmitters burned down last month, knocking out Freeview for a million people (and affecting our radio customers too).
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.
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.
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.