Spencer Howson: “You can’t access human connection via a device”


The technology might have changed, but the heart of radio has not.

That’s according to Spencer Howson, who says there’s still nothing quite like the connection and companionship that live and local radio provides.

The high-profile Queensland radio host opens up about the changes and challenges within the industry in the first episode of Australian Broadcast Radio: A Centenary Celebration.

As we prepare to mark 100 years of Australian radio broadcasting on November 23, Stuart Creighton has put together this new series, celebrating both the industry and the people in it.

Howson says that whereas today we can access traffic, weather, cattle prices and stock market reports via a device, the same can’t be said for human connection.

“I absolutely love live, local radio.”

Never one to rest on his laurels, the former ABC host also reveals he still feels the daily pressure to be the best he can be.

“When I was number one in Brisbane, I had typically about 13 percent of the audience.”

“I used to bring myself back to earth by remembering that 87 percent of people are NOT listening.”

Of the ABC days, Howson says “When we were number one suddenly, it was like we tasted blood, and suddenly ratings were very important.”

“And I think ratings SHOULD be important for the ABC. Not because you’re trying to get more advertising revenue, but because you’re trying to justify your use of taxpayer money.”

“If you suddenly go from being number one to being number five or six in the market, then, rightly, questions should be asked.”

Despite being a household name in South East Queensland, Howson reveals he generally manages to fly under the radar when he’s out in public.

“I’ve been well enough known that I’ve been able to enjoy success on radio, but I’ve also been sufficiently anonymous.”

Howson – who now hosts Weekends on 4BC – sees the future of radio as a curated experience, with specific audio and visual feeds tailored to the listener.

“Local radio in particular is expensive. The one thing I will predict is a sort of combination of Facebook and radio. Spotify is kind of doing this.”

Episodes of Australian Broadcast Radio: A Centenary Celebration drop daily.

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Device user
2 Nov 2023 - 7:54 pm

lol, a live (stream/event) achieves the exact same thing with a more immediate feedback mechanism. No way I would think that any person (say, under 35) would have a ‘human connection’ with their radio. An absurd idea, and would only be a perception that could be originated from one that is within the industry. Ask someone outside of the industry, I bet they wouldn’t even remember that radio is an option for ‘human connection’.

I’m all for celebrating 100 years, but leave it at that, the past. Radio is not in the future – though I am entertained about how persistent the industry is in keeping it alive. Very few communication technologies (and models) from 100 years ago still exist, radio is no exception, let alone any linear broadcast.

3 Nov 2023 - 1:35 pm

I reckon BBQ radio (as if you’re sitting round at a Barbie) has become tired and worn out. And everyone called Fitzy and Debbie. Over it. Just an announcer playing format is way more personal. And yes, even that is dead I’d say.

3 Nov 2023 - 8:02 pm

That’s an interesting perspective from Howson. It’s great to see his passion for live, local radio and his commitment to delivering the best content. Ratings can indeed be important for public broadcasters to justify their use of taxpayer money. And the future of radio becoming a curated experience sounds like an exciting direction!


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