The future of radio. Is your job safe and will radio survive ?


As we approach the dawn of a new year, I’ll share my thoughts on a question I’m asked a lot….

Will radio survive – or is it just “old school” media?

Well, the answer is yes – and yes! Radio has been alive for many decades – and it will thrive and have a great future as long as the medium and the people working in it continue to adapt. As they say: “adapt or die”.

Localism Around the World

I was asked recently "With all the radio apps around, doesn't that kill local radio?” A listener can listen to KROQ in Los Angeles when they are actually in Adelaide. But why would they want to? Sure, a tiny percentage will, but the majority will listen to their local stations whether it’s Brock in Bathurst or B105 Brisbane.

Localism – one of radio's key strengths – is also one of its greatest weapons in the new media landscape. New media has raised the bar on content and information, but localism is radio’s secret “survive and thrive” weapon. New media companies have recognised the importance of localism – even Facebook and Pandora offer local targeted advertising. But radio can do both local advertising – and compelling, local content – better.

The quality of content will be a big decider of radio's future. It has to be innovative and it has to be different. (And, if it’s not local, it has to at least be “locally relevant”). Information can be sourced on plenty of mobile devices but personality content that is unique and compelling will keep listeners coming back to radio.

The majority of people will always prefer to be entertained than to entertain themselves. And from the few that instead prefer to do the entertaining, “listener driven” content will grow, increasingly originating online. And out of that will be born an opportunity: many future radio (and television) personalities will be born of backgrounds started online. Hand in hand with that, on air personalities will be held more accountable for their online results, as well as their on air ratings.

Emerging Revenue Opportunities

For radio to not just survive, but flourish, our top priority needs to be creating greater advertising demand. Should the medium concentrate on national or direct (local) revenue? Integration with other media such as outdoor, television, press and social media are great opportunities for radio to do well in the future.

Radio sales people have already become marketers instead of traditional spot sellers, consulting on creative, execution, admin, social media, and new and emerging mobile media opportunities. Radio stations and groups will have to be the one stop shop and offer turnkey solutions for clients updating their web sites and social media. This is already happening – and radio needs to always stay ahead, seizing the next emerging revenue opportunity.

New Technology: Threat or Opportunity?

The outlook for radio is stronger than ever. Radio will be able to be delivered to consumers in more ways than ever before.

While new technology could be seen as a threat (the last few years has seen the introduction of iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, etc), even now over 80% of all music listening is from radio. And, of course, mobile devices will soon feature a chip so listeners can access their favourite station on their phone or tablet. In the next few years this will become available on all mobile devices – it will be ubiquitous.

Radio’s digital future – whilst its been a “slow birth” – will help the medium. Radio, like all other media, is looking to maximise the digital opportunity. Radio is the perfect companion for social media and mobile media, giving radio greater scale, and the ability to put together cross platform solutions.

Innovation will always drive the future of radio. Technology will lead the way by growing radio’s audience and will open up new sources of revenue. Radio, unlike newspapers and magazines, has been quick to adapt to the digital environment and will continue to explore new innovations and revenue opportunities.

Are You Part of the Solution – or Part of the Scenery?

And where will radio be in the future. Well that depends on you, working at a local station or at a network. You have the power to help be a part of the solution for radio moving forward.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet when asked, "What would you have done differently?" Both replied, "read more". Which means: continually develop greater expertise in the areas that will make a difference. And what will make a difference for radio to survive and thrive is for radio people to continually “sharpen the saw” (to paraphrase Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits) – in their expertise as marketers. Marketing expertise will become radio's greatest asset and ensure its success in the future.

Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network


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