A bright future for radio

As part of her studies at the Australian Film and Television School (AFTRS) this year, Gabrielle Fitzgerald has done a historical analysis of history and trends in the radio industry. Gaby, who was one of the students responsible for our great coverage of the ACRAs this year, shares her thoughts with radioinfo readers as this year’s class broadcasts its final format for the year, Next FM:
Radio owes its development to two inventions; the telegraph and the telephone, all closely related and also known as wireless telegraphy. Radio is a very well established and popular medium that has withstood the test of time for one reason, that being that the industry has embraced change. Rather than stay as it was first invented radio has been a flexible medium that has adapted to change.
Since the introduction of radio, the industry has grown despite an ever changing society and technology. When television was first introduced and developed, the radio industry was considered under threat. However this wasn’t the case “today, there are more than 33,000 radio stations around the world, with more than 12,000 in the US alone. Worldwide there are more than 2 billion radio sets in use, or about one radio for every 3 persons; proof that video never killed the radio star.” The radio industry continues to grow despite ongoing threats from other similar mediums.
Unlike other industries, the radio industry goes from strength to strength because it embraces technology. A classic example of an industry who failed to do this is Kodak a company who invented the digital camera in 1975 but instead of marketing this concept saw this new technology as a threat to it’s film business and consequently has gone bankrupt. This case highlights the importance of moving forward and looking at ways to use expanding technology to an industry’s advantage something that radio does very well.
Technology has dramatically changed radio on so many different levels. It has affected every part of radio from how shows are put together to how the public listens and has even seen the rise of pre-recording and networking with stations having the ability to sound as though an announcer is live on air when in reality could be broadcasting from another city or may have done this shift earlier and be sitting at home.
All radio stations now communicate to other stations around Australia helping each other out and “borrowing” voices for advertisements and tags. This has then allowed the stations to have new and fresh voices all the time, but still have the regular announcers doing their shows daily. We also now use satellite to take overnight shows from other cities and have the ability to play the same show simultaneously on several stations around Australia at once.
One of the latest technological advances has seen the emergence of digital radio. The Australian Commercial Radio Industry launched digital broadcasting in 5 capital cities- Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide throughout May 2009 and is now spreading all over Australia. The most recent survey shows that almost 12 million people to listen to digital radio. Digital radio offers exceptional quality sound and a range of different features and stations.
The way people are listening to radio is also changing. Digital radio has changed how people listen to their favourite stations and new devices and apps being created and developed everyday are also adding to this change. Satellite radio in the US (a subscription service) for example Sirius, is a way of recording your favourite stations, this has not yet made it to Australia but may be developed here in the future.
Advances to technology have also changed the way announcers communicate. Announcers have now expanded the way they communicate to their listeners by using social media and blogging, such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Podcasts. Radio has become a multiplatform medium by encompassing all areas of media and is therefore always changing to use these advances positively.
The changing times have also seen several differences with programming and new trends. For instance several years ago the trend was to have radio jocks with big, deep voices but now natural sounding announcers are preferred as programs directors are moving away from this style and the latest trend is natural sounding announcers that listeners can relate to.
Emerging technologies and trends have also changed the way music is scheduled. Now instead of just looking at the charts, radio stations under take huge amounts of research to find out what songs are popular, what songs people are getting tired of, what sort of artist people like listening to and new and upcoming songs. Research is now a very important part of radio stations music selections and music directors need to be aware that even though we play a song 20 times a week, the average listener would only hear it 3 times a week. Research is also vital to make sure the radio station is playing the correct music for the stations demographic.
I believe the future of radio will continue to grow and will see the way announcers communicate with their audience and the way people listen continue to change as more technology develops. I think we may see more growth in radio being multiplatform and might even see radio announcers broadcasting their show live on youtube and on their websites. I have no doubt that the technology we use in the studio will change and become even more user friendly. I also think we will see more networking and opportunities to be a media business rather than just radio and that the need for announcers to be multi skilled will increase.

Today is also the last breadcast on Next FM for the AFTRS radio students. You can tune into the last shows here.