The dangers of assumption for radio

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

Never “assume,” we’re told in internal training days. To ass-u-me, we’re told, makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. And so we laughed. And had another biscuit. And willed the rest of the day to finish.

In radio, we assume too often: mainly, we assume that all our audience are like us. In 1993, I was told off by my Program Director at the time for back-announcing a song with a reference to the video. My assumption was that everyone listening was like us – with satellite TV and access to the music channels. He reminded me, correctly, that they weren’t.

We also assume that others are like us with the other technology we have.

Most people we know own an iPhone, so we assume that iPhones are in use everywhere. This would be a mistake: in fact, 80% of the world uses Android phones, and even where Apple is strongest – in places like the US and Australia – Apple only has 55% or so of the market.




In terms of smart speakers, too, you’d assume that Amazon Echo devices are the leader. We’ve seen lots of data from the US telling us so. And they are. In the US. But in Australia, Google has a 68% market share of smart speakers in the home. Amazon Echo devices are comparatively small. The wise would spend time on getting their stations to work properly on Google speakers, not Amazon Echo ones.

And then, people assume that sales of speakers tell the whole story. Google Assistant powers everything from Google speakers to Android mobile phones. I have two sets of headphones with Google Assistant inside them. (Actually, three. Yikes.) My Chromebook now has Google Assistant built-in as well. And you can guess that Google Assistant is coming to other things, too – like televisions, cars and more.

The best thing to do is to look at the data, see if you can spot the trends coming out of new technology, and understand what most people do – not what the people around you are doing right now.

The one thing we do know is that radio’s habitual nature means it’s surprisingly slow to change – far slower than anyone thinks. But that’s not to say that change won’t come.

I’ll be trying my hardest not to assume anything when I’m at the NAB Show shortly. I’ll assume that the monorail will have queues to get on, and it’ll be impossible to find a decent cup of coffee anywhere, but in terms of the tech, I’ll try really hard not to assume anything.


About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland