Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland
I recently went to the NAB Show in Las Vegas – the first time I’d been there for three years or so. I used to stay at The Riviera, a gloriously run down hotel and casino, which had two good things – first, it was a short walk away from the Convention Center, and therefore relatively easy to get to; second, it had an almost acceptable British pub in it, which was a nice home from home. Oh, and it was very cheap.
The Riviera was knocked down a few years ago, though. In its place this year was a lot of building work: the Convention Center is expanding, and where there was once a crappy hotel with awful wifi, there will soon be The West Halls, a place to fill with more exhibitors.
So this time, I discovered a new hotel – the LINQ, which is a monorail stop away from the convention centre. It doesn’t have the opulent fanciness of the Wynn, but it also doesn’t have the prices to match. The best bit of the LINQ is a European-style street off the strip, with a number of decent eating places down it. Spend a little time here, and you can nearly forget about the horrific nonsense of the rest of Las Vegas.
I spent much time in the audio part of the NAB Show, and noticed a small change: equipment manufacturers are making more stuff for home studios, rather than massive downtown studio facilities. Some manufacturers, at least, are recognising that work is changing for those that make great audio. We don’t need gorgeous studios in expensive locations, now that we have high-speed internet.
As one example: Rhod Sharp, a radio presenter for BBC Radio 5 Live, has presented the same overnight show for the last twenty-five years – much of it from an eighteenth-century house in the US state of Massachusetts. He requires a microphone, a few monitors, a data link, and not much else.
There are more stories of radio stations being happier to leave the studio behind. Filippo Solibello, a broadcaster for Italian broadcaster RAI, sees a studio as a confining place: he much prefers to take his show on the road. He appears to need a microphone, a laptop, and a wifi connection.
Indeed, there are many stations – some on internet only, some on FM or DAB – which exist without having a broadcast centre at all: each show coming from the presenter’s home.
Radio’s unique selling point is a human connection and a shared experience: something that Spotify cannot possibly hope to do. Increasingly, that human connection and shared experience isn’t served by having presenters locked in a brightly-lit studio, wittering on about Kim Kardashian or interviewing movie stars. Better, perhaps, to get out and do stuff – whether live or nearly live – across your broadcast area.
If equipment manufacturers are beginning to notice the trend to home studios, perhaps that’s an opportunity for all of us to rethink how we make radio to keep it relevant for the future.
About The Author
James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website media.info and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes podnews.net, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at james.crid.land.