Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland
What will we see in radio in 2019? My job’s to look at trends in radio consumption, not really future-gazing: but perhaps I might offer the following thoughts:
Smart speakers will continue to grow. Google’s ecosystem is much larger than Amazon’s, though if you only measure on sales of Google or Amazon branded units, Amazon still has the upper hand. This is good news for well-branded radio stations, and for live radio in general; though expect your distribution costs to increase as you have to pay for more bandwidth and, in some parts of the world, higher music rates. (On the other hand, smart speakers aren’t used for podcasts much.)
Radio will continue to become more multiplatform. 2018 was the year that AM/FM became used by less than 50% of British radio listeners: DAB (and to a lesser extent, online and DTV) continues to increase in most countries. More countries are now committed to an entire switchoff of FM broadcasting, following Norway’s lead (who turned off national and many local stations in 2017). Radio isn’t a platform, it’s a thing – a style of audio programming.
Podcasting will continue to grow. I publish Podnews, a daily podcast newsletter, at podnews.net and have seen considerable growth in readership, industry activity, and competition. It’s still a tiny part of media consumption, but will continue to slowly grow. Spotify added podcasts earlier this year, and has emerged as a strong #2 contender; in the US, Pandora’s entry into the market may help grow consumption yet more.
New technology will mean new formats. The UK has a station just for tradesmen and construction workers. Australia has a commercial station for children aged 0-7. We’ll continue seeing stations with new and interesting formats, made possible by new ways of transmitting stations.
People will fall out of love with live and linear radio on their mobile phone. This is already happening, says some of the statistics that I’m following. Music radio is a poor second choice to the interactive delights of Spotify or YouTube Music, with lower ad-loads and interactivity. Talk radio is, in some ways, a poor second choice to podcasting. We’ll see more of the type of services like Kronehit in Austria offers – a way to stay with a live radio service, but also to skip songs and segments you don’t like.
The car dashboard will continue to offer more choices. Whether that’s podcasting, Spotify, or other competitors to traditional radio, radio needs to be on the front foot to continue competing. Work with hybrid, connected radio that makes the user-experience a better one is vital for success.
This is my last column for 2018. (I’m still publishing Podnews, the daily podcasting newsletter, every day – even over Christmas – because podcasting never stops.)
A special mention to the folks at AllAccess, who publish this column in the US – based near Malibu CA, they’ve had to cope with extraordinary fires that threatened their offices, and burnt down their publisher Joel Denver’s home entirely. While radio stations everywhere keep pumping out the hot hits, they’ve been pumping water on hotter fires. Here’s hoping for a more settled 2019 to them – and all of us.
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.