Radio must vigorously defend the kitchen and the car says Clive Dickens

SCA recently announced a shareholding in Omny, an app developed in Australia that has the potential to be a global player in the new Radio paradigm. Unlike Pandora or Spotify, Omny has the ability not just to play the music you want but to aggregate content from actual stations such as Triple M, triple j, FIVEaa or any others you care to add to your listening schedule.

“It’s a new type of radio,” says SCA Director of Digital and Innovation, Clive Dickens, My 11 year old daughter is an Omny fan. She said, ‘surely I don’t need to listen to the radio anymore because I can listen to the Bump, I can listen to Angus, I can listen to the music that I want, why would I listen to radio? I said, EXACTLY!”
radioinfo caught up with Dickens recently as he revealed some very impressive growth figures for the digital side of SCA’s Business. Despite the barrage of new platforms that seem to threaten radio’s very existence, he’s confident of a bright future for both radio and Omny.
Dickens continues…
Here’s a piece of technology that might make it less important for listeners in the future to listen to the radio. So what are we going to do? Are we just going to ignore it and hope that it doesn’t work?
Every single American radio group had the opportunity to invest in Pandora.  Every single US radio group decided that Pandora wouldn’t work  and now Pandora is more valuable than every single us radio group added together. We are not going to make that mistake here in Australia.

Not that there’s level of dissatisfaction where people want to break en masse with their favourite radio station yet – but there will be.

If consumers find things – it’s all about content – not about licences. At the moment, of course, our cash flows, our dividends, our profits are about our licenses and about our content. But in the future it’s all about consumers, how they feel and where they get their content. Therefore, we will look to ensure that we protect our shareholders investment by making sure that we invest in platforms  that allow us to at least have some influence in  how people will aggregate and dismediate our content in the future.

Omny is absolutely designed to be a global proposition. One thing that we can pretty much say with certainty is that there’s not yet enough people in Australia alone who want to personalise their radio experience to justify Omny’s existence . There will be. I’m very much reminded of that because I’ve been an investor in Shazam for 13 years and I worked for Shazam for the first two years. Shazam is now an incredibly profitable and successful enterprise but the reality is that for the first five years  there weren’t enough people in the world who wanted to tag a song . Now 13 years later, it’s  one of the most successful mobile businesses in the world.

Timing is really important. Omny has to quickly scale. Not that there’s level of dissatisfaction where people want to break en masse with their favourite radio station yet – but there will be.
Taking television as an example, it’s a bit like saying, ‘well the technology to do  Foxtel IQ has existed for a long time, but who was the first person who allowed me to  watch the news when I wanted to watch it? Or to watch Homeland when I wanted to watch it? It wasn’t the Free to Airs.  It was the Pay TV operators across the world.

People want to have the content they want, when they want it. The smart radio companies are the ones, in my opinion, that have accepted that consumers are the centre of our business  and if we choose to resist what they want then we will be  casting a death knell on our futures.

We should vigorously defend the kitchen and the car. We’ve arguably lost the work place already.

The other big change in consumer behaviour that I believe we’re likely to see is that their choices will become less about radio or television and more about ‘place of consumption.’ We will  increasingly  describe ourselves as ‘the in-car company’… ‘the in-kitchen company’…  ‘the in-bedroom company’ and ‘the in-bathroom company.’

So, these terms radio and television will cease to be relevant. It will be about our audio vision, engagement and content.

We should vigorously defend the kitchen and the car. I think we are pretty safe in the bathroom – battery operated radios are pretty popular in the bathroom . I don’t see connected touch screen radios in bathrooms being a reality beyond five star hotels  any time soon.

We’ve arguably lost the work place already. If you work in an office of at least three or four people  you would see a massive shift in the last 10 years  where everyone is working with headphones. I’m so old I can remember saying ‘let’s have the radio station that everyone can agree on at work.’ We don’t have that anymore as everyone works with headphones.

radioinfo: It seems like yesterday that radio was unique and ubiquitous, now you’re saying that the workplace is gone and we have to put up a defence just to keep the kitchen?

I struggle to make an accurate forecast about whether one will replace the other because I don’t think they will.

People say, ‘Oh look how much money people are spending with shops on the internet.’ Some of them they might be new entrants but big shops like Woollies and Coles are taking a big chunk of that.

We have to change the conversation, in my opinion, and avoid this sort of zero sum game. Figures out of Europe, most recently, is that the most digitally connected country on earth, well definitely inside the G8 anyway (UK). What’s happened? More  radio listening than ever before. Highest amount of radio listening in 50 years.  So as radios become more prevalent on every device, there is more radio listening. Happy days.


Clive Dickens

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