The smart phone is radio’s greatest threat

For 100 years radio stations have been monetising the time that listeners spend listening to radio shows. Across the decades, good shows and music delivered radio stations large audiences and income.

But, now big tech companies are in a battle for the time and attention that listeners devote to consuming radio.

Radio listeners are being distracted by notifications on their smart phone — alerts for new podcasts, live streams for important COVID-19 media conferences and new songs on Spotify.

Once podcasting became mainstream in 2005, radio shows around the world were uploading highlights to their websites and iTunes.

After a decade of quality podcast uploads, ‘Podcasting 2.0' started to gain attention. Investigative journalism podcast Serial had set a new content standard. Everyone wanted their own podcast. Data revealed that, by 2019, 165 million Americans had listened to a podcast.

The large radio networks embraced Podcasting 2.0 by committing resources and seeking to monetise their audio.

The most recent Annual Report released by Australia’s largest commercial radio network, Southern Cross Austereo, went into great detail about their podcasting success. “Listening to Hit and Triple M radio podcasts jumped by 75% to 4.2 million downloads” said CEO Grant Blackley in his annual statement. “Downloads of PodcastOne Australia’s original podcasts rose by 167% from March to August 2020.”

Southern Cross Austereo digital stats — 2020 Annual Report

A month before the 100th anniversary of the world’s first commercial radio station going to air, Spotify announced a product that looks a lot like radio — called ‘Original Shows’. The headline in their media statement explained it simply: “Spotify Launches New Audio Experience Combining Music and Talk Content.”

The announcement by Spotify’s ‘Anchor’ goes one step further — Anchor allows home DJs to talk between songs and upload their creations, or ‘shows’ as they call it, to Spotify.

Big tech is flagging that it wants the valuable attention of radio’s listeners.

Radio has a history of recruiting clever people and producing quality audio. For decades radio battled against audio competitors like the record player, CD player, cassette tape player and YouTube.

Personalities, information, breaking news and music formats contribute to radio’s strengths.

Smartphone notifications are disrupting the habits of radio listeners. The alerts are offering listeners algorithm-generated quality content options.

Radio can compete against smart phones by doubling-down on their quality-content strategy.

The challenge for radio executives though is to maintain the revenue that allows them to fund quality broadcasting.

Silicon Valley’s big tech companies have deep pockets and can compete for user’s attention with their clever use of their technology — but they can’t compete with radio’s super-local audio content.

Local news, local information, local comedy and fun are some of the content items that big tech would find too costly to produce and replicate in markets around the world. Localism is radio’s point of difference.

Through their apps and social media accounts, radio stations have access to a whole range of free digital tools that can create ‘noise’ about their content on smart phones.

Radio should be issuing more frequent push alerts for content on their apps. They need to better-engage with their audiences via their Facebook pages. When was the last time you saw a radio show use the live stream tool on Instagram Stories or Twitter Live? Email newsletters? All of these digital tools can put radio’s content at the top of the smart phone alerts.

Radio needs to join the battle for attention on smart phones.

Radio’s new direct competitor is not Spotify — it’s the smart phone.

#Podcasting #Radio

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