THE FUTURE OF RADIO. CHANGE IS IN THE AIR. (OCTOBER 2022)
THE FUTURE OF RADIO.
2022 is a World where people like to talk more, listen less and do nothing at all. Recently I was invited to present a Keynote Talk to an international radio broadcasting group who have about 160 stations in 50 countries and broadcast in 140 languages. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about the future of radio, which is Digital.
I promised the Future Thinkers listening to me that I would prepare an article on my talk notes, and that is exactly what you are reading now.
I have tried to add some of the most interesting nuggets, but if you wish to hear more, you can listen to the full talk on my channel:
Radio is one of the oldest methods of communication and remains, especially in Africa, the preferred and often only source of information. It started back in the 1890s, and like many technologies its roots stem from war. A few years later, in the 1920s, radio became the new ‘must have’ household accessory, with families keen to have one in their own lounge. Once the AM to FM technology hurdle was overcome, the quality and uptake of Radio boomed. The first paid radio advert happened in the year 1923 and very soon after that broadcasting licences appeared. Today there are about 45000 traditional stations, and they all need to undergo their metamorphosis from analogue to digital.
A side nugget: Did you know the International Space Station has a Radio station called Kenwood TM-D710GA. The transmitter is located in the Columbus Module which you can listen to using just about any 144 MHz FM.
Radio has been used to share information on education, religion, news, sports and even entertainment. It has gone through periods of censorship, but also helped us achieve freedom of speech. For many, radio has been a source of comfort.
Digital Audio Broadcasting or DAB for short is Radios worm to butterfly moment, although the actual innovation (DAB / DAB plus) has been around since 1995. There are e-radio stations all over and anyone with the internet can broadcast shows, no matter their age, and with very little technical savvy. Hassan Hamid, from Pakistan, was a 4 year old who hit the airwaves and created an evening show.
My Keynote Talk was for a radio station with religious interests and it was probably nice for them to know that within the top 10 e-stations, sharing a space with music shows, was one called K-Love, who have over 2.5 million Christian listeners.
South Africa got its first radio station in 1950s called Springbok Radio. Today Ukhozi FM is our biggest station with about 7.5 million listeners. BBC World Service is probably the biggest in the World with about 20 million. In South Africa 77% of us listen to radio through traditional receivers, 29% listen via our phones, 12% on TV sets and a mere 1% with computers. That works out to roughly 1/3rd using e-radio.
When will E-Radio be the top of the charts?
The short answer is relatively soon. Once the costs of data drops and there is reliable and accessible internet (and electricity), the transition to Digital Radio will be expedited. Progress is hindered by government and a few commercial interests, but with new battery technology and home and office self-powering solutions, and internet broadcasting satellites from Google and Starlink, I am certain e-radio will bypass all current obstacles.
In Africa I believe we will see e-radio surpass traditional shows within a time window of 10-20 years, maybe sooner. Some South Africans might doubt that prediction. They must remember wherever there is less legacy infrastructure, new technology is often picked up quicker. For example, Africa and the Middle-East are were satellite radio became successful first. Another example is Africa being a leader of e-money.
From the year 2040 or so, Radio companies need to be 100% ‘E’. Up and until then it will be a hybrid model of traditional and e-radio, a. Some commercial radio stations in South Africa have been quick on the uptake, East Coast Radio is a prime example of an innovation leader. Gareth Cliff, the controversial radio host, has been a Change Champion and done well for himself.
Pros vs Cons.
There really are very few disadvantages. The playing field is levelled for new and old, big and small radio companies. The beauty of technology is it can be an equalizer and success will come down to the decision to act. Older and larger ones will resist more, but e-radio is inevitable. There are two main reasons for this.
- The way traditional shows once reached listeners simply wont be around in the coming years. Literally, the devices will be gone.
- The 4 billion people that use to enjoy traditional radio, well how do I say this tactfully? They are getting a little older and because of this will also be dwindling. For example, China, a leading radio market, will by the year 2050 have around 300 million ‘oldies’. That means the potential death rate runs into tens to hundreds of millions of people each year.
The fact is anyone born from this year onward is not likely to ever listen to a traditional radio show. ‘Radios clients’ are hanging out in areas unfamiliar to show production and marketing teams. These new spaces are almost exclusively digital: like social media and in a few years’ time the Metaverse.
The potential of E-Radio will be missed for your broadcasting company if you don’t navigate and master the platforms and new revenue models. E-banking, e-currencies, the subscription and circular economy all pose opportunity and risk to the traditional structures of radio. I am a Change Champion, and in that spirit would like to offer some nuggets to workshop. These are in no order of priority, and only a few of the innovations, influences and trends I have identified.
Every organization should have an online strategy by now covering: content, marketing and engagement. If you don’t, please speak with me to get this designed.
In addition to the several many opportunities getting your business online offers, you immediately acquire access to people’s true opinions about you.
Sad, but true: people prefer to share their ‘truths’ online, rather than directly with you. Create a search list to monitor the buzz. This will differ based on your business. A few ideas to get you started:
- Google ratings.
- Amazon online reviews.
- Better Business Bureau online reviews.
- Facebook reviews.
- Twitter accounts.
- Industry related Blogs and chat rooms.
There are a number of wonderful online reputation Apps. Monitoring tools should also be used to study your competitors. You might also want to set up a Google Alert for your business and senior management team member’s names.
The Internet is not controlled by anyone country, but Governments and Corporates can subject connectivity and content to e-censorship. I believe access to the internet is a basic human right, in line with the United Nations Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately the internet is not yet a free space.
Mitigating e-shananigans can be tricky, there are appeal processes, legal options, direct interventions, screaming at your laptop, and then some nerdy avenues to pursue. You can chat to me in person to discuss options specific for your organization.
There are many interesting resources to monitor our e-freedom status, here are two:
We need to understand that going forward, Radio is not all about audio (although it is vastly significant), it is now inclusive of visuals, the ability to share and engage.
E-radio is about the consumer becoming the disc jockey and deciding what they want to hear, not the other way around. Never mind video killing the radio star, radio will birth the new e-stars!
Radio companies need to focus on how to produce shows for on demand, download and streaming, taking into consideration time zones and peoples tastes in all sorts of geo-locations. Take some time to ponder how significant Digital Radio in cars is going to be, or devices implanted into our bodies.
E-marketing will be perfected before e-radio. Those today who have perfected the e-spaces the youth are already hanging out in and how to push marketing or get them to spend, are the biggest risks in terms of competitors to current radio stations. Factor in how easy it will be for a popular social media platform to launch an e-radio station and dominate. It would be just as easy for a large search engine or a major e-store.
Search engines and platforms blocking content through algorithms will need to be tackled in the near future.
As with anything connected to the web, IoT or Metaverse, there are major concerns around e-attacks and data breaches. For e-radio, there are additional challenges to overcome associated with royalties, jurisdictions, taxes, infringements and copyright laws.
Research the market place and competitors, develop a strategy, and then ‘hire young’ or at the very least vigorously upskill the current team.
One of the first items on the agenda (other than the obvious new technology and show content) will be deciding on new methods of income generation. Donations, crowdfunding, private charges, merchandise, and membership are just a few of the ideas you need to consider because advertising opportunities (and consumer tolerance) on e-radio will be miniscule.
You will need to go through three phases. Preparation (research and strategy), foundation (technical, skills, marketing and operations) and then roll out (launching, assessment, tweaking).
E-radio will offer analytics and data feedback which will help during your assessment. Use it!
At the end of the day, solid authentic content, customization, collaboration (with multiple platforms) and engagement I believe will be the four pillars of success to any good e-radio show.
Time to tune into the Future.
But wait, there is MORE!
Who is Jean-Pierre Murray-Kline?
Jean-Pierre is a South African Serial Entrepreneur, Published Author and Change Champion who has worked in over 300 types of industries in some capacity or another. His own online businesses have generated millions of Rands and involved sectors including Law, Web & App Development, Events & Entertainment, Property, Technical Services, Media and Tourism.
He has travelled to over 50 cities World-Wide, and is extremely active as a Business and Environmental Technologist.
Jean-Pierre is often asked to be a Guest Speaker on any variety of the many subjects he continuously studies and writes about.
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