On this edition of “The Future of Audio” I speak with James Cridland, Editor of Podnews.Net, consultant and radio Futurologist.
BK: What are the key leadership challenges for the next five years for the Audio/Radio Business?
JC: The radio business IS the audio business.
Some people in newspapers genuinely thought that their job was to run a printing press. In the same way, some people in radio-particularly US radio, which is behind the rest of the world in this-think their job is to operate AM/FM transmitters. It isn’t. Radio’s job, in terms of audio, is a “shared experience, a human connection” and isn’t to operate a transmitter on top of a hill.
Why didn’t radio invent Pandora? Or Spotify? Or Podcasting? Because radio complacently thought that AM/FM was their future. It’s only in 2019 that we saw real efforts by US radio to suddenly invest in other people’s podcast companies: and only in 2019 that radio woke up to the fact that they are audio storytellers, not operators of RF transmission equipment. We know that radio’s future is multi-platform: not just on-line streaming, but also in terms of podcasting, social media and other platforms.
Radio still has 9-out of 10 people listening to it every week, according to the research in most large countries. But behind that number lies a significant drop in time-spent-listening. Much of that is due to radio disconnecting with its prime purpose-of being a shared experience and a human connection.
“Live and local” really doesn’t matter. I can back-announce a Doobie Brothers song hundreds of miles away, or above the local pizza shop, and it makes no difference. Instead, focusing on “Real and Relevant” is rather more useful. Relevance can come from localness, but it can also come from other things as well in our shared experience. And, as podcasting is teaching us, “live” counts for little when the content isn’t up to much. It’s a useful tool occasionally-but NOT being live allows us to polish our content and make it better.