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James Cridland’s Future of Radio: Smart speakers: radio’s friend, but less so for podcasts

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.


United States

  • New data about smart speakers in the US was released last week, from Edison Research and NPR. Here’s Steven Goldstein’s analysis.
    • Two things to note from this: “AM/FM radio listening is down with smart-speaker owners” is not a bad thing for the radio industry, since listening to radio stations is considerable on these new devices. “Radio” is not “AM/FM” any more.
    • The word “podcast” is conspicuously absent. With the exception of flash-briefings, my suspicion is that people don’t use these for podcasts: may be a function of being in a shared space, or the impossibility of navigation and browsing on a screen-less device.
  • Also at CES – lots, and lots, and lots of integrations for iHeartRadio into devices, as well as a new music subscription product and more stuff.
  • Everything is too complicated – a good piece in The Verge reminding us that many people find tech assumes too much. Also see DAB radio interfaces, and the way we talk about things on-air.
  • Nice idea – Nails Mahoney reviews radio shows and hosts from around the world. Here’s ‘Liz & Reilly’ from 94 5 MixFM Oregon.
  • US radio stations, in numbers – AM deathwatch: 30 gone in 12 months.
    • end 2016 AM 4669, FC comm: 6746, FM edu: 4101
    • end 2017 AM 4639, FM comm: 6744, FM edu: 4120
  • As Low-Power Local Radio Rises, Tiny Voices Become a Collective Shout – low power FMs in the US, profiled by the New York Times.
  • Catching Pandora In Their Lies – a quite damning piece highlighting that Pandora’s use of statistics is, charitably, challenged.
  • Samsung Becomes Latest Phone Manufacturer to Unlock the FM Chip – congrats to NextRadio for getting this done.
  • A well-written account of a visit to WUWM, Milwaukee Public Radio — and a good explanation of how local NPR stations work for British folk

Canada

United Kingdom

  • RAJAR’s Winter MIDAS survey – tracking UK radio’s place in our multiplatform world. Essential reading for those interested in our future.
    • I covered the podcasting learnings over at podnews – of note, there’s no real podcasting consumption on smart speakers.
    • Slide 17 is both f-ugly but also alarming. Owing to RAJAR measuring “listen again” and “podcasting” separately (for various reasons), the data’s a bit obfuscated – but it’s clear that on-demand radio and on-demand music are both significant players now in our audio landscape.
  • Impressive figures: Global, the UK’s largest commercial radio broadcaster, grows radio ad revenue by £12m (US$16m). The company is earning decent money: an EBITDA of £77.8m (US$106,000). £16m came from a newly-acquired music events company.
  • I’ve been playing with the Global Player, the company’s app, now that it’s available on Android. Last time I reviewed an app I was shouted at for an hour in a pub by one of its developers, so I’m a little reticent at doing a full review, but a few things I really like:
    • When you connect, the audio fades in over a second. No unpleasant sudden audio to blow your ears off. So obvious, everyone should be doing this. Everyone. No exceptions.
    • Like the 2001-vintage Virgin Radio player, it shows big, well-shot pictures of the presenters while they’re talking; and music artwork when songs are playing (with a fancy animation, too). This is the right way to highlight both talent and music. (Personally, I’d flip the studio cameras on if they’re available).
    • It’s a fast, responsive app on Android and coded with Android interface standards in mind (particularly the ‘play’ notification).
  • Of note, this tweet: “It is very unlikely that there will be any Small Scale DAB licences issued this year @Ofcom annual plan meeting. #SSDAB” – it would seem that the only thing holding DAB back in both the UK and Australia are the regulators (something Silicon Valley doesn’t have to contend with). The tech works, let’s get a move on.

Australia

  • While the BBC in the UK once more hits itself repeatedly in the face, this time over pay, here’s an interesting piece about Australian broadcasting pay, and the public service.
    • The ABC had to reveal staff salary details last year, which they did without naming names. The top-earning ABC presenter earns $460,000 (£265,000). And… she is a woman.
  • “Today, radio, as we know it, is really the content, not the carrier.” Brad Smart is on the button.

Elsewhere

  • France: Streaming didn’t kill the radio star – nice data about the French preferring radio to streaming. #lazybugglesheadline
  • Singapore: a new radio station – Mandarin pop from the 80s and 90s: 96.3 Hao FM
  • Switzerland – the TV/radio licence fee is under threat, with a referendum on its future in March. (This is a crowdfunding site trying to persuade people it’s a good idea).
  • France seems to be getting its plan together regarding DAB. The tech will be called “DAB+” in future and not the francophone “RNT”; they appear to have agreed on DAB+ and no longer bothering with the strange French-only DMB-A sub-standard, and they’ve a good roll-out plan. ALl looking quite positive.
  • India: Nobody killed the radio star – a rather lovely piece from Delhi. If you need a pick-me-up, this is the article to read.
  • Norway have posted their latest data about radio listening (you’ll recall this is the country who has turned FM off for 95% of radio there). Matt Deegan posts a long thread about what it all means, which is worth a read.
    • At Radiodays Europe in Vienna, I will be hosting a special Sunday workshop all about Norway’s experience with FM switchoff. It’s entirely free – no need to pay for the main conference, but you do need to sign up.
  • Video kills the radio star as more in Saudi Arabia, UAE turn to streaming – the very best example of a #lazybugglesheadline you’d ever need, since radio is very much alive in both countries.

James Cridland

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