James Cridland’s International Radio Trends: Giraffes, lockdown, and Times Radio

James Cridland, 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.

Greetings from Australia, where we’re slowly beginning to come out of “lockdown”. Very slowly. I hope things have settled down to more of a sense of normality for you, too.

  • Above: an ad I saw on the side of a bus today. It’s a giraffe, looking into a mirror. It turns out this is from a TV ad which has apparently been running for two months. The TV ad features a giraffe singing a Whitesnake song, with a logo saying “Sounds like TripleM” at the end of it. I’m in TripleM’s target audience (I’m male and under 54), but this is the first I’ve seen of this: as a reminder of the TV ad, it didn’t work, since I’d not seen the TV ad (and I’m surprised this is still a strategy). Either seen alone, or with the TV ad, I’d also question whether this communicates clearly that TripleM is a radio station that plays rock’s greatest hits. Or, even, that this communicates that TripleM is a radio station, though perhaps it’s hoping I already know that. Still, it isn’t as bad as this one, but it’s a close-run thing! John Myers used to say “I can never understand the fascination with animals and radio station adverts”. I wish I could have shown him this latest one.
  • Here is how the BBC is making radio shows during the coronavirus. Brilliantly, it involves more red tape! (<– joke for anyone who’s had to deal with their accounting system)
  • And here’s how PRX’s teams are working; and a WBUR podcast producer who is reduced to driving to park outside a ski centre and get their free wifi. Yikes! I hope you’ve done better.
  • Matt Deegan writes about Times Radio, the new project from News Corp in the UK. It’s a good long read, and I’d recommend it. Personally, I see Times Radio as being quite like Beats 1, Apple’s radio station: it has the appearance of something driven entirely by management whim. Perhaps, at maybe £5m/year to run, it’s good value as marketing and it doesn’t need to have any audience or revenue. (Radio 4, its closest apparent competitor, is £100m a year for programming alone, though).
  • I just went to check on how Beats 1 is doing. I used to judge these things by the number of Twitter followers: Beats 1 has 602,000; the UK station BBC Radio 1 has over 3m – though both these figures haven’t really changed since 2017, when I last looked, so probably not a good judge any more. The Google Trends chart for the last five years probably tells a story.
  • If you were listening to the radio industry, the virus had no effect on radio listening, or people were listening even more than they used to. Radiocentre posted that “38% of commercial radio listeners are tuning in for an extra hour and 45 minutes each day since lockdown”, as one example of the statistical gymnastics required to achieve a positive press release. Anyway, the good news is that even though listening didn’t go down, listening is now rebounding in the US. Total time spent listening was down 33% we now learn; it’s now only down 18%. In the UK, RAJAR’s figures come out on Wednesday for the quarter ending 29 March. Most of the data will be from before the effects of the pandemic.
  • This was a brilliant idea, and apparently sounded excellent. A pop-up station appearing on Absolute Radio’s AM service last week to commemorate VE Day, the end of the second world war. I gather it sounded excellent. Good for them!
  • iHeartMedia’s earnings call transcript. The only numbers that matter: they mentioned radio 49 times; and podcasts 57 times.
  • I had a chat with a ‘podcast promoter’ – one of the pieces of writing that I enjoyed most over the last year or so.
  • Australian radio urges action “over tech titans’ control of data”. This is the country that’s currently trying to charge Google and Facebook to link to news articles, so perhaps it’s playing to the crowd in Canberra.
  • The Guardian carries 10 of the best music radio stations around the world – the focus is on stations that don’t play the same-old same-old.
  • David Lloyd tunes around the AM dial in the UK: “a barren twilight world”.
  • Fascinating article about branding, and the disaster of the Tropicana rebrand.
  • One of the cleverest things from BBC Archive: Zoom backgrounds from your favourite TV shows. Great stuff, and clever use of archive material.

Thank you to Rupert Brun, Barrie Stephenson, Cleanfeed and Richard Hilton for your continued support.

Brad Hill