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James Cridland’s International Radio Trends: Who cares? Plus, Audacy’s 350 new stations

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.


I’ve been enjoying a podcast from an (Australian) radio company for a while. The ads are produced by the same company, read by one of the personalities on the show, but slotted in later using dynamic audio insertion.

Above is what an ad looks like.

If you set the show audio to be -16 LUFS (which is what it ought to be for a podcast), then the advert is -29 LUFS. The ad is 13.8dB quieter than the show audio.

The effect is, when driving, you hear “Let’s hear from the sponsor – off you go, Jim” and then Jim reads an ad in his cliché Aussie DJ voice which is almost entirely inaudible. To make things worse, Jim is introduced earlier in the show as “We’ve got Jim here for any technical stuff”. In the words of the internet: “He had one job”. (His name isn’t Jim).

The question really here isn’t whether the digital audio insertion is bad (it is), but we’re in July, and this podcast has been going since October last year. It’s a top 20 podcast, according to the Australian Podcast Ranker. Yet, every single time I’ve heard it, it has an ad in it which you can’t hear.

If you don’t care about something enough to listen to it, why bother making it in the first place? If you’ve no passion in the product, and don’t care about how it sounds, what are you doing? If this has been an issue for nine months and nobody has noticed – or they have but think it sounds fine – then are those people the right people for the job?

This podcast isn’t alone. There’s plenty of output which sounds as if nobody cares, too: automation systems going haywire, broadcast clocks set to fade into news bulletins 30 seconds late, online streaming with the same ad repeated twice, and sometimes three times, in every break, or, my personal favourite, the radio station in the capital of the United States which didn’t care so much, it broadcast the same traffic bulletin for eight years.

In the UK, Global used to have an obsession statement, which I was rather a fan of. They now have a simpler statement: “People may forget what you said, people may forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

If you don’t care about your output, your listeners will feel that you don’t care. Is that wise?

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Thank you to Hausa Dictionary, Richard Hilton, and Brun Audio Consulting for your ongoing support of this newsletter. I’m very grateful to you.

It’s absolutely not (that) necessary, but if anyone wants to support my work in any way, you can BuyMeACoffee – become a member to give regularly or just give a one-off coffee if you’d like to support me in some way.


In other news

  • Last week, Sean Ross and I talked about some interesting Spotify feeds made from monitoring radio station outputs; and I wondered whether there was an idea in producing unhosted music-only versions of radio stations. Sean shows he’s very good at squeezing the most out of his content, since he’s back this week analysing whether radio presenters actually add enough enjoyable content to make them unmissable. And the answer, thankfully, is yes – he concludes: “Nothing I heard in this particular listening sounded tossed off.” (“tossed off” must mean something else to Americans.)
  • Audacy (formerly Entercom) add 350 music stations to their app, hosted by all kinds of big stars. Powered by Napster. Interesting move, not least because many of these streams will be competing with the company’s own radio channels – but probably the right move to add a lot of exclusive content that Audacy is able to get.
  • Primedia has shared some interesting data from South Africa about radio listening, shared here by Steve Martin. “At home” is the #1 place to listen to the radio. My understanding is that the US is different, with cars being the #1 place: and I do wonder whether some of the US radio industry’s issues stem from this reliance on in-car listening.
  • Difficult times at Channel 5, as Jeremy Vine resorts to tried-and-tested biscuit talk
  • This is a clever and slightly subversive way to use Spotify (and other music services) to raise money to plant trees.

Thank you to Hausa Dictionary, Richard Hilton, and Brun Audio Consulting for your ongoing support of this newsletter. I’m very grateful to you.

It’s absolutely not (that) necessary, but if anyone wants to support my work in any way, you can BuyMeACoffee – become a member to give regularly or just give a one-off coffee if you’d like to support me in some way.

James Cridland

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