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James Cridland’s Future of Radio: A park bench, how to use your street teams, and talk radio

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.


James sends his weekly industry round-up with a note and a slightly different format:

Last week’s radio links were a little late (for which, my apologies), and this week… well, it’s a temporary change of format, partially because I’ve spent my week in Philadelphia at Podcast Movement.

It was a very unusual conference, reflecting the flatness of the industry: literally anyone can do a podcast, from people like me or the New York Times. Accordingly, there were a bewildering ten tracks of sessions, some talking about maintaining CPMs with programmatic insertions while others talking about how best to use a microphone.

Radio was very visible there: partly because they had their own little bit of conference too. Suspicion between the radio folks and the passion podcasters is still very evident; but it wasn’t as bad as my first podcast conference in 2005, where I was shouted at by the indie podcaster crowd for being big media and “not getting it, man”. (I wore the same t-shirt on day one).

It was also interesting to see some distinction between the old podcasting people who’ve been involved for the past thirteen years, and the new VC-backed crowd who’ve invested heavily to enter the market in the past twelve months. I sensed a feeling that podcasting is moving a little too quickly for the traditionalists.

All that said, I’m going to keep the rest of this newsletter podcast-free for this week, so if you’d like to see a lot of news from Podcast Movement, you’re welcome to subscribe (free) to Podnews.

Links of interest

  • Got street teams for your radio station? Paige Nienaber has written a great e-book to get the most out of them – The Street Hackers Guide To The Universe. Best $39 you’ll spend? I’d think so. All the local stations I’ve seen doing well have, to some extent, had a very visible street team in their local area. Radio appears to do best when it is, to some extent, visible.
  • In the UAE, radio was used in an unusual way in Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Highway Gallery: An unusual radio ad that earned four Cannes Lions – this was a nice piece of work, and it’s good to see it recognised.
  • In the US, WWFD 820 AM turns off the analogue and becomes (HD) digital-only. It’s also available on an analogue FM transmitter, so the story isn’t quite as it seems; but it’ll be interesting to see if this helps AM. My thoughts on AM radio are relatively well-known; there’s no doubt that HD (and DRM) make AM radio sound pretty good when you’ve a good signal, but that’s not really the problem with the waveband.
  • In the UK, radio listening data for kids, just released by Rajar. 82% of kids (9-14) listen to the radio; 74% listen on a radio receiver, so no, radio isn’t dead yet. The research also claims that “YouTube is more popular than TV”; but this is an online survey and the percentages are very close – I’m a little suspicious of this headline.
  • Why are Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth music cities while Sydney and Melbourne are talk towns? – fascinating. It’s all about demographics, it’s argued. Well, Brisbane’s median age is 35; but Sydney is 36 and Perth is 36, so they look pretty similar to me. (To compare, the median age of Australia is 37, of the UK is 40, Indonesia is 30 and Uganda is 16). Maybe the reason is that, at least for my home town of Brisbane, that it just isn’t very well served: 4BC is an undisguised relay of Sydney’s 2GB, so every mention of the station (“2GB and 4BC”) and every timecall during the summer (“3.30pm in Sydney, 2.30pm in Brisbane”) is clunky, and the station’s grasp of digital is lacking. ABC Radio Brisbane has either lost its main stars or has seen them shuffled to obscurity in a January ’18 schedule that bizarrely changed every single show on the station; it entirely lacks a consistent station sound in editorial or production excepting a news jingle from – yes – 1935. My suggestion: Brisbane isn’t a talk radio town because it lacks any investment from the industry to make it so; and with half the population of Sydney or Melbourne, it’s understandable. It’s also notable that 4BC’s relay of Sydney is, actually, more popular than the local stuff that was on the transmitters before; and wildly more profitable.

James Cridland

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