James Cridland’s Future of Radio: Good news in South Africa; Ofcom’s localness changes

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 Cridland’s articles


  • I’d like a bottomless pit of money like Global seem to have. Congratulations on their expansion to Canada, with DAX, their programmatic audio platform.
  • Looks familiar! A few weeks ago I wrote about whether you really needed a radio station building. Here are some Belgian radio stations, where some of the presenters do their shows from home.

United States

  • Voxnest says 9.4% of all podcast downloads are on the Apple Watch – a surprising figure.
    • Since publishing this story, it turns out that other podcast hosts, much to their surprise, are seeing this too: and the reason is apparently that Apple Podcasts on the Apple Watch automatically downloads podcasts all over again over the internet. Essentially, therefore, this is all duplicate downloads. Overcast does this rather more sensibly – sending a copy of the audio from the watch to the phone (with enhancements like loudness and silence trimming added).
  • These headphones bring FM radio to your iPhone – at $80. On Facebook, one commenter says that, with the demise of Emmis’s NextRadio project, we’ve lost in “our” attempt to get the FM chip switched on within phones. I’d point to all the data showing, I’m afraid, that consumers much prefer on-demand audio on their phones anyway.
  • Innovation is brilliant – and is happening in the print book industry – this is a nice idea. My only concern about it is how long it took for a relatively simple idea to be turned around by the book publishing industry.
  • Somehow, in the age of Spotify, radio is more popular than ever – someone from Quartz must have seen some of my keynote speeches!
  • Great take on how radio works now it’s dead. Please don’t read too much of this excellent article, I plan to steal lots of it.
  • Can you leave radio and make money on an app instead? Mike Francesa thinks you can.
  • Spotify is giving family subscribers a free Google Home Mini smart speaker. A clever plan to get more listeners addicted to Spotify. (I type this while playing Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Hear on the TV using Spotify).
  • Apple considering an investment in… iHeartRadio. No, really.
  • 50% fewer ads during some Fox News shows, as advertisers stop wanting to be associated with toxic viewpoints. Good.
  • Dick Taylor is a naughty man for a) blaming the tools, and b) using a lazy Buggles headline. Automation hasn’t killed radio; but poor use of it may have harmed radio, I’d argue.

United Kingdom

  • Ofcom, the UK regulator, have published a new set of “localness” rules. They split the UK into rather fewer parts than before, and relax a lot of the current rules that stop stations from simply simulcasting everything across their local licences. Adam Bowie points out that “Southampton is a 220 mile (350 km) drive from Penzance, but they’re both in the same (Ofcom) area”, while Matt Deegan writes that “68.3% of all breakfast listening is to the (UK’s) national stations” anyway.
    • This will certainly change the sound of UK radio: not least, probably herald more consolidation, since it’ll be “cheaper” to operate more stations, local news requirements aside. While “live and local” is the lazy mantra of US radio execs, I’m not sure that “local” really matters much for many people. I much prefer “real and relevant” as a goal for programming – real people talking about things that are relevant for their audience. That may well be what’s going on in the main town in your patch; but it may just as well… not be. This isn’t an edict that says that radio must not be local any more – on the contrary, it’s one that allows some stations to take national programming if it’ll do better for them, and allows other stations to be hyper local and win the battle that way.
  • A long time ago, Enders Analysis said UK commercial radio was dead. Now, though, they’ve changed their mind. Which is nice. Radiocentre are rather good at making that point.
  • BBC Sounds was launched this week; the BBC’s replacement for the iPlayer Radio app, with exclusive music mixes, radio and new podcasts. It’s being promoted like mad, including a jaw-droppingly impressive TV campaign, and some good online promotion. They’ve even elected to launch some new podcasts exclusively within BBC Sounds. However, so far in Google Play, the app has a poor 2.5 rating (versus 3.7 for iPlayer Radio UK, or 4.5 for Radioplayer UK) – not helped by launching without many of the features of its predecessor. Listeners outside the UK are bewildered – we don’t get it, and are just offered a feature-hobbled version of iPlayer Radio instead, the app we’re repeatedly told on-air has been replaced.
  • Meanwhile, an increasingly unhappy Simon Mayo leaves BBC Radio 2. This coincided with slight decreases in the station’s RAJAR figures last week, and – of course – Chris Evans’s departure to Virgin Radio. This article in the Radio Times – a magazine once owned by the BBC – pulls no punches as to the management problems at the station.
  • The latest episode of Ollie and Si includes an hour long interview with Rhys Hughes, former BBC Radio 1 Head of Programmes. Worth a listen probably.
  • UKRD launches a set of online christmas stations. Meanwhile, Heart Extra Christmas has just launched, too; and a Magic Christmas is also expected, alongside Wireless Group’s Christmas pop-ups.
  • Today’s radio jobs… bet you wouldn’t have seen this job twenty years ago.


James Cridland