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James Cridland’s International Radio Trends: Radio – more than just AM/FM

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.


Radio – not just AM and FM

The radio ratings in Australia come out every six weeks, which I still find slightly amazing. I’m much more used to the UK’s sedate pace of a set of figures every quarter.

The local TV news bulletins report on the figures, too – something fairly unheard of in the UK. Indeed, relations with local media in the UK were rather frosty: I remember colleagues having the station logo on their t-shirts painted out before their pictures appeared in the local paper.

This time around, in Brisbane, an unlikely station has made an appearance in the top of the charts. It’s saddled with a name consisting of a listener-unfriendly set of call letters; it broadcasts oldies; and – for goodness sake – it’s on AM.

4KQ, I’m reliably informed by people who know better than me, is one of the world’s best programmed oldies stations. It first went to air in 1947, owned by the Australian Labor Party, but is now owned by ARN and broadcasts from gleaming new studios on the banks of the Brisbane River.

AM radio – there’s no doubt about it – is dying: certainly for music. Brisbane lost its other big commercial AM music station, 4BH, a few years ago: it now relays sport from Sydney. An AM community radio licence – meant to be formatted for young listeners, would you believe – hobbles on.

Yet, 4KQ is now the #2 station in Brisbane. An AM station.

The reasons why? It isn’t just an AM station. 4KQ is, of course, also on DAB+ and on a number of apps including RadioApp, Australian commercial radio’s aggregator app, and on iHeartRadio, which is licenced in Australia by ARN and does particularly well on smart speakers in the country.

I’ve absolutely no doubt that the station’s current high results in the ratings is because they’re not just an AM station. They’ve worked hard to make themselves available in as many places as possible.

They’re also one of the most visible stations for local events – sponsoring various activities like the annual festival, and even appearing on the Brisbane edition of Monopoly.

The “platformists” believe that AM and FM is what makes radio work – and that we can force our audience to tune in. But I side with those in radio who believe that its future is multi-platform: and that we should meet our audience wherever they are – on digital radio, on apps and on smart speakers.

So good on 4KQ for their ratings success. Listeners will seek you out – as long as you use new platforms wisely.

Radio trends

James Cridland

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