Connected cars and the future of U.K. radio: Interview with Michael Hill of Radioplayer

michael hillMichael Hill is the Managing Director of Radioplayer, the listening platform which aggregates U.K. radio stations. In anticipation of his appearance at RAIN Summit Europe, in London on November 4, we talked with Hill about the future of listening. His comments reflected specific advocacy of broadcast radio, and an agonistic viewpoint based on Radioplayer’s non-profit status. “We operate on behalf of the radio industry,” Hill told RAIN.

When we asked about the future, Michael Hill’s reply was unambiguous. He sees the Internet-connect car as the main disruptor of radio’s present and future. “One of things we can see coming up fast is breaking down the fence in the car. The dashboard is becoming a huge, open field for all sorts of audio. Alongside that competition, we see that finding broadcast radio on digital dashboards is much too complicated.” Hill observed what many others have — that finding a radio option in some modern cars is challenged by menu layers in touch screens.

Hill sees the technology development of cars as paradoxically both slow and sudden. That is because the buying cycle is slow; in the U.K., people hold onto their cars for an average seven years. “Dashboard technology moves slowly, because people don’t change their cars often. But once they do change cars, their technology is changed for several years. If someone buys a CarPlay car, or an Android dashboard, or a Ford Sync car, that means that is their listening platform for the average length of car ownership in the U.K., which is seven years. My car is five years old, and I can’t listen to the digital stations that I listen to at home. So I feel that drag. When I get into the car I have a radio landscape that doesn’t suit me anymore.”

When talking with automakers on behalf of U.K. radio, Michael Hill emphasizes two things: a better user experience, and the persistent love of broadcast radio among U.K. drivers. “Broadcast radio remains the most listened audio source in the car,” Hill noted. “We haven’t seen pureplay services taking audience away from broadcast radio. We still love broadcast radio when driving, which conflicts with the design of digital dashboards.”

Radioplayer is an aggregation app, but Hill does not regard station-specific mobile apps to be competition. “Radioplayer complements station-specific apps. I think individualized apps are for the P1 listeners — people who have fallen in love with one or two stations. We encourage stations to advertise their own apps.”

Michael Hill will sit on the “Future of Audio” panel at RAIN Summit Europe. That session will feature a broad discussion of streaming audio trends, focusing on the impact that mobile technology and constant connectivity are having on audio consumption.

RAIN Summit Europe is a single-day conference for the streaming audio industry. In addition to “The Future of Audio” panel, other discussion sessions will focus on mobile listening, advertising sales strategies, keynotes by Will Page (Spotify), Guy Phillipson (IAB), and Kurt Hanson (RAIN News founder), networking breaks, a cocktail reception, and more.

Visit the information page for a full agenda, speaker list, and registration information.

Brad Hill