My social media biogs have always had the phrase, ‘Radio, it’s always been radio…” as a description line. If you have read my first blog on my site, then you will know that radio has been in my blood for quite some time- in fact I think I was 14 when the interest first sparked in me.
This blog post is a basic script of a session I presented remotely when asked to talk to newbies to radio about its power and potency. I’ve tweaked it slightly and taken a few bits out for brevity. If you are in a position where you might like me to deliver some kind of talk, training or remote learning on something similar, click the contact methods above or below or send me an email right HERE.
Where does the power of radio come from?
According to the most recent Rajar conducted with active fieldwork (Rajar- the measurement system for how many people listen to the radio in the UK. Active field work was suspended following the first quarter release due to Covid-19, so these numbers are from W1 2020- survey ending 29th March 2020, Rajar/Ipsos MORI/ RSMB), 89% of the UK population listen to radio, any radio, in any given week. The UK has a population of over 66 million people- although Rajar is based on Adults 15+ and so the population base is just over 55 million (55,032,000). In any week on average forty eight million eight hundred and ninety four thousand people listen to the radio- 48,894,000! Just to give that large number some kind of general perspective, there are just over nine million people living in London, so that over 5 times the size of London. A reminder that the number is the number of people who listen PER WEEK… so over 5 times the size of London every week listening to the radio.
“Gavin & Stacey” was the most watched TV show in 2019 with 17.9 million viewers just at the end of the year, beating out “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” – the opening episode of the show was the second biggest show on TV all year. It had 13 million viewers, 400k more than the third placed entry which was “Strictly Come Dancing”. 17.9 million- that’s just over a third of the WEEKLY audience of Radio.
Of the 48.9 million people who listen to radio each week, 36.2 million people listen to Commercial Radio. So looking at the previous comparisons, Commercial Radio alone is twice the size of the biggest TV show from 2019 and the number of people who listen to Commercial Radio each WEEK is the population of London four times over. In the same Rajar survey Wave 1 2020 by the way, All BBC Radio reaches 33.5 million listeners per week.
How is the medium from the 1890’s not only still relevant, but so powerful circa 130 years later?
It’s not as simple as just communication- a Tweet, and email or a text is communication too. It’s not just about entertainment, or debate, or information or education- although it is also absolutely about all of those things and more besides. I can get the music I like, tailored for me from a clever algorithm that keeps getting smarter, on an app from my phone, my watch or my smart speaker. It learns what I like and adjusts accordingly all the time the more I choose what to listen to. The first MP3 player appeared in 1998- the MPMan. I’ve been able to carry around my collection of music since the late 90’s when those portable players appeared so it’s not the primary reason for Radio to be so powerful, or 20+ years later 48.9 million people wouldn’t be listening to it per week. That said, music is a very big part of radio too of course.
The cassette, the CD, the iPod, the iPhone didn’t kill radio and neither did video – lazy newspaper type reference whenever they mention radio (Buggles 1979)
Radio has a history of provoking change- and creating impact. In October 1938 Orson Welles broadcast “The War Of The Worlds” on US Radio. A radio drama that converted the book into a series of news broadcasts and made Americans actually believe that aliens had invaded New Jersey and terrified thousands. Those were simpler times maybe and in 1938 mass media was in it’s infancy and people were not exposed to the levels of interaction we have today. That said, today here and now in the Broadcast Advertising Code– the rule book on all radio advertising in the UK, section 2.2 it states:
“If used in an advertisement, an expression or sound effect associated with news bulletins or public service announcements (for example, “news flash”) needs special care. The audience should quickly recognise the message as an advertisement.”Broadcast Advertising Code
Thus is the power of radio. We make people believe. You said it on the radio so it must be true.
Its portable, emotional, relatable, personal and trustworthy. According to a European Broadcasting Union study across Europe, with the veracity of what people read and see online and the rise of “fake news“, Radio is the most trusted medium. Fifty seven percent of EU citizens as a whole trust radio, (TV is 49%). Radio is the most trusted medium in 24 of 33 countries including the UK. (Full EBU report)
Radio delivers one to one communication- its talking to YOU and only you. There might be 48.9 million people listening in any week but radio talks to them all just one-at-a-time. Listeners to radio perceive it is just the presenter talking to them, whereas with TV the viewer knows that there are camera operators, directors, producers, floor managers and others in the pipeline… TV is a many to many medium. Radio is small, personal, intimate but also huge, powerful and very impactful.
It can talk to you with your eyes shut- try that with television, or newspapers… or online? It can talk to you whilst your eyes are reading your kindle, the newspaper, a webpage, or your socials, it’s still there. While you drive, while you eat, while you sleep and when you wake.
Radio is a mass medium that you can consume whilst doing something else. You can’t even touch your phone whilst driving as it’s not safe, but you can listen to the radio.
Radio builds brands, creates habits, becomes part of the fabric of people’s lives. People know where they are on their commute and if they are late for work by what time a presenter does a feature- or even goes to an adbreak or news. People create their own natural benchmarks. Radio’s heart beats to the rhythm of the daily life of people.
We have some of the best professionals in the trade of radio. Radio is one of the best mediums in the world with the ability to influence, change and motivate the listener in a way that few other forms of media can do. Radio can rouse emotion, passion and harness that with a personal touch and has a vast audience that places trust in it.
Radio is both relevant and massive. Mass market, yet totally personal communication with built-in emotion.