When I sit and write the blog posts each week, I sometimes ponder on what to write about, how I feel about a particular topic and if I feel enough about it to give it the energy to write it down! It is also very easy to always be critical and mention how things might be wrong with XYZ or how the best way of doing ABC is like this or that. I get very mindful of that and my blog drafts folder is full of half started posts about things which I have later re-read and discarded. Some weeks I have the think long and hard about the post and what is the right thing to write.
The world of radio gave me a fantastic 34 year career, and one which I have enjoyed enormously. The last thing I want to do is spend time only pointing out the things which it could do better, even if those things are valid or truthfully said.
Radio is an INCREDIBLE medium. There are critics and there are challenges of course but just stand open mouthed at the bare fact for a moment- 89% of the UK population listen to the radio in a given week. EIGHTY NINE PERCENT!
The UK has a population of over 60 million people. In any week on average 49.7 million people listen to the radio. 9.1 million people live in London, so thats over 5 times the size of London. A reminder that the number is the number of people who listen PER WEEK… so 5 times the size of London listening to the radio every week.
Of the 49.7 million people who listen to radio each week, over 37.1 million people listen to Commercial Radio. The number of people who listen to Commercial Radio each WEEK is about the population of London four times over.
How is a medium created by Marconi in the 1890’s not only still relevant, but so powerful 130 years later?
It’s not as simple as just communication- a Tweet, and email or a text or Whatsapp 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 on an app from my phone, my watch or my smart speaker. It learns what I like and adjusts accordingly. The first MP3 player appeared in 1998– the Saehan MPMan F10, which could hold 8 songs. I’ve been able to carry around my entire collection of music since the late 90’s so it’s not the primary reason for Radio to be so powerful, or all these years later 49.7 million people wouldn’t be listening to it per week. That said, music is a very big part of radio too.
The cassette, the CD, the iPod, the iPhone didn’t kill radio and neither did video.
90% of communication of non verbal. You read body language, facial expressions, gestures and all manner of visual clues- how people are dressed, how they walk, they move and hold themselves, how confident they seem or the opposite. When someone you have never met walks into a room, you make a judgement based on all of those things before they even speak with a few seconds. In Radio we only have the voice. You can’t see me. (It’s a benefit of radio).
When a listener listens to the radio what are the things that we can’t control in their environment?
What are the things we CAN control?
If I want you to picture a warm beach, bathed in sunshine with a single sun lounger sitting beneath a beautifully lush palm tree about 3 metres from the edge of a gently lapping turquoise sea- I don’t need a camera, a crew, a ticket or to travel. I have your mind, your imagination, your memory and your creativity. I have your emotion so I can make you feel sad, happy, euphoric, angry, sombre, enraged and motivated. I can make you laugh, cry, sing, hum and dance.
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 his book into a series of news broadcasts and made Americans believe that aliens had invaded New Jersey and terrified thousands of Americans. Those were simpler times maybe and in 1938 mass media was in its infancy and people were not exposed to the levels of interaction we have today. That said in the Broadcast Advertising Code– the rule book on all radio advertising in the UK, section 2.2 it states that..
“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. Section 2.2
Thus is the power of radio. We make people believe. You said it on the radio so it must be true.
It is 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, the levels of trust in broadcast media are growing. Radio is the most trusted medium, trusted by 57% of EU citizens as a whole, (TV is 49%). Radio is the most trusted medium in 24 of 33 countries (77%) including the UK.
Radio delivers one to one communication- its talking to YOU and only you. There might be 49.7 million people listening in a week but radio talks to them all one at a time. Listeners to radio perceive its just the presenter, whereas with TV the viewer knows that there are camera operators, directors, producers, floor managers and others… TV is a many to many medium. Radio is small, personal, intimate but also huge, powerful and impactful.
It can talk to you with your eyes shut- try that with television, or newspapers… or social media? It can talk to you whilst your eyes are reading the newspaper, it’s still there. While you drive, while you eat, while you sleep and when you wake.
Radio is the only 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 is not a music stream, driven by an algorithm. Even if the music is researched and refined, when it is done well it’s still curated and delivered in a way that creates a sense of personal, one to one communication to the listener. Listeners still believe that the presenter picks the songs and decides to play them in that order- even though for most radio stations that stopped many years ago.
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. People create their own natural benchmarks. Radio beats to the rhythm of the daily life of people.
Smart speakers have been a fairly new invention- and yet one of the biggest uses of smart speakers is to play radio output. A new platform was born almost upon which the power of radio flourished and thanks to Amazon, Google, and Apple, households had some new smart radios in them.
Radio is both relevant and massive. Mass market, yet totally personal communication with emotion like no other.
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