iHeart redundancies, BBC Sounds growth
February 3, 2020 · 5.1 minutes to read
I was in Paris last week for the European Radio Show, and very excellent it was. One thing to catch my eye was the above - that’s a radio studio built for people who aren’t radio presenters. Big buttons to turn on microphones and play music, and no faders - the system automatically ducking music when someone speaks, and handling all the fades and network links for you. Interesting idea - built for community radio.
I speak at a lot of conferences, and occasionally the black dog of self-doubt makes me wonder whether anything I say is helpful in the slightest. So it’s lovely to see that my speech at Canadian Music Week last year made such an impression with Christian Hall that he felt it worthy of mentioning in a podcast nine months later.
The BBC is to close more AM transmitters. From what I understand, the ones they’ve already closed have resulted in almost zero complaints, which either shows a) that they’ve successfully communicated these changes to their audience, b) that audiences are already multiplatform, and are using FM and DAB, c) that nobody listens to horrible crackly AM.
- By comparison, the BBC was going to close their “red button” text service on digital TVs (the modern Ceefax equivalent), only to change their mind a day before closure. Poorly researched strategy, or impressive reaction to the audience’s needs?
Tom Webster writes “Three Paths to Growth for Smart Speakers and Voice Technology”. I wonder whether live radio’s current rennaisance on these devices is a) because audiences really value live radio, or b) because the more personalised alternatives (personalised music and news) simply aren’t there yet as a product? “Your Daily Drive” from Spotify would seem to be ample example of the latter - it launched last week here in Australia (story 2), and comprises of four songs back-to-back and then 15-minute long news podcasts: I know little about radio programming, but I suspect this is not a format that works for anyone.
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Since we last spoke, iHeartMedia have made a number of redundancies, or, in US corporate-speak, “employee dislocations” - possibly as many as a thousand, certainly more than a few hundred. This appears to have been driven by the “main studio rule” relaxation in US law last year, which allowed a remote radio station to stop hiring a back room at a car dealership and calling it a “studio” for the benefit of FCC rules. The relaxation of the law there is the right thing to do - many new stations don’t have any studios at all - but it’s desperately sad to see so many talented people out of work. Featured in Rolling Stone magazine, How One Radio Station Fought Back — and Won shows that some stations, at least, have rebelled against the ruling of head office.
A welcome return to Lazy Buggles Headlines, as Oxford’s The Cherwell publishes Has video killed the Radio Star?. Unlike most of these articles, though, this one’s quite good.
In the UK, Rajar’s MIDAS survey published their Q4 19 data. One of the slides shows the rise of podcasting over the past few years.
The BBC publishes some stats and data from BBC Sounds, their domestic 'radio music podcasts’ app. The amount of on-demand plays within the app (including podcasts) doubled in Q4 19 from Q3 19. A clear indication that a) “there’s a demand for on-demand”, which is becoming more obvious for younger audiences; and b) that bullying your audiences, by removing podcasts from Google and live streams from TuneIn, works. What’s not clear from these figures are the amount of people who no longer listen to the BBC because of the BBC’s removal of their public service content from other public services.
- For context, Phil Riley estimates, using very generous maths indeed, that BBC Sounds’ on-demand listening is about 4% of total BBC listening. That looks low; but MIDAS reports that 5% of all audio listening is to podcasts and “listen again”, so BBC Sounds is actually doing pretty well.
Should radio rename to audio? “It must be done today”, according to a panel at the European Radio Show last week. I was one of that panel (which was a thoughtfully moderated one), and my own view is that there’s nothing wrong with the word 'radio’, but plenty wrong with some peoples’ narrow definitions of it. Meanwhile, new research seems to say that when you talk about “audio advertising” to ad agencies, they think you mean radio anyway.
Red Rose Radio’s studios in Preston are to close. My heart says “desperately sad news”, though my head says “yep, fair enough I guess”. Says a lot for Bauer’s internal divisions that Scotland is entirely unaffected, yet England has now lost Viking Radio, Tfm and Red Rose’s studio bases.
The Times of London is to launch a national radio station in the UK. It’ll be a quality speech station (at least, that’s the assumption), but to simultaneously fight against BBC Radio 4 and LBC will be quite a stretch for them. Apparently it won’t replace talkRADIO - so probably needs to find some national digital bandwidth. Arqiva must be rubbing their hands together.
Listener (in the Netherlands) discovers that DAB is quite good. Notable from this tweet is the value placed on user experience - something forgotten from much of the debates about radio platforms.
Happy birthday, radio. 100 years old. - a nice look back at radio’s history, from an Australian point of view.
On the radio, pretending you’re live when you aren’t is a finable offence in the US - finable with a $50,000 fine, it turns out. “Tell the truth” is one of Valerie Geller’s mantras for radio - it’s good advice.
Finally, lots of clips of UK radio covering the symbolic exit from the European Union at the end of last week, courtesy of David Lloyd’s excellent Radio Moments Clips podcast. What a depressing listen. Except for the bloke on BBC Radio Wales.
Thank you to Rupert Brun, Barrie Stephenson, Cleanfeed and Richard Hilton for your continued support.
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