The Radio Connection

Smart speaker owners use voice to check the news, stock prices or the weather; start their car, connect to a fitbit, order a pizza, play music, and connect to countless other information hubs. It is also a device to connect to your favourite radio stations. “Alexa, connect me to ZB,” is a popular refrain in the suburbs.

Smart speakers and digitised helpers such as Amazon’s ‘Alexa’, Google Assistant, Apple’s ‘Siri’, Samsung ‘Bixby’ and Microsoft ‘Cortana’ are all available locally, and NZME and MediaWorks have built a number of Alexa skills for their listeners.

Yet despite the technological changes making audio available any time and any place, live radio remains, according to Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio in the UK, the dominant format, accounting for around three-quarters of all time spent with audio (75.2 percent).

Perhaps listeners have not caught up with the idea of catch-up radio, that only accounts for 1.1 percent of audio listening, while listening to podcasts surprisingly still only accounts for 2.5 percent, and streamed music (think Spotify) only 8.2 percent, the same as for digital tracks. The remainder (4.8 percent) is accounted for by CD or vinyl.

“The rise in listening to radio and other audio services on connected devices, “according to Radiocentre, “has created new commercial opportunities, in the form of digital audio advertising, placed into streamed or downloaded audio content, including radio, on-demand music services, and podcasts.”

Radio and the cars relationship has always been strong but Autonomous Vehicles (AV) are about to take radio onto another technological journey.

Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto have been up and running for a while now and there are predictions that half of all cars in five years will be fully connected. Connected cars are already growing faster than traditional (unconnected) cars in the US. There are estimates that more than 380 million connected cars will be on the road worldwide by 2021. 

A recent US study called the Infinite Dial still claims 82 percent of consumers aged 18+ who have driven or ridden in a car in the last month say they listen to AM/FM radio in the car, which is a statistic that has shifted little since 2014. But with the arrival of in car apps and no need to drive, radio will need to again up its game and evolve. The car dashboard and the car itself is about to become a major new media platform.

As we have seen with the smart speaker technology, radio listening is growing with hands free audio driven platforms.  To be able to jump in your car and say ‘turn on my favourite radio station’ will help simplify things. Asking this to Alexa, Siri, Google and the rest of these new suitors will become second nature in the next few years. As better microphones will be embedded in cars, drivers will make regular smart device queries to hear news, weather, or music and this is where radio still dominates in the audio world.

The way radio stations will be able to interact with cars will evolve with these exciting times. Connected cars will record everything that happens in and around them and this will give amazing new insights into in car listening and behaviour for advertisers and stations.

There will be an array of new opportunities for advertisers by integrating digital innovations into the dash with radio. With these interactive touchscreens, how consumers interact with audio will completely change.  The two-way connectivity to the car will give drivers and passengers many more options for entertainment and information from radio brands.

The metadata that radio systems can share into cars will drive new interaction. Advertisers will be able to join in this journey and have access to this new media hotspot. Radio no longer has a monopoly on its beloved car dashboard.  The days of two knobs and six presets are not coming back.

The relationship between the car radio, the consumer and marketers is set to evolve. UK cell phone company O2 launched a highly-targeted digital radio campaign that pinpoints consumers in close proximity to out-of-home billboards. This campaign targeted people listening to the radio or a music streaming service within 500 metres of an O2 poster site. After the ad is served, the user can be tracked as part of a footfall study to see if the user is persuaded to visit a store.

Their campaign for the Samsung S8 smartphone also targeted people who were within 500 metres of ten O2 stores across the UK. An audio ad directed them to the nearest shop.

James Cridland, managing director, Podnews, told StopPress: “Radio is a habitual medium. We consume radio in much the same way as we always have. It is a multi-tasking medium, allowing us to do other things while listening.”  But he sounded a warning: “There’s a big difference in consumption on various devices. There are early adopters and usage will change in the long term. Just because things are possible, doesn’t mean people will change in the short term.”

This year 5G wide-area cellular mobile networks will start to become available around the world. While it will take a couple of years at least for 5G to replace 4G, its ability to use a unicast model to broadcast over mobile networks will be of great benefit to sports broadcasting over the internet to a variety of devices.

“5G has a lot of question marks as to its capability,“ Cridland says. “There are some tests going on in Scotland, on a remote island, in an area which has never had mobile coverage. The result of the test could initiate broadcasting over 5G, replacing FM and old-fashioned internet streaming. That’s all possible, though it’s too early to tell what 5G will be used for. FM is a very cheap medium so will be hard to replace.”

  • This story is part of a content partnership with The Radio Bureau.

About Author

Graham Medcalf is a freelance writer and owner of Red Advertising.

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