Radio’s careful curation keeping it on top

The most recent GfK Radio Survey shows 3.41 million New Zealanders (10+) tune into commercial radio each week, up from 3.39 million in the first survey of 2018. Radio is a rare platform in that it combines news, weather and traffic reports with music and interesting hosts, making it a place where people can listen and enjoy, without having to curate the content themselves.

AUT radio curriculum leader Matt Mollgaard says radio listenership numbers remain steady because New Zealand has a strong radio culture.

“It’s to do with the highly competitive nature of our radio, there is no room for stations to put a foot wrong. Our radio is extremely professional and well put together.”

With disruptor entertainment options like Netflix, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, people are pulled in more directions when it comes to choosing entertainment in their leisure time, he says, but radio adapts quickly. When digital platforms hit, radio websites and podcast apps helped retain audiences, he says.

“The digital platforms have opened up whole new audiences. The internet has been great for radio because radio has colonised it and extended its reach. It’s just another place we can do radio.”

Despite large overseas markets such as the United States and United Kingdom being inundated with large-scale advertising for music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, Radio Broadcasting Association chief executive Jana Rangooni says online audio platforms aren’t actually the enemy of radio.

“There is a renaissance for audio happening. Ironically things like Spotify have been really good at encouraging music listening because there is more access to music than when you had to buy CDs or records and that’s sparked people’s audio consumption.

“People have always listened to owned music, and it’s not in competition with radio. We aren’t seeing people listening to more owned music than before, they just have access to a better range.”

But just because people are able to tap into a broader range
of music than ever before, doesn’t mean that content is curated effectively. Spotify and Apple Music playlists are largely created through algorithms rather than through research and understanding trends, and this is an area where radio has always flourished.

Radio stations put a lot into researching what people want to hear, and the competitive market between stations means there is little room for error. Adding the confidently curated music playlists to news, weather and traffic updates and likeable hosts is the formula for radio’s success. The content aggregation means that listeners can get the content they could find in numerous other places, all in one place.

“The reality is you can probably get better weather from a weather app and more in-depth news from another source,” Rangooni says. “But no one else aggregates it in the way that radio does.”

“The biggest reason for radio’s success is clear and simple. We’ve always done a lot of focus groups and people often say ‘tell me what’s going on in the world, make me laugh and play a song I Iove’. As long as people keep getting all that, they’ll stay with us,” Rangooni says.

Radio also provides listeners with content that is relevant to them, not only in specific regions, but in New Zealand as a whole. Kiwis overseas are also increasingly joining in overseas by streaming New Zealand stations to get a ‘touch of home’.

Radio has also managed to stay on top because people have a connection to radio shows that is difficult to develop in other mediums, Rangooni says.

“It sounds old-fashioned, but radio has always been a friend and connection in someone’s life. Engagement is the modern word for it. Our research shows that when people build relationships with radio stations, the stations become part of their lives.”

With the ‘tyranny of choice’ splitting people’s attentions, radio has the benefit of being a ‘passive experience’ as listeners can engage in radio while participating in other tasks, such as driving or going about their daily routine, Mollgaard says.

“It’s trendy to say that radio is dying, but it is as rich as ever, in fact it’s richer. There are as many radio listeners as Facebook users in New Zealand and they’re growing.” 

  • Peter Richardson, general manager: PeterR@trb.co.nz

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

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