The Connected Cars Will Transform Radio post got me thinking about the future of radio as a medium, and in certain ways, one could argue that the future is already here.
Listening to one person, or several people, speak for our entertainment or edification is nothing new; after all, the likes of storytelling, forums and oral tradition have been around for centuries, if not millennia. And since the advent of radio, generations of people have come to love the medium for precisely those reasons.
Even if you choose a station or show because of the music they’re playing, strip that away and what you’re left with is you, listening to people talking. It’s why people become so attached to certain presenters or DJs – and this loyal listener affinity is a large part of the reason why radio advertising still carries so much weight in Ireland. If you’re in any doubt about that, just look at the reverence in which the quarterly JNLR numbers are held.
Of course, the more that technology continues to give us ways to do so, the manner in which society listens to radio is going to continue to change. And when you consider the ever-growing popularity of podcasts, that change is already underway.
When you think about it, podcasts are just another form of content, albeit in an audio-only variety. The widely popular “Second Captains” sports podcast describes itself as “internet radio”, which is accurate enough, but I prefer to think of the podcast world as “radio on demand”.
Much like the way that VOD players such as RTÉ Player, 3Player and 4OD allow us to watch the programmes we want to when we want to, podcasts allow us to listen to the shows we want whenever and wherever we choose, be that on desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
We can cherry-pick the shows that interest us, stop and start at our convenience, listen in manageable chunks, or gorge on back-to-back episodes a la Netflix’s “box set binge viewing” sales model.
In recent years, I’ve found that I’m listening to less and less live radio and more and more “radio on demand” in this manner, especially when I’m on the go. I’m guessing I’m not alone – the aforementioned Second Captains regularly get 20,000+ streamed Soundcloud plays of their shows, not counting episode downloads or subscriptions on iOS or Android.
Judging by the listener correspondence that features on the BBC Radio 5 Live show “Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review”, their audience is neatly divided between those who listen live, and those who listen to the show via podcast, in order to enjoy the bonus off-air content that’s added to each show. And RTÉ even chop each edition of Joe Duffy’s love-it-or-loathe-it “Liveline” into topic-by-topic podcast chunks, giving even further choice to the “radio on demand” listener.
In what’s surely a result of listening trends like these, I’ve recently noticed that many of the shows I enjoy are starting to carry advertising in some form or other. Initially, this has taken the form of sponsorship mentions, but “mid-pod” ad breaks are also becoming more common.
Just as RTÉ Player and 4OD offer pre-rolls to brands as a way to bring TV advertising to their on demand viewership, “radio on demand” is increasingly offering an alternative way for brands to reach their audience aurally.
It surely won’t be long until successful audio content starts to carry full “ad breaks” as we know them, but for now, if you want people to hear about your brand, it’s time to start considering when, where and - most importantly - how they’re listening.
Written by Alan Pollock / Senior Copywriter
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