Radio's tech problem - is it just the bosses at the top?
By James Cridland
Posted 17 April 2016, 2.29pm edt
I'm in a conference in Las Vegas - RAIN Summit West - and have just watched a presentation from Ginny Hubbard. Hubbard Broadcasting is a relatively large radio group in the US: it's run by Ginny's dad, who I believe is in his mid-80s, but Ginny sounds as if she's the day-to-day boss of the whole thing.
She talked in her interview of podcasts - and was saying how exciting podcasts were (nothing to do with having just invested in Podcast One, a podcast content/sales company). She was saying how she first discovered podcasting: "I listened to Serial".
Serial was a 2015 production. Podcasting started in 2004. In 2005, I introduced podcasting to Virgin Radio, producing a daily podcast from the Pete and Geoff breakfast show. Yet, this boss of a radio company had not listened to a single podcast until 2015? Wow.
Ginny's younger and more vibrant than many US radio bosses: but even she was really very late to the party. I wonder whether this is related to US radio's slow takeup - and slower understanding - of how great technology can change their fortunes? This really underlines to me how important it is that bosses and PDs consume media in the same way as their listeners. I wonder why they don't?
I've listened to a couple of Christian O'Connell podcasts, but otherwise I haven't really listened to speech based ones.
However, Rinse FM is excellent for podcasts, they normally go up after the show finishes and can select a from a diverse mix of music programming, which I then transfer to my Android phone.
Pirate radio stations, such as Kool London are also great for podcasting shows. In a way, while pirate radio no longer innovates musically, they have embraced podcasting so that listeners don't miss their favourite shows.
I think much of it is how wedded radio business are to the main, historic, business model - selling spot ads and S&P.
The national ads model is easy to understand and a solid amount of money flows through to stations (even if the CPTs are lower than everyone would like, they still like the 'free' money). The local ads model, for established stations, is again well-practiced and pretty lucrative - providing you can stop sales exec churn.
'Digital' products are hard to sell because they don't have the audience scale of the broadcast model and they don't have the right teams to sell it.
As the radio ads model is still, amazingly, pretty stable - there's never been the necessity to explore new avenues. It's crazy, and of course someday will bite them on the bum when it's too late.
New entrants tend to be more digitally savvy - mainly because they don't have an old model to support and they may as well build a load of new products (digital and radio) at the same time - as any could be successful and the right thing to do.
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