The future of radio

The morning after the year before and it’s time to get sober and face the music. What is in store for radio in the future? Here’s what I think.

Audio content

Radio stations will relook their content offering.

With music now accessible in so many different (custom-made) ways, radio stations should look at creating unique content rather than distributing it. In this, their listeners will be crucial.

User-generated content will become the sound of the future. That is if stations can let go of control.

In addition to this (maybe initially in contradiction to this) stands quality content versus mass-produced, soulless, quantity content.

Community

In the coming years people will move even more towards joining communities – groups of like-minded people who share the same interests.

This is not a new development. Not by far. But I believe more people will use their community to filter the world. In other words – using communities to access useful information in the mist of all the clutter.

Like any community there will be rules of conduct. Some members (i.e. marketers) will ignore the rules and show anti-social behaviour. They will be shunned by the group. Members who contribute to the shared pool of information will benefit in return.

This sense of community is one of the most powerful characteristics of radio. Radio “communities” will grow to connect listeners to station, listeners to each other, listeners to clients, listeners to artists, listeners to content, advertisers to content, artists to content etc etc.

Any member who lies to, screams at or ridicules another will be shunned by the group.

Stations will become online collaborations instead of broadcasters.

Real life

Communities will extend into the “real world” through actual experiences, for example: http://www.tablesurfing.com and http://www.foursquare.com. Even http://www.bookmooch.com.

People will trust people inside their select community and pursue contact with them.

Instead of traditional advertising, radio stations will facilitate a platform within their specific community where advertiser’s brands can be tested, used, commented on and experienced.

Ads, like content, will be generated by station users.

“Station members” (radio-users, clients and station people) will interact with each other in online and face-to-face events. Stations won’t necessarily organize these.

Radio stations will broadcast visuals. YouTube-style.

Real time statistics will track who is listening and when. Listenership figures will be instant and immediately measurable. Clients will pay per unit of actual ears listening.

Radio will become more mobile: in your pocket, on your cell phone, through your media player. Even in your ear as new generation hearing aids feature cell phone, web and radio applications.

Value

Many terrestrial radio stations believe that streaming their station, including localized ads and irrelevant content, is good enough for the listening world. It’s not.

User-generated radio stations offer more actual user value. Can terrestrial radio stations compete? Does an annoying DJ and long, solid commercial blocks outweigh the value received? Is hearing the same music over and over again more valuable than hearing something new? Why should someone else’s traffic problem become mine?

Who’s listening to whom?

Listeners will become users.

Stations will become listeners.

With so much choice available online, loyalty is no longer easily given and stations will have to listen to their users and take the lead from them.

Whether it is news, entertainment, prizes or music, chances are it’s available in more enticing and interesting formats somewhere else.  The days of telling people what they like are over.

Nostalgia anyone?

In reaction to hyperreality overload will come a return to nostalgia. To a time when things were simple and good – the “homemade biscuits” of life. Natural cotton, hearty meals, good friends, family picnics.

Switched-off cell phones: I’ve heard of restaurants in Europe with signal-free rooms, where people can enjoy a meal in peace and have a real conversation.

Simple, wholesome, mouth-watering competitions and promotions…

A quirky, real person peeking through the radio persona…

A real conversation with unexpected questions…

Unedited (gasp!) testimonials.

Quiet (gasp and sputter!), natural, moments on-air.

The end of ear-piercing station imaging.

The revival of community radio (now internet-based).

The return of the great offer – where radio becomes a great audible discount catalog.

The end of interruption marketing.

The evolution of word-of-mouth.

The economical crisis of 2008 and 2009 touched people. I believe the explosion of personal sharing over the past two years will be followed by an implosion.

From throwing their arms open to the brave new world, people will now tentatively wave at people they know and like.

They will be more aware of their neighbours in this hyperworld, but more sceptical of them too.

New, strong relationships will be forged, but the same good old rules of conduct will apply more than ever: Respect people. Respect yourself.

In the future, I hope radio will make true on its promise of being the trusted friend.


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