by Ahmad Itani, Founder & CEO of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, one of the 100 most powerful Arabs for2018, and one of 2017’s global Top 50 PR Game Changers shares his thoughts.
The golden age of radio was from 1920-1950. It was a fascinating time when families sat around their radio receivers listening to the news, dramas and a selection of music. Thirty years of a revolutionary medium that acted as the sole source of education and entertainment, and in some cases experiments like Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds in 1938 that captivated audiences and held them in fear of an ongoing and unravelling alien invasion.
Almost 70 years later, radio is still being discussed as a member of mass media and still retains a loyal listenership among older demographics — 55 per cent in the 45+ category¹ — which begs the question: Is it really fading away? Much like YouTube and the internet did not kill TV — they simply forced the redundancy of cable boxes in lieu of streaming services — podcasts won’t necessarily bring the demise of radio. They will certainly compel the medium to become better, causing some people in the radio business to reconsider established practices and preconceptions about audiences, consumption, production, and distribution.
In fact, the death of radio has been predicted on numerous occasions with the advent of music cassettes, satellite broadcasting and the internet, each of which experts have claimed would make radio obsolete or irrelevant.
That’s not to say that radio stations as traditional mediums won’t become archaic — the future of technology is vague at best. In order for radios in their terrestrial form to establish a permanence with a younger audience — currently only 14 per cent of the 16 – 25 age range listen to radio¹ — their programming will have to adapt to cater to the changing culture of information consumption. In response, there has been a huge growth in the talk radio landscape after stations established that the younger generations looking for music have migrated to streaming services that offer music on demand.
With around 550,000 active podcasts in 100 languages², podcasts grant hosts agency over their content that radio could not have offered due to advertiser guidelines and/or limitations. In fact, 42 per cent of respondents in the Middle East said they were listening to podcasts more often this year compared to last³. This is why more and more radio personalities are starting their own podcasts to combat the restrictive radio culture and best cater to their audience, who will happily make the transition with them.
Where does that leave radio? Original programming. What put streaming services on the map was not only the on-demand content on offer, but rather original and quality content that retains member subscriptions.
Much like their previous ancestors, podcasts are a disruptive innovation that are actively changing the way people access their desired information. Hence let it not be the end of one medium, but the catalyst that brings forth ingenuity and progress.
1 www.statista.com I 2 www.podcastinsights.com I 3 www.markettiers.com