The five most promising technologies for radio
To survive with other traditional media, it must embrace innovation
September 1, 2016
By the editors of Media Life
This is one in a number of stories on radio in Media Life’s ongoing series “The new face of radio in America,” examining all the changes taking place in the medium. Click here for earlier stories.
Among the many types of traditional media—television, out of home, magazines, newspapers—radio may have been the slowest to embrace new technology.
That’s for good reason. For a long time it didn’t feel all that much pressure to do so.
Radio remains among the most-used media. It hasn’t suffered the audience declines of print, and its advertising has held up much better.
Still, innovation is a vital part of the survival of any media in the digital age, and it is even more so for radio if it to avoid the fates suffered by other traditional media.
Here are the five technologies that offer the most promise for radio in the future, in the view of media planners and buyers in a recent Media Life survey.
1. Streaming radio
This one’s a no-brainer. Streaming of local channels has become commonplace, but media people say there’s much more that can be done in this area, including better promotion and stronger outreach to listeners through social media.
“It’s an extension of the local station and a competitor to Pandora,” noted one reader.
“You can take your favorite radio station anywhere. It’s great for listeners,” wrote another.
2. FM chips in smartphones
Many phones contain FM chips that allow people to listen to the radio, yet as of last year two-thirds of devices with the chips had not been activated. The radio industry has been pushing for greater public recognition of the chips’ availability and easier ways to activate them, through simple-to-use apps.
Buyers see great promise in anything mobile and believe FM chips will help keep radio relevant.
3. FM translators
Buyers don’t think HD radio delivered on its promise—the sound quality simply didn’t draw in listeners as radio stations had hoped. But they say FM translators, which can turn an HD radio signal into an analog one broadcasting on a lower-powered frequency, could bring HD stations to greater audiences.
“Only a few stations are taking advantage of this great opportunity,” noted one reader.
4. Programmatic buying
Radio stations have been much slower than other media to offer programmatic buying. Yet buyers say this could make radio buys more efficient and make their jobs easier, which means they’ll be pushing for it. Radio is certainly under pressure to deliver.
5. Better measurement
For virtually any medium, buyers want better measurement, and that’s certainly true for radio, which has not seen any major ratings improvements since Nielsen’s portable people meter rolled out nearly a decade ago.
Buyers say better measurement only stands to help the industry.
“We need it so people and clients can see radio works,” wrote one reader.
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