“Radio was supposed to die in 1945, when TV came along. It turns out that radio grew and grew, and it’s a bigger business today than it has ever been.”
Alex Blumberg (CEO of Gimlet Media)
Despite many proclamations to the contrary, its stars have not been killed by video, it has not been replaced by streaming services, nor is it a shadow of its former self.
Radio, like the best artists, has adapted to reflect the times and culture it operates within, mutating and buzzing with conversation and music – it sets off something in our minds that TV just can’t do. It’s no coincidence the likes of Gimlet are so successful – a podcast platform that feeds the ears of millions around the world.
Globally, the radio industry is booming. We’re not quite the mindless zombies many had made us out to be. We are connecting like never before and have access to basically anything we want to listen to.
So where does that leave our beloved local radio stations?
I grew up listening to Stray FM in my mother’s car – a local station that covered my hometown of Ripon in North Yorkshire, as well as Harrogate and surrounding areas. I can still remember the jingles, the adverts for double glazing (nu-era windows sparkle and shine, amazing glazing, everytime!) and the familiar voices of the presenters. It was part of the fabric of my youth and indeed an integral part of the community – which it remains to this day.
The owners of Stray FM, UKRD, have 10 local radio stations in the UK. Through working at Bubbl, I have got to know their group content director, David Coull.
David is hugely passionate about the industry and was kind enough to share his thoughts with me, for The Bigger Bubbl.
David, we salute you!
1. Hi David, thank you for talking to us. How did you get into working with local radio stations?
I began working in the radio industry at the age of 16; beginning my career on a work-experience placement before stints as a radio presenter, Programme Manager, Music Manager, and most recently Group Content Director.
2. What part do local radio stations play in their respective communities?
For a radio station to be truly local, it must be at the heart of the community it serves; reflecting the ‘everyday lives’ of those people who listen to it, whilst also providing a service that includes the provision of essential, local news and information.
In addition to providing regular, local news bulletins, traffic and travel reports, weather and what’s on information, local radio can be, and often is, the voice of the local community. From celebrating community diversity to championing good causes and local charities, local radio is a valuable asset to any community.
3. Generally, why do people still love radio when they have so many alternatives?
Whether it is local, regional or national, people love radio. This is because at its core, it educates, entertains and informs its audiences, often on a one-to-one basis, creating a bond between the listener and the radio station that is often deeply personal.
Of course, radio has, and continues to, integrate seamlessly with listeners lives, it’s easier than ever to consume in the car, at home or at work. What’s more, it can also be enjoyed in tandem with many other everyday activities, from working out in the gym to catching up with social media, because it doesn’t require the listeners exclusive attention its popularity remains as high as ever. Today, 48.8 million adults, or 88% of the UK adult (15+) population tune into their favourite radio station(s) every week.
4. What challenges do local radios face in the digital era? What opportunities are there for local radio in this tech driven age?
What’s exciting about the challenges that the radio industry faces is that for every challenge there is just as many opportunities, if not more! The birth of digital, and digital radio, has enabled radio operators to broaden the number of platforms they broadcast on, and, in the case of the commercial sector, commercialise that content, resulting in many radio brands, across all digital platforms, growing audiences and revenues.
New digital broadcast platforms, social media, and radio station websites all provide exciting new opportunities for radio brands to engage with existing and new audiences. As a result, the type of content generated by radio stations and the quantity of it has and continues to change. For example, online video, a format that isn’t historically associated with radio, now regularly complements traditional radio content online.
The challenge for radio remains the same, content is king, it always has been, therefore, the content has to remain relevant if radio’s popularity is to continue.
5. What do you think the future holds for local radio?
Further change, however, one thing is for certain, the digitalisation of the industry, and, as a result, the broadening of content that can be produced and broadcast means that radio brands are, and will continue to reach existing, and more importantly new audiences in the future.
“Radio….Someone still loves you!” – Freddie Mercury