IRF 2013: James Cridland: Indians love their radio

James Cridland is a radio futurologist and managing director of Media UK and Radio DnS. He was the Digital Media Director for Virgin Radio in London in 2001; in 2007 he joined the BBC to work on the BBC iPlayer for Radio; he also worked at PURE, Audioboo, UK Radioplayer. He is a trustee of the Radio Academy, and sits on the International Radio Festival Advisory Board.

At the recently concluded International Radio Forum (IRF 2013) at Zurich, Cridland had a session on "How People Are Listening to Radio in Today's Multiplatform World - and what your station needs to do about it." This is part I of a two part summary of Cridland's session by The Indian Television Dot Com Pvt. Ltd. group South India Head Tarachand Wanvari. Excerpts:

New Broadcast Format

Cridland began by saying,"Let us talk about how people are tuning into radio in today's world. There is the internet, FM and AM, there is a new broadcast format - DAB+ or HD radio and then radio broadcast through the TV that is strongly visible in a many of countries. The UK is one of the countries that broadcast radio in all the four formats like most European countries. In terms of popularity, FM is first; internet is the third most popular in terms of number of people tuning into live radio, but it's alongside TV as well."

Cridland revealed that based on the latest figures, for the first time ever in the UK's radio history internet streaming of radio stands way above radio over TV. "This counts anything and everything that anybody classifies as being a radio station. This is from a pretty robust census survey. We have noticed something interesting here, FM radio is broadcast radio, TV is broadcast, DAB is broadcast, as is HD and there is a real story here in terms of the continuing strength of broadcast."

However, Cridland admitted that both AM and FM have seen slow decline over the last five years while DAB in the UK has had a slow increase as have TV and internet radio, but the last two were still very small.

"There is an awful lot of talk about how internet radio is the future of radio. The reality right now is that internet is a quite small part of radio consumption at present. But no predication can be made for next 5-10 years. Right now broadcast is preeminent in terms of radio consumption," said Cridland.

"In the UK, only 20 per cent of radio listening is in car, DAB is pre-installed in 33 per cent of all new cars. In the UK we have no pure play radio stations that are internet only. One of the reasons is a very strong public service broadcaster (BBC), and also the music rights in the UK are expensive", said Cridland.

"The US is quite different, where comparatively, 50 per cent of all radio listening is in cars. Pandora is preinstalled in a third of all new cars, and if it were a radio station. It would have a seven percent of the market share in the US. Over fifty percent of Pandora's consumption is on mobile. HD radio is preinstalled in thirty percent of all new cars and Sirius XM is pre-installed in a number of new cars, but a majority of people actually don't buy the service once the free period lapses", further revealed Cridland.

Comparing the various landscapes

"Actually when you start looking at the US for radio consumption, then it is very different, because the US has a very different media landscape. HD radio works brilliantly in the US. It should work brilliantly in Canada and in Mexico as well," said Cridland.

"In the UK, the owners of the radio ratings service are all radio stations. The same happens in Belgium in France and across most of Scandinavia. The US is a very competitive radio market and all the players don't work together. That's why, HD, a good protective technology works brilliantly for the US and fits in with the differences in media consumption there. "

"In Europe it is a different story and in India too it's even more different. In India, they love their radio. Radio has a future there because 94 per cent of the listeners in Mumbai tune into radio on mobile phone, only 16 per cent on radio receiver. So radio consumption is very different, depending on where you go across the world," said Cridland.

New broadcast platform

Cridland said, "New broadcast platforms create choice. You can see that if you are a program maker, all of a sudden there is a bunch of additional choices that you can actually have. Loads of additional choice is great news if you are making content because it means that there are more places that want to buy and air your content that enables you to be heard by more people"

"You can see that all of a sudden we have radio stations for specific niches. Planet Rock is one good classic example of a Rock station that never gets onto FM. Then a religious radio, Premiere Christian Radio and the United Christian Broadcasters; we have got additional music choice from services such as Absolute Radio which is actually growing their business and additional the public service broadcasters business as well."

Taking a quick look at broadcast versus internet, Cridland said, "I believe podcasting and on-demand content is where radio has headed. On-demand is a great way of getting more people tuning in, but we can only forget about the power of live radio at our peril."

Countries exploring new broadcast platform

"There are a number of examples where internet and broadcast are working together. For example, Kronehit -a CHR station in Austria. They have a bunch of additional services online-from Kronehit Love which plays love songs to Kronehit Balkan Bees, because they have a lot of people from the Balkans who've moved over into Austria so they have produced a radio station especially for them. They can't do this on FM because they can't get additional licenses, but they can do it on things like DAB+ and on the internet world, and they also have their own personalised music," informed Cridland.

"Similarly if we go to Australia, Southern Cross Austereo- one of the largest radio groups in the world broadcast has a bunch of radio stations across Australia in FM, AM and DAB+. They also have Songl which is their equivalent of Spotify," added Cridland.

"In Turkey - Spectrum Medya runs a bunch of radio stations. You have to register if you wish to listen to those radio stations online. Once you have registered then the ad-breaks online contain specific advertising for your type of demographics. It is a great way of making additional revenue, but only possible on the internet," opined Cridland.

"In the US there's a company called Entercom that runs a bunch of radio stations. They work with a company that helps them sell advertising online for which you don't need to register. All you have to do is to visit their websites and listen. They have teamed up with a company that knows the websites that you have been to. So,if a person has booked a flight to New York, they'll give him an ad for hotels in New York. It is a great way of earning more cash from your advertiser," felt Cridland.

"The cost of broadcasting on the internet to a larger audience is significantly more than broadcasting over FM or HD or DAB+. There is a pretty low threshold where the internet suddenly becomes quite expensive. I am not saying that internet is a bad thing. In fact, internet and broadcast do work together really well, but it is going to be a long time before internet gets even to twenty percent of the listeners" revealed Cridland.

Elaborating further on the way radio and internet work together, Cridland said, "The States have really cracked this. There's Nextradio, it uses FM to get the audio from an FM station with a ludicrous name of Hack FM and it is using the internet to get additional information on a mobile device. One can click to play this song and click to get more information and more actions such as sharing and liking. All of this is available through HD radio."

"Analogue FM will never die out. It's a noble aim for any country to try and phase out FM, I can't see it happen. If I was a pirate radio broadcaster, I'd be rubbing my hands in glee at that prospect. FM does a great job if you can get an FM license."

Radio receivers

"The problem is that radios are rubbish. In a typical radio, when you turn it on, it asks you if you want FM radio or DAB+ or do you want internet radio. It is almost as if it is a set of different radios in one unit sharing one speaker and they all work differently which is bizarre. The TV industry has completely got the user experience sorted out."

Speaking on standards on radio receivers, Cridland said that there were no standards. If someone was to buy an FM radio in the US and brought it to Europe, it wouldn't pick up half the radio stations and the ones that it did pick up would sound rubbish. In Japan, European FM radio would probably pick up half the radio stations there, they used a different waveband. Cridland said that AM works differently in the US as compared to Europe. There were no worldwide standards. "We need to have a continental standard, and the continental standard for Europe is DAB+, and a DAB radio stations is also available on a DAB+ receiver."

(Part II, about how people are listening to radio on the mobile, will be published soon...)

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