Radio’s loss could be an opportunity for your business. Now, more than ever, there’s a chance to win over your own audience, rather than pitching for airtime on conventional media. But you’d better be quick – it’s a land grab for niche audiences and you wouldn’t want to see a competitor get there first.
Radio has fought off many invaders in its first one hundred years. First came television, then music videos. The Buggles gave us the idea that video would kill the radio star, back in 1979, two years before the launch of MTV. Radio survived, flourished even. Then came podcasts. It’s podcasting which is having the biggest impact – more than a quarter of regular podcast listeners say they are listening to less radio as a result – and I suspect podcasting is only at the beginning of its journey.
For the first time, radio audiences are falling, particularly those with a focus on talk. The time spent listening to Radio 4, for example, fell 8% last year; the same the year before. Radio 5 Live’s audience has fallen almost as much. BBC local radio is also taking a hammering.
It’s easy to see why podcasts are replacing conventional radio. Unless its linked by simmering personalities, music radio is easily substitutable with Spotify and the like. Talk radio will always hold the centre ground for breaking news and audience interaction, but the block-style programming of Radio Four is best suited to on-demand listening. Why tune-in half way through a show when you can listen from the start?
Mobile devices are also at the root of the problem for conventional broadcasters. One third of all our listening – radio, streaming, podcasts – is done on our smart phones. That means, its just as easy to listen to a podcast as it is to listen to the radio.
At the moment 12 percent of the UK’s adult population listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. That’s about 6 million people. The figure rises to 21 percent of 25-34 year olds, but its not just the young folk who are listening – almost half the podcast audience is aged 35-64. Older than that, they probably are still welded to their radio sets, at least for now.
Whilst this is bad news for broadcasters – who are fighting to be involved in this new medium – it’s an excellent opportunity for brands, who can establish their own podcasts and win over new audiences.
Provided your content is professional, entertaining and informative, there’s no reason why you can’t claim a slice of the pie. And unlike mainstream radio, which by its nature has to pander to the widest possible audience, in the podcast world being niche is a good thing. People are seeking out specific content that matches their interests. 90 percent of people listen to podcasts on their own – often on a drive to work, or relaxing at home or whilst studying.
Provided your content is professional, entertaining and informative, there’s no reason why you can’t claim a slice of the pie.
That niche could be your industry or the targeted interests of your audience. A radio station won’t run a weekly half hour show on drone flying, or hedge-funds, or pottery – but you can. This interest in niche content explains why traditional broadcasters are struggling to compete in the podcast marketplace. The BBC’s share of the total time spent listening to podcasts has fallen from 33% to 20% in the space of a year, despite their wealth of content. The vast majority of content is coming from independent producers.
The demand for niche content is the unfilled gap of mainstream broadcasting. Serving a subset of listeners is not viable for radio, but a commercial proposition for podcasts. Take Share Radio as an example – an attempt to provide financial news to a London audience. It broadcast over 90 hours per week, but reached only 17,000 people, listening for 2.4 hours each. The cost involved premises, transmission and a full compliment of staff. The Morning Call, which I present and produce for the National Australia Bank, has 9,000 plays a week, reaching about four thousand people. That’s a quarter of the Share Radio audience but achieved with less than one percent of the content, produced by one man (plus interviewees) and a microphone. It’s easy to see which is the most commercially viable proposition. Whilst Share Radio has long gone, The Morning Call continues to grow in popularity.
Another finance show is Radio 5 Live’s Wake Up to Money, broadcast in the early hours across Britain to a weekly cumulative audience of 435,000 people. Yet less than 15 thousand people will tune in on the BBC’s iPlayer to listen to a specific edition on-demand. The Morning Call gets more than half that number in on-demand listeners, without having the resources of the BBC or the publicity of a national radio network sitting behind it
This all goes to show, it’s not a question of resources, it’s a case of tapping in to a niche. All companies should grab the opportunity, provide unique content and claim your share of the growing podcast audience. Remember, only 12 percent of the adult population currently listen to podcasts, but it’s growing all the time. It’s likely that podcasts will be as popular as radio in the next five years. By then, we’ll all have your favourites, many pandering to very specific interests, sponsored or produced by related companies. Companies should be careful of not losing that opportunity to a competitor who claims the space – once it’s gone, it’s gong to be hard to compete.