One week on: Radiodays Europe

Saturday, 6am. I’ve already broken a belt, spilled a hot chocolate and a security officer at the airport thought I was a woman. By anyone’s standards, this is a “good start” to a day.

Thankfully, the gorgeous views over the Alps were more than enough to wake me up on the way to Milan for Radiodays Europe.

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It’s apparently the biggest radio conference in the world – filled with people from broadcasters and organisations across the world that matter the most. And me, looking like a 12 year-old who snuck in while nobody was looking.

Alongside my colleague Gav, I was there representing G Media to discuss what we’re doing in the web and technology side of the industry. I think it’s hugely important to take some time out from the usual routine to properly indulge and enthuse about the best of radio, get some new views and discuss the merits of a well-organised Autotrack database. Amongst other things.

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Spotted in a car park, this is my new favourite radio station name. If their jingles aren’t the DJ button from Casio keyboards, they’ve missed a trick.

While focusing on where radio goes next, it’s impossible not to think about the impact of apps, audio streaming and the wider digital media industry. Doing things that mean you can’t just be replaced by robots.

There’s a few things radio still does better than robots (thankfully), as established by the RAB’s Audio Now research. They identified six primary reasons for listening to audio – and what mediums (streaming, owned music, radio etc) match them best. It’s quite interesting, and could also show what areas there are to improve on…

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See the full research at rab.co.uk/audionow

All about me, but not in an egotistical way

Could radio itself become more personal? Well, it’s often described as the most personal medium of all for being that one on one connection. But in terms of music and content, the focus is often broad, a large target market.

There’s got to be more ways you can balance both a more specialist music taste with the entertainment and shared experience that the platform is best for. There’s potential with pop-up stations such as the four-day Radio 2 Country, but there’s got to be more opportunities. Absolute Radio’s Project Banana allows the same content to be aired live alongside different decades of music — could this be expanded upon, perhaps with internet-only variation streams?

Personalisation is an area that’s really interesting in mobile apps. Omny allows you to combine your music collection with podcasts and other content, but perhaps may be too much work for every user… particularly when you’re competing with an interface that at its best is one ‘entertain me’ button. But keeping it simpler, NPR One finds relevant content for you while ensuring you don’t get stuck within a filter bubble and using audio that can surprise you.

For the most fun example, it’s radio.likemee in Germany. You can build up a custom day with the right streams for the right times, but it’s most fun in the morning. Users can get a personalised wakeup message from the breakfast show presenter, “Good morning Jonathan, it’s 8 o’clock.”

Probably not a great deal of fun to record, but a lovely touch bringing together the importance of a radio personality and a one-on-one experience.

Radio is dead, long live radio?

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From a museum in Milan, this is not likely to be the future of radio.

But Ben Cooper, controller of BBC Radio 1, was looking further ahead than the world of apps – with what could effectively be a call to arms for the business. He described the battle of distribution as one that had already been lost to the smartphone. In the short term, partnering with other companies and appearing on their platforms can help us stay relevant.

It’s what next that matters more. Cooper championed hybrid radio, the project designed to bring together the best of broadcast and internet in easy-to-use interfaces. It’s something Radioplayer are currently exploring for car radios.

And if things move slowly, the next battle will have been lost. Does this mean the industry has to invest more time in the actual devices used for listening than just taking universal distribution for granted? Great content is useless if nobody hears it…

Cliche is king

Ah, ‘content’. ‘Content is king’ is such a cliche it feels so easy to gloss over in practice. Yes – it’s currently the big difference from music services, but the actual creation of that and how to improve it is what matters… even on your typical music station.

Well, what could you learn from the world of American TV? Dave Cribb argued that their stuff works because they get the best people in every department – bring in the specialists. While producers and presenters are focusing on their regular 20 hours a week of programming, why not get proper comedy writers in occasionally to help build larger set-pieces and bring fresh ideas to a show that can really stand out?

And the essential core behind great radio, according to Geoff Lloyd, is interesting people being authentic. His hilarious talk covered the importance of not treating listeners like idiots. I could summarise more from it, but really recommend you just watch the version he delivered at Next Radio:

Although it was a radio event, there was an undeniable focus on the visual element – what form should the video be? You’ve got the Radio 1 approach with their work on YouTube and talent from that platform such as Jack and Dean, or as many companies were promoting, the full-blown music video visualisation.

It was particularly of note watching RTL 102.5FM – a station that’s simulcast on digital TV, with music videos and cameras in the (definitely designed for TV) studio. While I won’t argue it improves the radio experience, is it an improvement on your standard music video channel?

There’s many things which make a good event like this, and Radiodays hit those well. Yes, there’s the ability to network, socialise, learn, and engage with something you love… but the best is that before you’re out the door, you’ve got new ideas and are gearing up to turn what you’ve heard in to something new.

…so I probably need to get working on those things then.

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I’ll probably post a few more oddities from the trip, but frankly 1,000 words was enough to ask anyone to read for now.

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