Time for a radio revival

As befits someone with a global role in a media agency, I spend a lot of time travelling. What I notice at the airport is that almost everyone has now headphones. Most are listening to the new radio digital platforms, usually via their mobiles.

Widespread Wi-Fi, 3G networks and the fact that more and more of us have smartphones are powering a digital revolution that even threatens Apple’s all-conquering iPod.
This additional listening is reflected in the data – Radio.de, Germany’s biggest digital radio platform, now has 2.5m app downloads with half of all streams going to mobile devices. Similarly 1911.de has attracted half a million downloads of its football app – remarkable for a paid-for service.

In Germany, where traditional radio has primarily been a regional medium predominantly used by retailers, these are impressive figures. It may just be around 10-15% of the traditional audience but among the young and male demographics in particular, reach is much, much higher.

So far, however, the opportunity presented by this change in behaviour has been largely ignored by advertisers.

The situation is more advanced in the UK and the US – Spotify now has 10m listeners and 3m subscribers in the US, for example – and digital radio presents great advantages to advertisers in every country of the world.

For a start radio listening via mobile, laptops and tablets comes with added data, it’s possible to learn more about the audience, location and handset, for example. For some brands, musical selections may also be of interest in helping to target messages at the right consumer.

The potential of this new form of radio and the pure emotional power of music is clear from a recent campaign for Subway in the US targeting Hispanic consumers. Creating an online radio station as part of the Subway Artista Frescos concert series enabled the brand to boost visits by 13% among bilingual adults.

Radio in many advanced markets has struggled as digital formats have secured advertiser cash at the expense of both print and radio. The increasing penetration of the new radio “stations” indicates that perhaps the time has come for all of us to rethink what radio means and what it can do for brands.

  • Carl Rogers

    Interesting article, Christian. I recently wrote something very similar for the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-rogers/will-spotifys-popularity-_b_1118898.html