Thursday, 2 May 2013

Radio's Battle to Keep it's Listeners

In a series of blogs we will look at how technology has changed the way we interact with radio. Today we look into how radio managed to hold onto its audience in an increasingly crowded marketplace. The evidence for today's blog was gathered during my recent Masters degree at the University of Sunderland.

In the Past
Before TV ruled supreme radio was the dominant broadcasting medium. Radio set the schedules and listeners listened at the allotted time. Radio was a one way conversation - radio spoke and the audience listened. 

 Unlike today radio was consumed by family members (e.g. in living rooms or kitchen on large radio device).

When was the last time you listen to radio with a your family? Not in the backgroud while doing something else but listening to the radio as a family just to listen to the radio? (that's not rhetorical, I'd love to know? Apart from in the car I'm not sure when it was for me)


What did Radio Bring it's Listeners?
- Cultural & Social Change.
- World news & events brought into local homes.
- People were exposed to new ideas and influences.
- New genres of music, writing and entertainment filtered into popular culture.
- You could even argue that the world became smaller and more connected.

However there was change on the horizon
As TV began to dominate the media landscape radio became a secondary and background medium. See the blog A Brief History of UK Radio
to read more.

However radio did not rollover and die, it adapted and took on TV is the battle for audience.

What did radio do next?

- Improvements in technology enabled radio to be truly wireless and could therefore be listened to outside the home.

- Technological advances allowed radios to be smaller and portable - radio could easily fit into cars.

- Improved battery technology allowed sets to be used where no mains power supply was present.

Work... the new home of radio?

TV may have taken many recreational listeners in the home. However radio found an audience that TV and other attention grabbing concentration demanding platforms could not attract.

 The background nature of radio made it perfect for work places as staff could be entertained and morale could be kept high without the workforce having to down tools or give up too much concentration.

This quote from radio theorist and writer D. T. MacFarland explains why radio was so successful in the work environment.

“A listener could enjoy a few moments of music
and a little news while he or she did other things.
The music -and - news format – because it placed
low demands on the listener’s attention –
could accompany many other activities”.

(MacFarland, D.T. 1997: 64)


All change

However it was not just radio which changed over the years, the audience changed too. In the next blog we look at how the audience changed and how radio adapted to cater for their needs.

Want to know more about the future of broadcasting why not check out our Technology blogs...

What is web streaming?

What is a Podcast & How Can I Benefit?


Listen to the MYOB Show!

Take care

Dom O'Neill

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