Radio at the Edge 2009

Richard Bacon interviews Tony Blackburn
[Update: Over at the Onegoldensquare blog, I’ve written a less detailed summary which might be easier to read]
[Update 2: The Radio Academy has now published all the video and audio from Monday on their website. Also included are the various presentations given at the event!] Live(ish) from London’s MIllbank – it’s not exactly like an episode of The Thick of It.
James Cridland is our host – he’s from “the future” according to the Radio Academy’s Trevor Dann.

[Note that there’ll be typos a-plenty in this until I get a chance to tidy it up later]

Chris Vallance chaired the first session on mobile with Mikko Linnamaki from and Mark Rock from Audioboo.
Mikko said that while many apps have a short lifestyle, this isn’t the case for radio. Once it’s installed it stays on the user’s phone. He said that the biggest growth was currently coming from Android with 20 or so devices coming from all the major manufacturers (except those from Finland!). A show of hands in the room suggested about 2% of users having Android phones.
But Nokia has double the number of smartphones in the market than the other players put together.
Mikko showed us the typical App Store download curve, with a massive spike at the start and then a pretty quick drop off until a very sustained lower level of downloads. He said that we need to time marketing for the period at which it’s a new app. Then he showed what happened in his example when Android was added. It’s the same pattern, but the base is much higher once it’s fallen. Finally Nokia showed a massive spike with the launch of the Ovi store. It beats iPhone by a factor of ten. However this was only a couple of weeks ago, and the base level isn’t known yet. This was all based on a live example of “I Love Radio.”
He said that Ovi was difficult to use and yet it still performed really well.
N95 users “are human too” and want to listen to their radio stations!
A similar pattern was observed for “tune ins”.
Jazz FM has had 78,000 downloads since 19 August 2009 across all the major platforms. They’ve delivered 1.65m ad impressions a month. And they’re seeing 160,000 tune ins a month. This gives about 10.5 minutes average (compared to an hour on German web stations). Mikko likened this to “snacking” you’re perhaps commuting.
Three weeks after launch the Jazz FM application got to the number one slot on the iTunes music applications homepage. When Apple put the application in “New and noteworthy” it suddently saw a jump from around 900 installs a day to around 2000-3000 a day.
In the US, it’s very different with thousands of stations. They have aggregator applications like AOL Radio, CBS Radio and so on. The useful station names with Ks and Ws doesn’t help in finding the station you want to hear. Mikko says that this really doesn’t do the station managers any favours.
Mikko shares a chart showing the top 100 apps in the music section. In the US it’s all about aggregators apps, whereas in the UK it’s the reverse, and much more heavily in Germany and France where there are barely any aggregator applications.
In summary he believes that consumers want one button for their radio and not to have to search through hundreds of stations to find their favourite.
In the future he says, that Twitter and Facebook should be embedded, album artwork should be included, and the ability to buy from iTunes. Feedback, voting, traffic and travel are also desirable. And clearly one clear thing is to make the app run in the background while you use other functions of your phone. He also mentioned the inclusion of Audioboo in the app as a request.
Finally Mikko says that their radio apps in Germany have police speed trap data built into the radio app to alert listeners to their locations. Users can submit mobile speed traps, and this of course keeps the applications open when listeners are in the car.
The ratio between selling and buying is 1 to 400 said during Q&A. “Radio is free. It always has been and always will be. Don’t sell your app – it’s a waste of time.” He suggested selling advertising on the apps as a better route. The ad industry isn’t there just yet but it’s getting there.
Then Mark Rock from Audioboo spoke to us. “User generated Radio 4” was one comment or “Twitter without typing”.
Rock explained that the genesis of Audioboo came from Channel 4 Radio’s failed attempt to launch a new national DAB multiplex. As well as the iPhone version, the Android version launched last week, and Nokia is due before the end of the month.
Lots of people are using it – latterly the Army being a big user – with some using a premium version (and hence them earning some cash!).
He walked us through the various elements of the product including RSS feeds, social media links and geo-location data. They have 32000 users with over 77000 clips – about 2.5k hours.
They don’t push people to their own website and have about 0.6 million audio plays per month. 3000 people autopublish on Facebook and 12000 do so on Twitter.
The pro model is based on editing, moderation and publising, ad insertion and stings, and new ways of recording.
In a couple of weeks users will be able to record via their webcam microphones. Then this could be embedded into websites to give some really high quality audio feedback to radio stations.
He then gave us some lessons they’d learnt:
– your users can be your new reporters (he spoke of a Welsh gentleman who gave a new Welsh word every day for the last four months)
– the social media functionality is important
– embrace new, cheap and versatile technologies (he gave kudos to Absolute Radio!)
All in all, Audioboo sounds very exciting, with lots of developments due very soon. I can’t wait to have a proper play (as a non-iPhone user).
Matt Hall from The Guardian asked Mikko about speech radio applications. He didn’t have many examples, but said that German state radio had been doing very well, but most of their
Paul Kennedy wanted to know about censorship, and he said that originally they had to manually check all audio, but they work on a community basis now. A follow-up question said that it was a reality that you have to check the audio, but he said in the future there’d be a audio to speech keyword technology.
Rip It Up And Start Again
Chris Kimber (of the BBC, although these are his views) says “Yes.”
He cantered through the array of “content” available in abundance, all the new devices that are now available.
Chris then talked about the BBC Share of Ear study from April 2009. Radio’s share of ear is 83%, but for under 35s it’s less, with 15-24s only getting 66% of their audio from radio.
If you compare the same age-group with ten years ago, they listen to 3.5 hours less than they did do.
He talked about some of the digital stations with only 4-5 hours a week of listening.
He said that listeners aren’t currently dissatisfied with their current choice, so digital-only stations are complementary and not replacement services.
There’s demand for interactivity, control and portability, so what’s the solution? He says that we should think of a digital music service and not a linear radio station. And we need to think about quality and not quantity – that’s what’s going to cut-through. Chris thinks this is the reverse of what actually happens.
His manifesto:
– be famous for a small number of distinct high quality programmes
– interactive – become a platform for the listener
– utility: offer great music recommendations
– be open and social
Absolute Radio’s Chris Lawson was up next. He spoke of the opportunity of digital from a revenue perspective. He said that ad revenues are decreasing, we have sample based research, and the changes in media consumption.
The opportunity is there to increase revenue, see what people are actually consuming, and be open and transparent. He said that we have to go where the audience is going.
Then talked about the creation of One Golden Square Labs, and the thinking behind it. He took us through things like the apps that Absolute Radio have done, the iTunes storefront, and creating audio and video for the website (about 3000 items so far including 100 live sessions). He pointed out that we upload much of this to YouTube too.
Comparemyradio is the (slightly contentious?) new website that tells you things like who’s playing your favourite artist. He explained that it lets you compare the output of different stations.
He mentioned PopJustice’s plaudit, even though it said that it proves that “good can come from evil.”
He said that if we don’t take control of our destiny then others might.
The it was on to Dabbl, the user-generated radio station that’s been in Beta for the last few weeks. He explained that it’d be Absolute Radio’s new music offering with a live music element in the evening. Finally he mentioned that Absolute 80s is launching at the start of December.
Then it was on to the UK Radio Player from Michael Hill. He talked about seams – the day to day stuff that all radio stations rely on – and nuggets – that come along once in a while.
He walked us through his daughter’s day, starting with a missed opportunity to hear Capital in the morning because her radio’s not up to it. She couldn’t hear Capital on their App with lots of freezing. He pointed out that this was probably O2 rather than Capital’s problem (she has an iPhone mind you at 15!). Later in the day there’s some Radio 1, some more Capital via their app, satellite TV, and some CD music.
“Capital really do understand my daughter… it’s very spooky.”
He said that the Jingle Bell Ball is a great “nugget” from Capital.
But there need to be cheaper DAB sets and her phone is her life!
He then showed us the E4 prospective studios, performance areas and other things that they had in store. It was always the plan to produce short pieces that could be repurposed in lots of ways.
After hearing another E4 radio jingle, he spoke about the model, with “glanceable content” online at breakfast. “Work out where you need to be live and why.”
You should work out what your nuggets are and don’t do too many.
Because E4 radio was tied into the D2 distribution mechanism, they missed a trick and could easily have launched on other platforms.
A brief piece on FiveLive pointed out that it has nuggets like Mayo/Kermode, the online element of 606 and the Wimbledon things they do.
He said that AM was dying and they had to make a concerted effort to become a digital station in everything they said.
But fundamentally, he says that “No” – we don’t need to change everything.
“We can become obscure and irrelevent… or [use digital] for a renaissance.”
Finally Paul Campbell from Amazing Radio got a round of applause for not using PowerPoint. He also apologised for killing off Birdsong and said that Dabbl isn’t first, but Amazing Radio was in letting listeners choose the music they hear. has been around since 2005 for unsigned bands to use with an ethical payment mechanism.
You won’t hear any PRS material at all on Amazing Radio, and you’d hardly hear any DJs (he referenced discussion on Digital Spy “feedback”).
He said that if you hear a song on Amazing Radio then it’s there because website users have put it there (hence the Dabbl critcism). He says that he’s never known a reaction to a radio station like the one he’s had since Amazing Radio started, and why it’s so much better than other radio. He says that it’s touched a nerve.
He thinks that there are probably lessons for others to learn – although not too closely (he’s been cross about the BBC in today’s Guardian). Ulitmately they want to continue and to expand into other areas.
In the Q&A we heard about Dabbl going 24 hours (touch wood), and that Amazing Radio is used as marketing tool trying to turn users into registered listeners. They’ve had internal discussions about going into RAJAR. But he’s not going to be the next Simon Cowell – although he wants to be profitable within his model. Amazing Video will follow eventually. He says that they do mix genres to a “crazy extent”.
Radio with Pictures
Robin Pembrooke from Global tells us that their apps which were announced at this conference last year have been downloaded 750,000 since then. And their Nokia/Symbian and Android applications are soon to come.
Last month they served as many page impressions on their Capital iPhone app as they did on their website, and Global’s apps occupy 5 of the top 25 music applications on the iTunes store.
He referenced the Pure Sensia which has just hit the shops and uses WiFi and RadioDNS to sync up pictures with audio (in this instance served via DAB).
As well as other mobile platforms, he’s hopeful of Canvas offering some functionality on digital TV. This will make it more complex to manage, with the same image appearing on all the various devices.
People like the apps, he says, but they’re not perfect. People don’t want to see lots of photos of Simon Bates – especially on larger screened devices! (Not a reflection on Simon Bates). Because commercial radio can’t afford large teams, you need to work on a dynamic system.
Robin mentions the cross-industry radio player which will have space for a slideshow image. This, he hopes, will be a key way of driving people from the player to their websites.
He’s keen to have an open approach to let all the various manufacturers use the same formats. Website owners learnt this years ago with common form factors for advertising.
Brett Spencer from Five Live was preceded by the BBC’s visualisation of England winning the Ashes on DTV (and online) earlier in the summer! It didn’t flash “England Win the Ashes” in big letters incidentally. Just a subtle “England win to regain The Ashes” at the foot of the page.
There were, however, 500,000 requests online for the feed and 900,000 on redbutton on DTV.
Five Live has a four camera setup in their main studio. So they tried an experiment with Simon Mayo’s show. Brett showed us a video that demostrated what they’d done and some of the reaction to it. It’s clear that it’s not television, and people did appreciate it – if only to notice that Simon Mayo has a better chair than anyone else in the studio!
“If more people… listen and view it longer, it’s a good idea” – SImon Mayo.
Brett explained what they were able to do, and add: including more texts and emails than could be read out. 80% of people who viewed it had not visited the website the previous week.
He thinks that it is an exciting opportunity. Some hadn’t listened to Five Live before – and the new listeners tended to be younger.
“Love the visual radio – it’s almost indistinguishable from actual magic” – a listener, Ben!
He finished with a clip of the incomparable Danny Baker on Saturday mornings behind the red button (140,000 people are using it so far).
A panel discussion then opened up, with Colin Crawford from Pure talking about the Sensia which is now in shops and the work that’s gone into developing it. He says that it is glanceable and you can put it somewhere to suit you.
It tuns out that Colin’s daughter does have a DAB radio. He says that watching her react to the product evolving has been interesting. Even the logos appearing is very popular. Again, there are some nice mentions about what Absolute Radio has been doing – especially during development around the time that V Festival was occuring offering rich imagery.
James Cridland wants to know if it’s actually quite hard work to get all that imagery on screens.
Then Global demonstrated the kind of behind the scenes work that they have to do to put together the visuals behind their apps, and the feed they send to the Pure Sensia.
He says it’s really useful if your station controller has the app on their phone to see what’s happening. He also mentioned DJs “egos” and having a look at the app, and seeing what happens when they realise what it can do. It’s only once you’ve seen it that people start to get ideas.
The only negative comments are when the signal drops out and that’s “not technically our fault!”
Robin Pembrooke wants to know if the “mythical” FM transmitter will ever be turned on in the iPhone.
Zia from Five Live said that at first there was a little playing up to the cameras when it was introduced but the only real changes they had to make were a change to lights and asking guests if they were happy to appear on camera as well.
Global is trying to make it as automatic and dynamic as possible whereas Five Live had four people working fulltime during their experiement. This also allowed them to learn as they went and the 10th or 11th shows were very different from the first shows.
Robin says the next version that Global will be launching will be in the UK Radio Player. And following that he’s hoping for Canvas to be the next big thing.
Colin says that Pure will be releasing an SDK around the middle of next year for the Sensia as well as more apps. In the meantime he’ll be talking to radio stations some more. The Sensia is currently available for £249 in John Lewis you’ll be pleased to learn.
A question wonders whether all of this takes us away from the listeners having control of the pictures rather than producers. Robin says that during Capital’s Summertime Ball they did use photos from listeners. It’s a moderation issue as much as anything.
When asked about guests saying yes or no to visualisation, Brett “persuaded” them otherwise, and they said yes. In fact it was a concern about editing the video out of context.
Spotify: Friend or Foe
Ben Perreau introduced the session starting with Nigel Pinto from Human Capital. They’ve produced a rough and ready piece of research which he then summarised.
60% of the radio audience is a passive listener – she’s called Jane and lives in Newcastle. Radio is a friend, and she listens several times a day. She’ll never use Spotify or
The next group is based around Matt – 15% of the population – is really into his music. He’s a classic rock buyer. He has his favourite radio stations. He hadn’t heard of Spotify but he’s interested in it. His daughter might download a few iTunes tracks but he’s a bit of a technophobe.
The third type, is the young techie – John from Highgate, 23 and less than 5% – he can list Spotify’s problems. He wants to interact more. Spotify has fundamentally affected his radio listening – and does so with pride.
The last group is a woman called George – about 25% of the market. She’s the threat – the best of both worlds. SHe lives in North London and knows about Spotify and has used it. She’s a threat because of share of eardrums. She’s not technical , but she uses it while she works in place of commercial radio and Radio 2. She just likes to curate her own playlists!
If George “gets it” this could revolutionise a different tpe of person says Nigel.
Spotify is a great because “it’s a simple service… it’s seamlessly accepted.”
You don’t actually have any love for it though, which is interesting and what he says that radio has that these things – including iTunes – don’t.
Nikhil Shah from Mixcloud has previously done brand consultancy, but it was his background as a DJ that led him to create Mixcloud. He said that he was frustrated about finding somewhere to host his audio. Podcasts with commercial music either don’t happen or are illegal. All the file downloading sites (Rapidshare etc) weren’t great. A background in maths led them to believe that there was a lot that can be done with data. They can share their music, and get recommendations.
“I am the enemy in the room” says Nikhil, because they’ll be looking for advertising. They have aspirations to be on lots of platforms. But currently it’s display and audio advertising.
“Radio content is very different to music… you have a curator.” He says that’s not the same as having four million tracks available.
Ben wonders who’s in Nikhil’s competitive set., says Nikhil, is closer to radio than the others because you can press play and get a stream, whereas Spotify is self-selected.
He says that there are lots of services licencing millions of tracks but just differentiating on price. Interesting services use social media, discovery and recommendation.
Jeff Smith from BBC R2 & 6Music was previously at Napster. Jeff says that he uses the service to dig deeper into music. At Napster they’d been trying to create the “celestial jukebox” and Spotify has to an extent done that.
But he says that it’s what are added to music that differentiates radio. Radio can complement these services as people dig deeper into something they’ve heard on the radio.
As we’ve heard (in Nigel’s research), people don’t want to always do too much. And that’s what makes the difference.
The services may converge though – for example. When that happens, that could be the “Napster” moment for radio.
Jeff admires the technical model that Spotify’s build with P2P and more recently caching of tracks.
Ben wonders about how the two can co-exist and Jeff points out that iTunes widely partners with radio stations in the US. And socially built playlists can be very involving and could work with radio.
Nigel believes that we shouldn’t fight on their ground – “that’d be crackers.” Spotify, he feels, hasn’t developed their radio proposition. Users aren’t listening by genre – that part is underdeveloped.
But this isn’t for the mainstream, he says, because the mainstream “can’t be arsed.”
Nikhil says that we’re no longer being spoon-fed like a baby. We’re taking control. His question for radio is “What is your attitude to syndication?”
He says he’s looking for opportunities as an entrepreneur.
Jeff says that we could explore the concept of not currating music but currating programming. That could be a great asset to have.
He says that it’ll take a while before people know what these things are and to reach the mass audience. But when they do, they could be a threat
Ben wonders what the impact will be on what people will hear in the future. He speaks about Popstars and the excitement of CDs being turned around in 24 hours. Now it’s instantaneous with downloads. The old 7/8 week wait is a nonsense – record companies make the music available as soon as they can. The speed is a lot faster than it used to be.
Nigel thinks that perhaps this affects Radio 1 a little more than other stations, but the trust that people have with their radio brands won’t be quickly broken down. What people want from the medium doesn’t actually change. A proportion will be active and dynamic – and then they’ll have kids…
“Could radio have done more to get involved with Spotify earlier on?” Nigel’s not sure. It’s a different model. There are more Janes than Johns. Do what you’re good at well, and develop from there. “Play to your strengths.”
Nicky from Somethin’ Else asked what happens Spotify finally gets a “trusted guide” – say a DJ like Simon Mayo? Jeff says that this would be a tremendous challenge. The older audiences will probably be safe, but the younger audiences will change.
Nikhil does point out that there’s a difference between mainstream drivetime and niche long tail music.
Nick Piggott from Global wants to know about money. He thinks that Spotify must be burning through money. So they either crash and burn, they go subscription only or they force a change in music licencing. And if they do, we’ll all benefit with radio services replicating Spotify’s service.
Nikhil says that he thinks they have revenues of £20m per year which isn’t insubstantial. Their business model – therefore is a standard freemium model.
Jeff says he’s read that the record labels have a 12% (?) stake in the business. That’s quite clever and could have a big effect on their business.
Ben notes that Daniel Ek of Spotify is a keynote speaker at South by Southwest in March. Could that be the US launch?
James sums up by saying that the “on button” on a radio is the “entertainment button” and Spotify hasn’t got that yet.
Chris Kimber notes that The Word can create a radio station by them currating a playlist. Suddenly The Word is a radio station.
Andrew from the BBC says that radio shouldn’t be so scared, and should embrace technology and confront it!
And at this point – it’s a break for lunch…
Why Radio Must Go Digital
Realistic, challenging, farcical – these are some of the words that Lisa Kerr of the DRDB used to start her speech on Why Radio Must Go Digital.
She began her speech with a quote from the Digital Britain report earlier this year about why radio has to move on from an analogue world.
“Why is doing nothing not an option?” We’d be continuing to hedge our bet and back all horses, and in doing so “bleed our industry dry” – not good for commercial radio or the BBC.
Within a decade, millions would need to be spent to renew analogue distribution in any case. And our competitors are all going digital – Sky+, mobiles, online, Freeview… Everyone is a “channel hopping, choice junkie”.
Everywhere look – it’s going digital. So radio must do as well. And “broadcast” is vital – anything else doesn’t deliver. Once you’ve bought a radio set there was nothing more to pay. Freeview and Freesat were necessary to deliver digital television switchover.
Broadcast is also good use of spectrum. IP “simply can’t cope with the simultaenous streaming” required by that technology alone.
The entire UK broadband infrastructure could only cope with 4m of the 18m listening at 8am in the morning – and that stops any other use of the internet. Even naysayers realise this.
We could go down the route of setting a date and having “a great big game of chicken.” If you read some coverage, she said, this would be what you’d take from it.
“Absolute Radio could go digital tomorrow” whereas TalkSport has a more cautious view.
But we don’t have a hard and fast date. Digital Britain doesn’t pretend to have all the answers – coverage isn’t good enough, there aren’t enough sets in cars, local multiplexes need work, clarity is needed for smaller stations, sets are too expensive. This is why Digital Radio UK is being setup.
She says that smaller stations shouldn’t worry about FM becoming a second class format. The sound quality difference is small.
This reminds her of the talk twenty years ago of the launch of national commercial stations which in fact saw great growth in the industry.
Waiting to fix every single problem would require us waiting for an untennably long time. They are interdependent. Setting a target date has been important and its seen lots of manufacturer activity and car makers. And the industry is talking a great deal more too.
Until listeners can receive digital, we won’t go digital, and only at that point will the date be even set.
Legislation and fixing infrastructure first, then fixing content. Then promotion, and then people will go digital. (I paraphrase here as Lisa was far more eloquent than my rapid notes!).
“Cracking and not crackling!”
[UPDATE] Here’s the full text of Lisa’s speech:

Radio at the Edge conference, Monday 9th November 2009
Why Radio Must Go Digital
By Lisa Kerr, Digital Radio Development Bureau & Campaign Director, Digital Radio UK
2.15pm, Lewis Media Centre, London
– Realistic
– Challenging
– Ambitious
– Ludicrous
– Farcical
All words that have been used to describe … well, to describe what? The idea that radio could ‘upgrade’ to digital by 2015, the idea that radio will definitely upgrade to digital in 2015, the idea that radio will definitely upgrade to digital at some point …. Well, which adjective would you choose, and to describe which scenario?
There’s a fair bit of confusion, whether genuine, or deliberately created, out there at the moment, so I hope the next ten minutes or so provides some much needed clarity in the digital radio debate.
Let me begin with a quote from the Digital Britain report: … “If radio is to compete in a Digital Britain then it must have the flexibility to grow, innovate and engage with its audience, and in this, the limits of analogue, as the primary distribution platform for radio, are now all too visible”.
In fact, I’m rather tempted not just to begin there, but to end there too, because, for me, that pretty much says it all. But I think James and Trevor might be a bit cross that I’d not earned my cup of tea, so perhaps I should expand a bit ….
There are three things I’d like to talk about today:
• Firstly, as that quote from Digital Britain implied, radio has to change if it is to survive in a digital world.
• Secondly, radio will still need a broadcast platform going forward, even if it is a new digital one.
• And finally, achieving that change, and that new digital broadcast platform, will be done via a well managed process in which everyone can plan their future with a reasonable degree of certainty – whether that’s Arqiva building a transmitter, a station signing up to a multiplex contract, Vauxhall putting DAB chips into all their cars from 2013 or a consumer choosing which set to buy.
Why radio has to change
So why does radio have to change. Or, to put it another way, why is doing nothing not an option?
Well, doing nothing would mean not having a clear vision or a clear plan for our future. Continuing to hedge our bets, to back all horses, and in doing so, to bleed our industry’s kitty dry by condemning radio to an indefinite period of dual transmission. It’s a financial burden that Commercial Radio cannot continue to bear and that does not provide the best value to BBC licence fee payers.
Speaking of money, we should also be clear that doing nothing will not cost nothing. Even if we could find a way to manage that ongoing burden of dual transmission I just mentioned, within a decade significant re-investment will have to be made if national and regional stations are to continue to broadcast on AM and FM. Paying millions upon millions to renew analogue doesn’t sound like a particularly future-facing strategy to me.
And, quite simply, everyone else around us, everyone who competes with us for consumers’ time and for advertisers’ money, is going digital. Sky+ has massively changed people’s expectations of where and when they can access content; mobile phones have delivered personalisation on-the-move; on-line has led advertisers to demand ever greater levels of accountability and interactivity with consumers; and Freeview has turned even the most timid TV viewer into a channel-hopping choice-hungry 21st century content junkie – OK I exaggerate – but you get my drift.
• Only with digital radio can we give consumers more choice – because FM is full.
• Only with digital radio can we give consumers the kind of interactivity they now not only want but demand.
• And only with digital radio can we compete with a world that, everywhere you look, or listen, is going digital too.
So radio must go digital. But what kind of digital?
So radio must go digital. But what kind of digital must it go? Well, broadcast digital, that’s what.
– Broadcast radio is also the only genuine option if you’re going to allow radio to remain a mobile platform. Listening through digital TV, or online simply doesn’t deliver.
– Unlike, for example, listening via the internet, broadcast radio is free at the point of use. Once you’ve bought your set, there’s nothing more to pay. It’s the reason why there had to be Freeview and FreeSat before TV switchover could happen.
– Broadcast radio is the most efficient way of delivering content to as many people as possible, at the same time, using the least amount of spectrum. And that’s going to be increasingly important as demands on spectrum increase going forward.
– And let’s be clear too, vital as it may be as a part of the radio listening landscape, as a primary platform, IP would be hopeless. It simply can’t cope with the simultaneous levels of listening that radio demands. For example, at 8 o’clock on a typical morning, there are about 17m people listening to the radio. But the entire UK broadband infrastructure could only support simultaneous listening for about 4m of them – even if no-one was using the internet for anything else, anywhere in the country. And the costs would be enormous – hundreds of millions of pounds a year for the radio industry – and more for the ISPs. Any kind of IP technology that we either have today or even have sight of today, just can’t match up to broadcast radio.
In the face of all of this evidence, even those people voicing loud objections in the press at the moment are desperate to say they’re not “anti digital radio”. So it seems that we all start from the idea that going digital is a good thing.
But, how do we actually go digital?
How do we go digital?
Well, we could announce a big switchover date, tomorrow; next year; in a decade; and say that, no matter what, we’ll go digital on that date. A great big game of chicken. And reading a lot of the comment in the press, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s what’s proposed.
And if that were the proposal I could understand why people would be a bit upset because, when you ask different people what an absolute date could be, everyone would come up with something different. Two different MPs I met last week said for example, on the one hand that “radio should stop messing around and move to digital today” and on the other that “the middle of the next decade feels about right”. Absolute Radio would go tomorrow – having already reached the 50% digital listening threshold – whereas the other national AM commercial station, TalkSport, has a rather more cautious view. Similarly digital-only stations like PlanetRock are hungry for faster progress than those FM stations that don’t yet have a clear path to digital.
But we’ve not got a hard and fast date. Instead, we have the first strong foundations of a carefully thought out, staged plan which will, in time, deliver a digital future for radio.
I admire Digital Britain’s policy on radio for its honesty: it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, or even pretend that there are no problems to be solved. There is a clear recognition that:
• coverage isn’t good enough yet;
• there aren’t enough digital radios in cars – not nearly enough;
• there isn’t enough unique content or interactivity offered on digital radio yet;
• sets are still a wee bit too pricey;
• there needs to be some work to make the local multiplex network fit for long-term purpose
• there needs to be more clarity about the future for those stations who, for the medium term at least, will remain on FM.
And the industry fully agrees with all of this. Which is why it’s forming Digital Radio UK and why it has already begun the process of tackling these challenges on an industry-wide basis by, for example, setting up a process to evaluate the future structure of local digital radio, holding a summit with the motor industry, and advertising for a CEO to lead us through these crucial years ahead.
[Incidentally, on that very important point about the need for clarity for those stations staying on FM – I don’t think the fears about FM becoming a second-class platform to digital in the same way as AM became to FM are realistic. And there are two key reasons for this: firstly, there isn’t the same sound differential between FM and digital as there was between AM and FM, and secondly, whereas AM and FM stations tended to be somewhat interchangeable in terms of their types of content, the new ‘ultra local’ tier on FM will offer genuinely different and highly valued local content compared to the large local, regional and national services which will be on digital.
And actually, the debates that are being had within our industry at the moment put me in mind of similar rumblings … I guess … about two decades ago. At that time, the proposed innovation was the launch of new national commercial radio stations. Many in smaller and local stations feared that these new stations would signal the death of commercial radio as we knew it, when in fact, the reverse turned out to be true – radio became well placed to meet the demands of the 1990s where advertisers wanted to buy national audiences – and the medium had a tremendous period of growth as a result. And we’re in a similar situation now, needing to gear up for the digital age, if a little fearful of what the future might hold.] But going back to that list of challenges, we know that if we were to try to fix all of these before deciding whether or not to go digital, it would simply be too late. These problems are complex, and will require investment, time and commitment from all stakeholders. They can’t be solved neatly, in sequence, one after another. Instead they are inter-dependent, and they are utterly dependent on a common vision and ambition- which Digital Britain describes as “to secure and deliver a digital radio platform for the benefit of broadcasters and listeners”.
And it has been important to set a target date for upgrade, if not an absolute date. We’ve seen more action on digital radio from manufacturers in the last year than the last five, and more action from the motor industry than in the last decade. And perhaps most importantly, more co-operation and action from within our own industry than I’ve ever seen in my whole career (which is rather longer than my natural youthful looks might suggest).
But I also admire Digital Britain’s policy on radio because it puts listeners at its heart with two consumer-led criteria on which upgrade will depend:
• Until listeners can receive digital radio, they won’t stop being able to get analogue radio; and
• Until at least half of all listening is to digital, the actual date won’t even be set.
No-one will be left behind. No-one will lose out. Indeed, everyone will benefit.
Finally, let’s just do a bit of expectation management. I had a hilarious call from a journalist last week who asked me if I was disappointed that, with all this political activity around digital radio, we hadn’t seen a bigger leap in digital radio listening over the last year. Silly me, I hadn’t thought of that. Of course I should have expected your average Jeremy Vine listener to think, “Oooo! I see Lord Carter has published a Digital Britain report and there’s going to be some legislation coming out of it. I’d better listen to more digital radio.”
Let’s get real: legislation and fixing infrastructure first; content and services next; followed by promoting-like-crazy, then uptake and then upgrade. That’s how it’s going to work. And that’s how, in a few years from now, we’ll have a radio industry spending more money on content and less on transmission, and therefore an audience that has more choice, more interactivity, and cracking (not crackling) reception.
Thank you.

Build v Buy v Free
Next up is Bruce Mitchell from Bauer who talks through the relaunch of and what they learnt from their process.
Kiss has three stations reaching 4.8m people each week (including under 15s), and they have a TV station as well as a website and associated social media.
Bruce says that they didn’t have the resource and technology of some of their competitors – it was going to be a ground up process. They started by listening to their DJs to find out what they were doing – their own blogs etc. They also spoke to their editors and their sales team. And they listened to their consumers.
“What does the web mean to a radio station?” What would stay and what would go from the old site.
There was a lot they wanted to do and a lot of people they needed to please. They had good online presence already but thought that they could do better. They were building a website for a business.
“It was going to be a very public beta.”
How would they able to return control to the brand?
Minimise cost?
Deliver creativity?
Keep – It – Simple – Stupid : KISS.
This is an approach, but not necessarily the right one. It’s what they did though.
They could build, buy-in, or go free.
Building is fine if you’ve got the resources and specific needs, but it was a risk. Buying a managed hosting solution including the Mediaspan favourite (!). But it came with long-term committment and little control over code.
So that left one route to go down: open source (there was a great visual gag involving a cartoon – I’ll let Bruce tell you about it).
It kept cost down by leveraging the time of thousands of developers, and they could feed back too. They built it on PHP. Bruce then mentioned some other very good reasons for using PHP…
The engine they chose to use was WordPress, although they didn’t know how powerful it would turn out to be. It did everything they needed including a player and running several stations off one site.
It’s kept up to date developed regularly. And there’s a vast plug-in library as well as new elements always coming. The support is excellent and there’s total flexibility.
A lot of Kiss’s website is based on WordPress. They then add extra layers of functionality on top of that.
This extends to their forthcoming iPhone app based around the Kiss Cube.
They use dozens of additional free services:
Wufoo is an instant HTML form builder. It provides lots of reporting options and allows you to use CSS. It’s a quick route to getting things done.
SoundCloud is audio FTP with community attached. Listeners can upload content that can be used on-air.
UStream.TV is a live video streaming service. They used it at the Carnival for the first time. You just plugin a webcam and UStream takes care fo the rest.
DisQus is what they use for commenting. DisQus uses the Yahoo/Twitter APIs to extend comments into the web.
Yahoo Pipes is used to mash up content from across the various sites and repurpose it. (He suggest asking permision first – can’t think what he means!).
The Cloud can save thousands on fixed infrastructure (“get rid of half your IT dept overnight”!).
Google provides a huge number of tools like the forthcoming (for some) Google Wave, and the free Google Analytics.
AudioBoo is totally part of their world to add extra layers both on-air and on-line.
Facebook allows engagement to be extended on their own site and changes the way they do their marketing and communications. They can target by demographic and location adding an extra layer to the sell.
Bruce then runs through the stats that show lots more users spending more time, and more visits than other stations. Only in overall visits are they not first, although they’re on an upward curve.
“Your website isn’t a website at all. It’s radio.”
In the Q&A he says that he’s losing some data that could be better used. But they had to compromise to get revenue on, and initially they were technically immature which they no longer are. Next time there’ll be a more intelligent site.

From The Outside Looking In

Jonathan Marks is next up from Critical Distance was next up to tell us what he’s been doing working with stations – particularly in Africa.
Assumptions he makes are that fun happens at the edges, getting rid of old ideas is the problem – not new ideas, and copying doesn’t work, adapting does.
Every country is different – with some embracing passionate presenters, while in Asia, it’s demoted to being a “broken television.”
But where he works it’s the most important medium – it’s community.
Golden rules apply – research the audience, being local and relevant: they’re old techniques but in many places they’ve been forgotten.
Radio is an important segment in a larger world of audio, and it’s about access and not “push.” If your phone shouted at you, you’d switch it off. The ideal form of communication is the conversation afterall.
Facebook continues to expand, although Wikipedia’s expansion has slowed down. Has it peaked?
The Chinese equivalent of YouTube does 3.5bn downloads a month – so they now run the Chinese language version of Hulu.
Where Jonathan works there are 200+ languages, and there’s no business model for TV outside the cities, whereas radio is everywhere costing $4-5 for the best sets. It’s important at times of crisis.
He says that technologies like Audioboo could be very useful, indeed some programmes should be designed to be stolen.
Local radio works by supporting local artists – sharing them via USB sticks which have become very cheap.
The growth of mobile is key! “Your SIM card is unique proof of your identity.” In the Netherlands it takes 3 days to transfer money. Using a SIM card, in Ghana it takes 14 seconds.
He’s helped start a media lab in Benin based on European ideas. In the Netherlands, Business News Radio is targeted to people who want to make money – entrepreneurs. They’ve adapted that model for Africa.
Internet cafés continue to prosper in Africa and they actually become community media hubs. And because mobile operators have to ensure their towers have power, there are opportunities for local radio stations (60% of mobile costs are trucking fuel to these towers).
Digital radios are going to take a long time to get accepted because of cost. Worldspace was a fiasco, and Sirius/XM is showing decline. Satellite radio could be useful in Africa.
Apps are going well, but WiFi radio is slightly concerning. Some of the radios don’t have reliable databases that are kept up to date.
Listeners would be happy to help make some these databases better.
DRM still has no cheap receivers. A group on Yahoo map all the transmitter sites on earth – but the list of extinct sites is bigger than live sites. What will happen next?
DRM = Doesn’t Really Matter (that’s the radio format).
In some stories the message isn’t clear. This confuses consumers. And only some will work next door in France.
RadioDNS is extremely important because it provides the back channel.
A simple interface is critical. (He demonstrates the difference between Yahoo and Google).
He’s also interested in archiving audio. 80% of archives are “rotting” – don’t just “chuck them in the basement.” There’s lots of work going into speech to text coming from universities and the open source world.
He talks about how little younger people will pay for. But they will be interested in something that starts a conversation.
He talks about an Associated Press global study from April 2008 about how people can find the stories they’re interested in.
He highlights what The Daily Show is doing as something many current affairs broadcasters could do.
Australia is somewhere to watch – it’s similarly sized in population to the Netherlands. 49% of Australians regard online as their preferred information resource – twice that of TV. So Australians use audio better with news reports. It’s particularly interesting in very rural stations where it becomes very cross media and more than audio.
He finishes by highlighting (with a Ben Bradshaw page!), the website, and fixmystreet. Journalists can use this as a resource.
Ushahidi makes sure that their audience can report back what’s happening using texts. Ujima allows you to find out what’s happening with NGOs in different parts of the world.
APM – African Professional Media – is a portal of relevant material collected over the years. This can add to an overall knowledge portal.
There’ll always be a role for professional storytellers. Don’t shout – but create conversation. The audience will react accordingly. They can answer your questions. Experiment!
(A very wide-ranging presentation you’ll have noticed)
What Would Google Do?
Jonathan Gillespie from GMG was previously at Google (amongst other places), and tries to tell us what the differences – or similarities – are between radio and Google.
Google has an 80% market share and is “in a good place.” Their real costs are in R&D, where radio spends very little. There’s little regulation on the internet whereas radio is highly regulated.
“Google spends more money by spending less time with its customers.”
Google doesn’t actually produce ‘content’. Jonathan had previously worked with YouTube and they didn’t make any of them – just created a facility for distributing them.
Google has convincingly made the case that the last click is the most important. There’s something to drive you there in the first place. We’re a case-study driven industry and don’t have the metrics to make the case that Google can.
Advertising is not a market – but a business model. That’s bad news for us, as we’ve considered it a market.
We’ve had access; we’re reaching the end of the landgrab; now it’s going to be about content – that’s somewhere that Google doesn’t exist.
Strong but flexible brands are key then.
There might be a limit to your audience, but there’s not necessarily a limit to the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU).
He talked about a Real Radio promotion called Radio Renegade that saw a 75% uplift in page impressions and wasn’t sure that they fully monetised that uplift. This medium “still has great power.”
Google has taken ownership of the journey – old media has struggled to maintain value further up the purchase chain. We need to understand the value of the journey before the till in the supermarket is reached.
Google has great scalability with an adaptive infrastructure, and it’s not something radio has neither been able to do, nor perhaps needed to do. But there’s a ubiquity of supply out there.
Next he talked about dMarc. While that mightn’t have worked, Google has managed to automate to the nth degree.
He talked about openness – don’t have a walled garden approach. Do what you do the best and link to the rest. However, companies like Moneysupermarket can buy traffic from Google and monetise it at a greater rate.
Cross promotion is important – there’ll be some sense of personalisation.
Network effects: how useful a service is depends on the scale of the userbase. YouTube needs its community.
And finally there’s co-creation – helping build your product.
In the Q&As Jonathan admitted not to know about Audioboo – but we’re sure Tony Blackburn will fill him in.
James Cridland asked about the wealth of data – and Jonathan says that they don’t use surveys. They simply don’t use them – it’s all about usage stats.
Richard Bacon and Tony Blackburn
I think that this is going to be hard to capture, and it might be better for you to visit the Radio Academy website to listen to the audio. But nonetheless, here goes:
Richard explains that he got his 1m+ Twitter followers via an accident of fate and ended up on the suggested user list!
Tony begins by saying that The Boat That Rocked wasn’t altogether accurate.
In the old pirate days, there was contact with listeners – letters would find their way through and even the record companies – which was illegal.
Richard talks about the immediate feedback you get now. When he was on Capital drive, he got text after text asking to “bring back Foxy.”
Tony thinks that some of the senior people don’t really understand technology, and won’t tell us about someone who told him that the internet “would never work.”
We all need to keep up to date with what’s happening.
Richard says that you can end up with a vocal minority – you’ll get a reaction by they might not always be representative of what the audience thinks.
Tony talked about the reaction to whatever it was that Simon Cowell did on X-Factor last night – and then he and Richard talked about their respective Twitter thoughts following last night’s show.
We’re now moving on to talk about twins and I’m losing interest (!).
Richard explains that Twitter is more than about interactivity – it also frames what people are interested in.
Tony talked about the things he’s tried with live streaming – not necessarily with permission. Managements need to think of the future.
Richard mentions the Simon Mayo experiment, and he refers back to the failed Sky One/Chris Evans show from his Virgin Radio days. But he’s not sure that a presenter on their own talking into a microphone is a very visual experience.
But Tony talks about his daughter’s usage of radio – or not.
Tony moves onto AudioBoo and how good it is. He says it can help you promote your radio programmes. He likes to plug the show times.
Richard asks if it makes a difference, and Tony feels it can’t harm:
“There are some people who hear who believe RAJAR figures.”
(RAJAR’s Paul Kennedy is sitting behind me…)
TV Catchup is a great App by all accounts! Tony loves it…
There’s an interesting area about what your personal views are in relation to those of the organisation you’re representing. That can be difficult – particularly working in a news environment. Richard mentions issues surrounding the Jan Moir/Daily Mail piece.
There’s general agreement that you can promote with Twitter, but you can’t just sell. It’s a line to be stepped along carefully. You have to let people into your life a little bit.
Tony thinks that a lot of this is a failure to understand what’s happening. He finds it amazing that he’s explaining to the management how things work. He feels he’s being held back instead of saying “Yes – do it!”
Richard says that there’s the flipside with stations that force their presenters onto Twitter, or write a blog. And it’s easy to see people who don’t want to do it. Presenters end up coming across as insincere.
Tony introduced his own daugter to Spotify – rather than vice versa! Lots of kids are just using – and we have to think of ways to get them back,
Tony – it’s worth noting – is currently on four different radio stations.
Richard is talking about the “secret half hour” but won’t reveal it’s name in public. This has an 11,000 member Facebook group and he has a great relationship with them. They talk all day on Facebook and he constantly uses it to get things to put on the show.
Richard finds texts impersonable, but Tony loves it and gets regulars every show on Smooth Radio. What would Terry Wogan be without emails and texts?
“Basically I get the listeners to write the show,” Ricard Bacon.
Tony notes that he’s at the age group that advertisers apparently don’t want any longer – and his son’s in advertising. “We should be embracing every single listener that we have.”
Why aren’t younger people listening? “There’s something we’re doing wrong.”
RAJAR “is nonsense.” (He’s happy to take an “up” in his Smooth figures however).
Richard points out that it’s very important to advertisers. “Of course it is,” says Tony.
RIchard says that this all makes the audience more sticky. Tony says that it takes time, but there’s a real upside.
“Any radio station that doesn’t have an application on the iPhone is mad.”
(It seems that Richard isn’t “particularly interested in [Jon Gaunt’s] streaming.” He doesn’t want to see him.)
Tony mentions that he’s aware that the media is monitoring what he says – and that he’s representing his radio stations and doesn’t want to bring them into disrepute.
Ash Elfield of Arqiva is interested in who owns the Twitter feed. Richard is very much of the opinion that he owns it although he realises that he built it via the radio station. But followers beget more followers.
Tony is of a similar opinion that he owns those social media properties. He’s a disbeliever in having someone control what he does.
Trevor Dann asks how many people Richard and Tony follow. RIchard follows 125 people – friends, relatives and famous people. Tony follows 35.
It has to be more than what you have for breakfast. He talks about what Graham Linehan does putting interesting links up. A good Tweet gives you information.
Tony mentions Boris Johnson and Arnold Schwarzeneggar as being fun people, although Richard is wary of politicians’ Tweets [clearly, that’s not the case for Ben Bradshaw].
There are people who do too many, points out Richard. Don’t do too many. Nobody unfollowed somebody for sending too few tweets [not entirely true]. Richard likens this to DVD extras.
Richard mentions that for half an hour after Michael Jackson had died he wasn’t allowed to say anything on-air, but he did say it on Twitter! (BBC editorial guidelines were more cautious than TMZ on the evening – like many media outlets).
“When you revolve the same 300 records over and over again, it can become a bit tedious,” says Tony being questioned about where we find new talent.
Richard references Chris Evans’ autobiography and what he was able to do overnight on Piccadilly when he started out.
Tony says that there’s room for jukeboxes, but there also needs to be room for the next Kenny Everett.
This is a session that’s definitely worth listening to at the Radio Academy website, as I said up front.
That wraps up coverage for today. Hope that some of you got some value from this. I’ll try to tidy up typos and misquotes.





5 responses to “Radio at the Edge 2009”

  1. Melanie Harris avatar

    Great to have all this coverage of Monday’s conference so quickly. Thank you. I really enjoyed your stats on the day, as well.

  2. Adam Bowie avatar

    Thanks – the videos are also on this site.

  3. Tim Holmes avatar

    This is a fantastic report. My field is magazines but there is so much here to think about whatever field you’re in. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

  4. Jonathan Marks avatar
    Jonathan Marks

    If anyone is interested in my presentation at RATE then drop me a line. Google should find me. I made it in Keynote and that might be the problem.

  5. simon avatar

    Thanks Adam, great write up of a day I wished I could have attended.