Why radio’s strength is in it’s accessibility

I’ve been thinking about writing this down for a while, but it took some time to formulate my thoughts. Maybe it’s the variety of choice currently on offer that was enough to get the creative juices flowing again, I don’t know.

Throughout my adult life (I use this phrase loosely, I’m 28, but I don’t think I’ve grown up yet!), the radio has been a constant. It’s the first thing I hear in the morning (Chris Moyles’s Cheesy Song intro anyone?), the last thing I hear before bed, and it’s often something I like to think about, or talk about, during the day. Put simply, for me, radio is one of the greatest forms of communication media that we have at the moment, and the beauty for me, is in it’s accessibility.

All the recent talk about RAJAR figures, and listening numbers had me thinking about how I personally listen to the radio. While a few years ago, I would have been firmly in the FM radio camp, I think circumstances and availability of multi-platform radio sets mean that my listening is now almost evenly split between DAB and Internet based means. At this stage, I should probably say that as an iPhone user, all mobile listening counts as online, as Apple are yet to introduce an FM radio in their phones.

In a typical day, I will listen to Radio X in the morning on DAB while in the flat, and then on the commute, continue listening, but using the mobile app at various points in the day. I’ll also listen to Radio Harrow (the radio station /charity I volunteer for), as well as dip into radio from overseas, and listen to local/national news on stations like LBC, and BBC 5Live. I’m always near a radio, or near a device that streams radio. But is that just me and the fact that I’m London based, and on a phone tariff that lets me stream a lot of audio?

The Internet has changed the way radio works — my student radio experience was at a radio station that broadcast predominantly online, and the 2 stations that I’ve volunteered at since I graduated are both fully online. Big brands are adopting DAB, and there are stations that are exclusively available only on DAB in the UK, but have areas where they transmit on FM too (take LBC for example, it’s 97.3 FM in London, DAB nationally). But while the humble FM isn’t going anywhere, and DAB is here to stay, the Internet is offering more opportunities for broadcasting.

This could be in the way of Listen Again style content, downloadable podcasts, or just web based media that the ‘listener’ can consume at their leisure. Radio is now multi platform, but it’s also multi-media — it’s not just something you listen to now, you can watch elements of it (Facebook Live anyone?), read about it (Twitter is great for radio!), and listen to it across a plethora of different ways (podcasts, Listen Again).

As I mentioned earlier, I volunteer for a radio station, where the focus is on providing health and wellbeing related content for listeners. We recently introduced a new feature into a show where we talk about easy recipes that listeners/patients can cook up when they are well enough to do so. It had me thinking about how can we, as the content creators, get more people listening to our show. Social media helped — we scheduled a message advising readers that the on air segment was about to go live, and then the next day, we pushed out the 10 minute audio clip of the feature onto Mixcloud, with links across all social channels, with relavent photos. It gave the segment a second airing, which I thought was a great way to promote the show, even though it wasn’t on air for another 5 days. Isn’t that the underlying message in podcasts and Listen Again anyway? Sure, you get listeners who tune in FOR the podcast, but they will be tuning in nonetheless.

So, in conclusion, radio’s strength lies in it’s accessibility, because there are more ways than ever before to experience radio content. I’ll bear this in mind when I next think of a feature, and think about how to spread the word!

Radio — coming to a media near you!

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