Is young audience killing Radio and TV, or telling us how the future of Broadcast should look like?

In the last two years working in Voizzup two words have been a constant in the conversations I had the privilege to have with outstanding radio professionals: radio (obviously) and innovation.

Why is innovation a constant in the narrative of radio companies and professionals? Is it because radio is committed to explore new formats, new contents, new platforms, and new methodologies?

I admit I hate the fact that I’m tempted to answer negatively to that last question. For radio (and for broadcast in general, probably) real innovation is still perceived as risk.

In these two years I’ve reached to this conclusion: resistance to innovation (motivated by that perception, by fear) is the biggest threat for our industry. Not innovating is the risk.

“Radio is facing seismic shifts in deep-seated listening behaviour” — “A new profile of consumer is rising, expecting all kinds of media ‘on their own terms’ including on-demand radio” — “Fail fast and efficiently, learn as quickly as possible, stand up and keep going” Helen Boaden, Head of BBC Radio

Just as an example: For more than 10 years we’ve been hearing (and saying) that broadcast cannot be unidirectional anymore. And what are we doing? We are basically replacing our old friends, the phone and the email, with tweets and Facebook posts. Little more than that.

Not all is lost though. I’ve met brilliant professionals who are kept up at night by the urgency to address the constant change in listening (and viewing) behaviours. They are deeply concerned by the non-stop decline in listening hours among young audience, while others prefer to see a steady picture, not worrying too much because the decrease is slow.

I’m sure many of those concerned professionals see an opportunity at the same time, as I do. Young audience is not lost forever. We are simply not doing enough for keeping them engaged.

Young listeners and viewers consume more media than ever. They just do it in a different way, as Helen Boaden (Head of BBC Radio) says. It’s our lineal way of distributing contents what will be declared dead sooner than later.

Young listeners are not leaving us. We left them behind long ago. We should have learned more from the ones we lost. And we cannot afford not to learn from those ones who are still consuming our contents in our current platforms. Some of them are heavy users who are telling us what’s the future of media they are starting to define.

Video presentation of the VRT (Flemish Radio and TV) Start-up

Opportunity, I said above. Young listeners and viewers who wouldn’t miss the live interview to their favourite band. But they want to be more than receivers. Perception of distance has changed. The members of their favourite band are idols, probably… but mostly friends. Fans want to ask them questions, make them suggestions, give their opinion on every detail of that new song or videoclip.

There are hundreds, thousands of Tweets commenting The Voice, X Factor, Master Chef… or even the terror attacks in Paris against Charlie Hebdo, while live on TV. Those comments are not just noise, or something that happens aside of the live event. Those thousands of visible tweets, and those millions of less visible Snapchats (or even Whatsapp’s) are part of the story.

Young listeners are demanding to have a voice. Correction: not just a voice, they demand the central voice.

And it’s actually there where I see the opportunity. I started saying that not innovating is the risk. Why don’t we give this young audience a central position in innovation? Why don’t we invite them to break things and help Broadcast industry move faster?

What do you think Radio and TV should do to (re)-engage young audience? Comments from both broadcast professionals and listeners/viewers are more than welcome!

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