Easy Listening: Radio and the Web
Radio as we know it is changing. With more and more Internet radio channels cropping up and multiple platforms with which to consume them, choice for the listener has arguably never been wider. With its public seminar on the future of radio upcoming later this month, New Media Knowledge spoke to one of the participants about his experience.
Brighton-based totallyradio is an ‘on-demand’ Internet radio station formed in 2000 by radio entrepreneur Daniel Nathan. Nathan’s career in radio has spanned more than a quarter of a century and includes helping launch dance station Kiss across the UK. As well as running totallyradio, he now runs Juice 107.2 in Brighton and his own production firm. NMK caught up with him to talk about the explosion in Internet radio and where he believes the industry is headed.
In the Beginning
The concept for totallyradio at the turn of the 21st Century was to enable people to access music which they struggled to find in the mainstream, according to Nathan.
“To our surprise, when we first started out our most popular shows were roots reggae, which was clearly something which listeners couldn’t find elsewhere,” he told NMK. “The biggest driver for Internet radio in the UK has been the BBC. When it started offering ‘listen again’ options it got people used to listening to radio via the Web. Most people at this time were on dial-up or metered broadband, but now broadband is ubiquitous and, of course, people are consuming radio via phones and mp3 players, including podcasts.”
totallyradio receives most of its listeners from North America, with the UK accounting for almost a quarter (24 per cent) of visitors and it enjoys a healthy following in Brazil and other countries around the world. Users can access some content for free, but paid-for membership is tiered so listeners can pay for wider access to shows and downloads.
The site is also funded by Google AdSense along with its work with other media publishers, such as the Rough Guide to World Music, The Independent newspaper and the Association of Independent Music (AIM).
“With 25,000 other Internet radio stations out there it’s crucial that you stand out. It also doesn’t mean the death of mainstream radio, just another format to access it,” said Nathan. “People want to be able to log in and easily find what they’re looking for, so we need to keep re-inventing what we do to keep pace with changing listening habits.”
The site provides 25 hours of shows between Monday and Friday, and differs from the aggregation offered by social networks like last.fm or Pandora as totallyradio offers a human element, Nathan argues.
Internet Killed the Radio Star?
Nathan believes that the future of radio relies on the Web as it is a neutral collaborative environment with global scale. He also thinks that IP platforms offer a clear audit of who, where, to what and for how long consumers listen, making it possible to deliver specifically targeted audio and visual advertising. The radio listener will have familiar experience of radio with advertising.
“Radio in the future will be converged, combining the best of broadcast and narrowcast, on demand. It has to be easy to use and be made available on portable and mobile devices. People want to mix and match more, and broadcasters who refuse to adapt will find their business and cultural relevance diminished,” he warned.
Nathan believes the platform of choice will be the mobile phone, with Nokia alone shipping 87.2 million FM-enabled phones in the last three months. Nathan also has concerns over the expense and relevance of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio, a regionally (UK/Denmark) specific digital terrestrial broadcast technology.
“[DAB] adds so little at such great cost. DAB is understood to be an interim technology but does not carry a proportionate price tag,” he argued. “It was thought through during the pre-Internet era and lacks global traction. It is a crippling waste of the radio sector’s scarce resources and an inefficient use of digital spectrum.”
Daniel Nathan will be speaking at NMK’s “What Happens to Radio” seminar on 27 January in London, which focuses on the future of radio as a medium.