Radio in the digital age

Radio in the digital age

During an average week in June 2021, radio reached 88.1 percent of all American men aged between 35 and 64 years of age. All adults of this age group were the most exposed to radio, regardless of gender. The largest differences between the genders was between the oldest adults, with men aged 65 and over four percent more likely to listen to the radio.

From Guglielmo Marconi’s first transatlantic transmission in 1902 to the DAB radio and live internet streaming that we use today, the use of entertainment radio has developed and somewhat changed meaning over the years. After surviving the introduction of television, satellite networks and music streaming, the entertainment platform still exists.

With the invention and introduction of digital media, radio stations have become so much more than an analogue audio platforms. For starters, the use of DAB and online streaming now allow stations to transmit their material abroad and all over the world. This is particularly good for gaining an international audience and for expats living abroad who want to listen to radio shows in their own language, and can also help to spread knowledge of foreign cultures in a more connected world. Radio stations are often connected to YouTube and Facebook which create an extra dimension for the broadcasters; visual. Cloud storage systems allow users to access past radio shows on demand and to listen at their own convenience.

Radio stations are also becoming branding techniques. If you take the example of Australia’s Triple J station which is popular among underground and unsigned artists, the company is not only a broadcasting station but also incorporates festival hosting and also an online music sharing platform, amongst other social media options. Triple J have a huge following throughout Australia and even overseas, and by allowing users to upload their own music to the Triple J website, it has made radio even more accessible for aspiring artists.

Radio stations have had to heavily adapt to changing demand. In a world where it is so quick and easy to type a song name into YouTube, or to find new music through Spotify’s discover weekly playlists, radio broadcasters have still managed to maintain a steady audience through a touch of familiarity. Car users are among the largest consumers of radio entertainment, where radio has the advantage over streaming services for providing information like local traffic and weather reports, as well as music. Many new cars are being designed with inbuilt DAB radio sets, showing that the platform is still standing strong.

Podcasting and online streaming have blurred the boundaries between radio and listening to private music collections. Radio is becoming more interactive through online platforms, but linear scheduling still defines it as radio. Online music services like Spotify and Deezer create playlists and can randomly play music based on various parameters, much like a radio station. Queueing up videos on YouTube could also be argued as a vague form of radio-like consumption. Despite this, traditional linear programming continues to be consumed, and new platforms seem to work alongside traditional radio rather than to replace it, allowing radio broadcasters to take their content further and in ways they never could before.

The future of radio is, as anything, somewhat uncertain, but we can expect to see a lot more personalisation and automation integrated into our music services. We will most likely still require a human element of music selection through DJs as, while algorithms can do so much, music is such a personal thing that AI technology cannot grasp the full gravity of emotion that comes with each song that a human can, and often the enthusiastic voices that speak to us through our speakers to introduce the music are half of the reason we listen to a radio show. Radio’s are likely to become more visually appealing and touch screen friendly and to include more on demand features as younger generations are not used to tuning into a television or a radio at a particular time for a show, but to watch or listen to something when it is convenient for them.

That being said, the humble idea of radio is fully ingrained into our existence and not likely to go away any time soon. We may have to redefine the meaning of the word and the values that come with traditional broadcasting, but there will always be a demand for music, news, interviews and entertainment. Digital platforms will continue to shape how we receive this, but we will continue to receive this none the less.