The future of radio.. by Steve Penk
The future of radio.. by Steve Penk
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The future of radio.. by Steve Penk

As Commercial Radio becomes the most bland and predictable it has ever been since launching in 1973, I believe the future for entertainment based content is podcasting.

This article first appeared in eRADIO and is provided here as a catch-up. Subscribe to eRADIO to read more like this each Wednesday direct to your inbox.

Who the hell wants to hear the same few songs played over and over again by some boring bastard with nothing more than a nice voice?

BBC Radio 2 are running away with the ball and Commercial Radio is being left behind, it’s stupid and foolish to keep doing what it’s currently doing.

We have a ridiculous situation where a pensioner is currently and ultimately responsible for overall programming for this country’s biggest and most powerful commercial radio group, and that is a massive concern.

If Richard Park thinks copying the winning Magic format from 10 years ago is the right thing to do for Smooth, I genuinely worry about the future health of commercial radio.

That format may have worked in London 10 years ago, but it’s now 2014 and the audience want more than just the same few songs played everyday in a different order. Even Magic has moved on and is not the same radio station is was 10 years ago. Why does the pensioner think this old format is right for 2014, because I certainly don’t.

Commercial ‘music’ Radio in the UK is dying and it concerns me. The BBC appear to be the only ones getting it right. Shining example Radio 2.

Huge personalities, compelling entertaining content during the day, great variety of music and a superb breakfast show hosted by my old friend Chris Evans. If Smooth Radio think playing the same songs every day in a different order with a terrible breakfast show (Andrew Castle) is the future, god help them.

I love radio, always have done, but UK commercial radio has now become the dullest it’s ever been in my opinion.

Personality radio is key to future growth but is being ignored to save money, incredibly wrong and short sighted business plan.

It’s simply no longer good enough to play back to back music when there are so many other places to find music…Spotify/iTunes/YouTube etc.

Personality, character and individuality has never been more important for the future good health of the radio industry. What saddens me most, my two youngest children Andrew (17) Catherine (14) who should be listening to the radio, NEVER think to switch the radio on, preferring to get their music and content from iTunes, YouTube, Spotify etc. Most of their friends feel the same way, so what does that say about the future of radio listening for the Apple generation.

Nothing excites them about radio in the way it used to excite me. WHY? Because radio is boring (their words, not mine). I’m sick of hearing identikit breakfast shows on commercial radio (Dave and Lisa in the morning) they ALL sound the same, nobody is doing anything different, everyone is copying everyone else.

What’s wrong with a strong solo personality headline presenter? Someone who can do it, someone who understands radio and can relate to an audience. Best example of this, Chris Evans Breakfast Show. This show is almost a throwback to the big successful Commercial Radio breakfast shows of the 80s and 90s, huge personality, lots of content, freedom for the presenter and FUN.

Commercial radio has lost its personality to the podcasters.

The life and career of a radio presenter can be like walking a tight-rope. You have to keep your listeners entertained but you also need to keep your immediate boss – the Programme Director – happy.

At one time, dozens of media owners controlled the UK radio industry.

Today, that same industry is controlled by about three or four main players. In real terms, the opportunities for on-air talent are shrinking almost by the day. Presenters are yanked-off-the-air, their website profiles deleted, and never mentioned again by the radio station they worked for, for so long. In my opinion, it shows a total disrespect for the talent and their audience.

However, there are now new opportunities for those broadcasters who, after many years loyal service to the radio industry, find themselves without a regular gig. My own radio career has included Virgin Radio, Piccadilly Radio/Key 103 in Manchester and London’s Capital FM. Until I sold it in January this year, I owned the station 96.2 The Revolution in Manchester.

These days, my style of personality radio seems to be out of favour with the radio big-wigs so I’ve started a Podcast: The Steve Penk Wind Up Show, which is now available on iTunes & Stitcher.

As an ex-media owner, I believe this is the broadcast platform of the future. It opens up the playing field and allows me to reach a far bigger audience without having to pander to the whims of often short-sighted radio
programmers.

iTunes has over 1 billion active subscriptions and carries more than 8 million individual podcasts. There is a demand for this type of audio content – even television executives are waking up to on line delivery of their own content as witnessed with the success of Netflix, Sky Go and other on demand services.

Podcasting also allows the user to choose the type of content they want to hear, instead of force-feeding them whatever is ‘commercially viable’. The convergence of technology, the internet and smartphones has created this new way that broadcasters, producers can deliver content to their audience.

Broadcasters like myself can reach out in an unregulated way that radio can’t, but due to licensing restrictions, podcasts can’t yet contain any commercial music. But is that what the audience are looking for? They can get music anywhere, Spotify, Pandora… even YouTube. What they can’t get so readily is compelling and entertaining original content.

Will this disrupt the traditional commercial radio business model? I believe it already is: Q3 2014 radio listening figures (Rajar) are down, as audiences find other ways of hearing compelling content. Commercial radio seems to be ignoring its greatest USP: fun, entertaining, compelling content.

In my opinion, personality is king. But most commercial radio in this country now is devoid of personality, it’s just full of nice people with nice voices. In short, it’s boring. Simply playing back to back music in 2014 isn’t enough anymore.

Looking ahead, will French music-streaming company Deezer’s acquisition of Stitcher – one of the biggest podcast platforms ­pave the way for streamed music mixed with brilliant podcast content. Now that will be a game changer.

Hear more radio industry news like this at the top of the hour on inRadio - the radio industry's very own radio station. Listen now in a new window whilst you continue reading RadioToday or press play below.

2 45 18832 09 November, 2014 Opinion 2:14 pm 201411 Sunday, November 9th, 2014

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