The BBC’s Director of Radio and Music, Bob Shennan, set the tone at this year’s RadioDays Europe conference in Amsterdam with a statement of his ambition “to reinvent and grow radio”.
Shennan said he wanted “to reinvent the relevance of the radio experience by building new ways to connect with its essential attributes. Grow it by working harder to make our linear and new digital offers attractive to all audiences and in new places.”
Speakers across the event reinforced the message that radio remained in good health, despite increased competition from streaming audio and other platforms. For this to continue, the industry needed to continue to focus on, and invest in, its much-loved traditional linear output – but to also explore and develop other digital offerings.
Elsewhere, there was an update on Norway’s digital switchover – early listening figures from the region where national and urban FM has been switched off suggest a drop of 10 percentage points in radio’s daily reach, apparently largely due to a fall in listening in-car. In the next session, Digital Radio UK’s Ford Ennals previewed a new focus on the user experience in-car, with research finding that 70% of people couldn’t work out how to find their favourite station on a new car radio.
Big data was also a hot topic, with Spotify revealing they know whether you’re turning a song up or down, and what the three favourite tunes to listen to while showering are (Rihanna/Umbrella; Outkast/So Fresh, So Clean; and Wham/Wake Me Up Before You GoGo, apparently). The opportunities and threats from Facebook Audio, Amazon Echo, and Google Home were also high on the agenda.
Scott Mills and Tony Blackburn bantered about 50 years of Radio 1, and Christian O’Connell told us about getting his early inspiration from Steve Wright and Billy Connolly. When asked by Nik Goodman to describe his current Absolute Radio show in three words, OC chose “real, honest, and Ed Sheeran”. Or “Nickelback” instead, if the word limit is being enforced.
At the end of the two days, there was a sense of cautious optimism and confidence about the challenges facing radio. Will Bob Shennan be proved right when he said “the third great golden age of radio is still to come”? Perhaps we’ll find out when RadioDays Europe arrives in Vienna in 2018.
Photo credit: Conor McCabe