Radio on Visual Platforms: Should radio stations consider a visual element

Before TV, before movies, before the internet, there was radio.

Radio shows are one of the oldest concepts of entertainment and yet have never died. However, it does hold its own space on radio waves, almost by definition. But that definition is limiting.

No one is asking for the fastest radio speeds, they’re asking for the fastest internet speeds, because we’ll always need more of it. Everything is on the internet, from your niece’s birthday pictures to Rainbow Riches, your favourite slot machine. So why has radio shied away?

So, why hasn’t the internet killed the radio star?

Well, some would argue it already is, and has. We’re breaking down why radio stations should at least consider a visual element.

Is there a demand?

If we’re going to look at bringing radio to the internet, we of course have to address the idea of radio versus podcasts. After all, podcasts brought back a format of radio that was far less popular for decades, mainly the conversation-focused content. The debates, the series of stories, etc. With podcasts, that all came back to the surface, and exploded with just about everyone having the ability to start their own podcasts, with what little red tape there was around radio work removed.

But as podcasts exploded, they offered a visual aspect for those who wanted to see it. Initially this was because podcasts were posted on visual platforms like YouTube, before Spotify became a household name, and it was simpler and more beneficial to film a podcast rather than only record the audio element.

So, now the radio is playing a game of catch up. A lot of the biggest radio stations offer live streams, but why is that?

What are the benefits?

The benefits to a visual aspect are numerous. Visuals offer more engagement with what is going on. If you are listening to a podcast, for example, you’re going to hear the phrase “For those who are only listening…” followed by an explanation of what just happened in the studio.

Some things simply cannot be simply heard, and a visual aspect can really add to the mood in the room. People want to see what’s happening so that they can gauge tone. Was that comment dry sarcastic or was he being serious? The body language is likely to tell you. Not to mention a big part of comedy is the body language of delivery.

If listeners are given the choice, they are going to take visuals, and radio stations should take advantage of the gain in viewership that is likely to come with it.

“Need” versus “Could”

It’s possible no radio station “needs” to broadcast their hosts on live streaming platforms like Twitch, but the option is there.

As expected with the biggest budget in their pocket, the BBC already has a similar concept going on. Their entire radio catalogue, including some 20-odd stations across the UK alone, hundreds of podcasts featuring BBC alumni like Louis Theroux and cut clips and interviews for those who missed the live moment, is already on its own platform called BBC Sounds, but they are known to film and live stream their high-profile moments, like interviews with celebrities, and their famed Live Lounge performances for the sake of BBC iPlayer.

To the BBC, this might just be an additional bit of engagement that they know their users will appreciate, but the point is that it is appreciated, so there is a demand for it. And if there is a demand for it, there’s nothing stopping you from making it as a sole form of income.

Radio is famously adaptive, able to survive in the worst circumstances throughout history. Radio has survived war, censorship, and has even anarchy on the waves. As long as you have a connection to the people, via radio waves or internet connection and a gift of the gab, you can send radio into the 21 st century.

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