It can sometimes feel impossible to stay up to date with the latest technological advancements in this day and age. The first years of the 21st century are becoming known as the Technological Revolution, with tech companies dominating every market from communications to takeaway delivery to smart homes. So, where does the traditional radio fit in to this landscape? The radio set itself, along with the conventional structure of stations, shows and DJs, is rapidly becoming outdated with the increased popularity of music streaming services. Play on demand is becoming the norm and there has been significant uncertainty around whether radio can survive at all.
Well, the key to survival here is diversification and modernisation. Gone are the golden years when everyone would routinely gather around the solitary radio set to listen to the same broadcast; now listeners can choose from thousands of different programmes from all over the world via the internet. The availability of the internet has been revolutionary in bringing entertainment to people at home, at work, whilst travelling, or pretty much anywhere at all. You can now catch up with BBC tv shows, relax with PokerStars casino or even read The Sunday Times online. At first, this caused an identifiable dip in the use of more established media like terrestrial television, radio and printed newspapers, but now these industries have simply got with the times and gone digital.
The way that we access and listen to music has changed dramatically over the past few years. Sales of physical media like cassette tapes and CDs are basically non-existent compared to what they were in the 90s. Most people now head online if they want to actually listen to music. The internet is an arena where people expect content to be highly customisable, making the role of DJ or any kind of content curator seemingly redundant. However, access to such a wealth of media can be overwhelming so listeners are again starting to gravitate towards those people who can use their knowledge and expertise to put together a carefully crafted programme.
There are many forms that this can take, from playlists to podcasts to online radio players. Although the platform may have changed, people still enjoy hearing banter between presenters, stories from others’ lives, opinions on the music played and introductions to new musical artists. After all, one of radio’s most enduring features has been its way of connecting people. Even if you don’t listen to a radio show live, there are so many new ways to get in touch with the presenters and communicate with both them and the other listeners. Email, text, comments sections on websites and social media profiles are all channels of communication that have opened up between radio show and listener, maintaining that essential connection.
A traditional radio show might involve conversation, music, theatre, game shows, competitions, phone-ins or a combination of everything. Over the years, stations and broadcasting organisations have diversified so that there is something there for everyone, and this translates well into the Internet Age. The BBC remains one of the biggest and most prolific media organisations to this day and makes full use of its online presence. Through the BBC iPlayer, those interested can tune in to all BBC radio stations live or at a later time that suits them. They can access this content via their mobile phone, laptop, car radio or tablet and can happily listen along anywhere with an internet connection.
This changeover has been immensely important in preserving the medium of radio and making sure that shows can still reach their listeners. People are still interested in all the same subjects and formats that they always have been, but the content needs to be easily accessible for them to continue interacting with it. By updating their service to accommodate new technology, the BBC have ensured that it will continue to thrive for many more decades.
Podcasts & Playlists
Brand new developments in the sharing of broadcasted audio content have come in the form of podcasts and playlists. Whereas platforms like Spotify and 8tracks have expanded the much-loved ‘mixed tape’ format to encompass an immense catalogue of music, podcasts have created an opportunity for anyone to produce incredibly niche radio shows. Podcast topics can range from old Hollywood history, to creative storytelling, to the discussion of compelling issues and take pretty much any form that the presenter fancies.
Taking their cue from the tried and tested radio talk show, podcasts have combined that structure with the episodic design of tv series to forge a new, internet-friendly composition. As they are pre-recorded and downloadable, people can save them to their devices and listen to them whenever is convenient.
The internet first appeared as a looming threat to the radio but in just a few short years the two have learnt to work together in harmony. The key point here is that radio has evolved in order to cooperate with new technology and this has ensured its survival. Arguably the first form of mass entertainment, radio was never going to give up without a fight and now it can continue in its new form for many generations to come.