If you had shown someone the headline on the right six to seven years ago, the response would have been along the lines of "Will it even exist?", "Dead medium" and "It’s like TV but without pictures" (the last one is a particular favourite of Phil Hall, MediaCom’s joint head of investment).
Let’s look at the facts: radio is still a massively important part of people’s lives, crucial for advertisers’ media communications and a key factor in the evolvement of digital technology.
The proof lies with those people filling out the Rajar diary (which itself is now more digitally focused) and evident from continued advertiser investment (the only other "traditional" medium expected to have grown in 2012 was out-of-home).
If I take you back through the key highlights for radio in 2012, there will be various positive trade announcements and press releases you will recall. But we’re not going there. Instead, together we are going to look forward at how radio may develop and change in the year ahead.
Regardless of Global Radio’s acquisition of GMG Radio, I believe we will see further consolidation within the market among the other groups. I believe there is still room for further condensing of the market. Opportunities exist where key audiences could be aligned as a combined or complementary sell.
If this leads to more investment into brand identity, on-air talent, live coverage, digital infrastructure and overall output, then this is certainly a positive move for the sector.
Stronger groups will create an even stronger medium on the proviso that there are still opportunities for all advertisers and brands to get involved at a local, regional and national level.
This takes me nicely on to the next section…
BRAND NETWORKING AND PROGRAMMING SYNDICATION
With the market converging into fewer key players, it means that brands within these radio groups could become bigger. This should be viewed as a good thing for advertisers and agencies. Who wouldn’t want bigger Magic and Kiss brands delivering millions more listeners each week across the UK to compete with other media? Or more live sports coverage to choose from outside of the BBC? Bigger-name brands will gain more traction with more advertisers and offer more interesting opportunities for agencies.
As radio brands grow, the potential for bigger personalities on air becomes more viable. Commercial radio would have more of an equal standing with the riches of talent currently enjoyed and employed by the BBC.
You only have to look at how major radio brands have attracted serious advertiser interest through repositioning their brands, investing in talent and live sporting events. Radio’s resurgence in the past few years hasn’t been based on complex decision-making. Its success has derived from a simple strategy: syndicating output, networking brands and effectively marketing these concepts.
Radio is not just about the audience who tune in to the station – it’s now about following that audience to a place where they further interact with the talent. Whether it’s social media or live events, radio plays a vital part of that consumer journey.
Global Radio has developed a neat, 360-degree relationship with music. Its stations are the central hub, but they incorporate talent within their marketing who promote their brands (think Rihanna and Jessie J) and then create stadium events using these artists as well as their own under Global Publishing.
From there, fans flock to the likes of YouTube and Spotify to view and share the respective content. If Capital Radio hits a brand’s target audience, then why not utilise a Capital Radio artist as part of your brand communication? The idea of sponsoring a show on Capital Radio and being involved with Pixie Lott’s next tour seems pretty natural.
With the whole media industry looking at how digital will impact on other businesses, radio is nicely positioned to embrace it. While DAB radio will continue to be a moot point in the industry, it’s actually the newer models that provide the greater opportunity. Absolute Radio is a pioneer in growing its digital listenership. It has created a new trading model that offers advertisers the ability to buy "signed-in" (targeted) listeners for whom it has basic audience data. Aside from buying just audio impacts, you also sync this with digital display assets.
The result is a smart, innovative concept that, with scale, could potentially open radio up to new investment. Triton Digital is leading the way with this model in the US by evolving radio’s trading infrastructure. This has also assisted the medium in establishing more accurate responses and effective results (we know it works already).
With the continued growth of Radioplayer in the UK and the increase in mobile penetration globally, I have never been more certain that radio has the flexibility and relevance to thrive way beyond 2013.
Charlie Yeates is the associate director, investment trading, at MediaCom