Media Opinion: There's a lot more to the radio boom than meets the eye

One of the beguiling and bewildering things about all this new media stuff is the way every development requires completely contradictory responses. You look at the new thing that's happened, you think it through thoroughly and you very firmly and logically decide to do A. Though you realise you probably need to do the opposite of A, too.

Radio is a great example. It's having a boom right now (or, at least the bundle of linear, audio content that we have to call radio in a digital age is enjoying a boom). More people are listening to more varied radio content, from more stations and places, on more devices, than ever before. Radio is the perfect medium for an age of continuous partial attention: it knows how to sit politely in the background, and it knows how to interrupt when it's got something important to say. And it's great for anyone who wants to try some media experimentation. It's relatively cheap, relatively straightforward, and completely compelling when done well.

So, the first thing to do is probably start a specialist radio team, because doing radio well takes real expertise. Nothing shows that more than the average broadsheet newspaper podcast: a perfect demonstration that there is a lot more to good radio than getting knowledgeable and opinionated people to chat round a microphone. There is an art to simulating intimacy, enforcing conversational discipline and not laughing at your own jokes, which print journalists haven't mastered yet.

Similarly, it will take a dedicated team to invent the advertising tools for the new age of radio: shovelling 30-second ads into the gaps between the records probably isn't going to work. It took years for the industry to develop and exploit new media units such as the colour spread and the sponsorship ident. We need dedicated thinkers if we're going to get the most from this new golden age for radio.

On the other hand, the last thing you need is a specialist audio team, because the lines between radio and everything else are suddenly very blurry. Just one example - you probably need to get some art directors involved in your radio quickly, because every radio channel now needs to worry about what visual stuff it's going to broadcast along with the sounds. Recent figures from Rajar demonstrate that large numbers of people are listening to radio on a device with a screen, whether it's their TV, their computer, their iPod or their phone. And that gives you the opportunity to add pictures to your audio.

That's what I love about the communications world in which we're living: we get to ask questions like: "What visuals should we have for the radio?" How long before there is the award category Best Art Direction For Radio?