The death of a medium is always greatly exaggerated. There is more
evidence that existing media are strengthened as new ones emerge.
The launch of regular radio broadcasts by the BBC gave birth to the
Radio Times. Every morning people open their newspapers to read about TV
programmes, to read the lives of the soap stars and to plan their
TV has created far more content for newspapers than any other man-made
phenomenon. Pre-recorded videos and satellite movie channels have grown
in tandem with unprecedented growth in cinema admissions. The
serialisation of a George Eliot or a Jane Austen novel does much for
So, what can radio do next? It’s almost impossible to bring up the
Internet without being accused of adding to the hype.
I don’t intend to attempt the impossible.
There are 3,500 radio stations on the Internet worldwide. Of those,
about 500 are webcasters - they are broadcasting either live or have
placed recordings of their shows for downloading.
On top of that, there are roughly 50 stations that exist solely on the
Internet. In the UK there are 98 radio station sites with nine of them
So let’s diffuse some of the hype. The Henley Centre’s findings from the
Media Futures programme show that 4 per cent of people have access to
the Internet in their homes, of which about 30 per cent have computers
capable of receiving audio broadcasts.
The Internet, even though it boasts impressive growth rates in the home,
still has a long way to go.
But the home isn’t the only place to use the Net. Internet radio can get
into a place that traditional radio has so far failed to penetrate - the
Media Futures 97 shows that the largest use of the Internet in the UK is
not at home but at work - 79 per cent of Internet users log on at their
All of us complain that there is never enough time to get things
Radio is the only medium that can genuinely accompany, rather than
partly displace, other activities and tasks. Instead of putting on a
tape or CD and settling down to work, we could log on and tune in.
Advertising can be audio between tracks and shows - just like on
traditional radio. It also opens up the opportunity for ads to drift
across the screen as text by using existing Web ’push’ technologies such
Music while you work at the PC is exactly the sort of opportunity that
radio on the Internet can offer.
Advertising while you work could open the doors to new classes of
business-to-business advertisers; not exactly at the point of purchase
in many cases, but certainly when the listener is in ’business’ mode
rather than travelling or at home.
We don’t even have to think traditional Internet (slow loading, crashing
as Chris Tarrant hands out pounds 25,000, going downhill as the US wakes
What the digital revolution really means is that you don’t need a radio
to listen to the radio and you don’t need a PC to access the
All you really need is a connection, a chip and a speaker. Content of
all sorts can be distributed through any number of different digital
channels and windows.
The other implication of this is that the boundary of the transmitter is
no longer the boundary of the station. Webcasters can be heard all over
the world and their long-term attractiveness to advertisers can scarcely
be in doubt.
If radio can reach into the office and across territories, it can gain a
new lease of life for advertisers and stimulate innovative solutions for
communicating with audiences previously unimagined.