Daryl Ilbury

Will local radio survive social media and the smartphone?

In Eish!, Science on April 8, 2015 at 3:15 pm

John Maytham

567 Cape Talk’s John Maytham – holding the key to compelling radio

It hurts me to say this, but I no longer embrace something that was my life’s passion – local radio. The reason is two-fold: there has been a dramatic change in the media landscape, and local radio is failing to adapt.

Few industries have been affected by advances in technology more than the media. In my 25 years in radio I wrestled with analogue (vinyl, reel-to-reel and carts) and digital hardware (CDs, DAT and minidiscs) and the varied PC programming software now used on radio stations. I have turned and pushed sliders and clicked many a mouse. As a writer and journalist I have worked in print – newspapers and magazines – and later online. I have even combined media formats by integrating radio and online content. But the relationship with the consumer has always been the same – I created the content and then shared it with the consumer, with the occasional feedback from calls and SMSs.

But things are different now. Social media has empowered the consumer. They’re no longer passive; they produce content as well as consume it – they are content ‘prosumers’. Importantly, the hardware used is not in a radio studio, it is in their hands – it’s the smartphone. And if radio stations aren’t there, they risk being nowhere.

Let me give you a snapshot of how I ‘prosume’. See if you can spot where radio fits in:

  • I wake each morning and, over a quiet cup of coffee, check my Twitter feed on my iPhone for any breaking news. I tweet/retweet what I find compelling. I then click on the apps for BBC News, The Economist, Reuters, RT, News24, and EWN.  I don’t turn on the radio for news.
  • I check the weather forecast via my weather app. No radio for weather.
  • I then sit at my computer, with a second cup of coffee, and access Feedly for non-current news. Using Hootsuite I schedule messages across my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. If I feel like listening to music while I do this, I access one of the hundreds of free online stations on iTunes, few of which carry any advertising. So I don’t turn on the radio for music.
  • However, I do enjoy talk radio. So when I feel like listening to really good talk radio in the morning I tap the UK Radio App on my iPhone and select LBCSteve Allen is wicked and the breakfast show host Nick Ferrari is one of the best in the business. I select the airplay settings on my iPhone and listen to them through my hi-fi speakers. Alternatively I use the UK Radio Player. So, no, I don’t turn on the radio.
  • In my car I have a 32GB USB with a selection from my iTunes library plugged in to my sound system, which is set to break into the music with radio traffic reports if broadcast. So….radio?…only briefly.
  • And when I am relaxing with an afternoon drink, looking for specialised on-air content I access the US Public Radio app on my iPhone and select any one of the many stations that carry specialised content – jazz, rock, blues, classical or folk music, or news and talk – with little or no ad breaks. I hook it up to the hi-fi and chill. Again, no turning on of any radio.

There are now so many options for immediate access to the diverse content I want, at no point during the day do I switch on my radio in hope that it will give me that content.

Well…there is one occasion. In the afternoons, if I am in my car. Then I listen to John Maytham on 567 Cape Talk. Why specifically then? Because John Maytham creates the one thing that can save local South African radio from its current mundane menu of music sweeps, insipid waffle (even our talk radio is too nice), and packed ad breaks: tension.

John is highly intelligent and uncompromising, even brutal at times; the result is radio rich in tension and intellectual rigour. When someone grabs you by the neck and tells you stuff, it’s hard not to pay attention.

So wake up, South African radio. There are apps without your name on them.

Advertisements
  1. I was feeling like I had betrayed myself when I stopped listening to the radio, which had been my job and passion for 30 years. But like you, I use social media, online news sites and podcasts to fill the gap. I load up podcasts from different sources, interspersed with my favourite music to create my own radio station in the car – all played from my iPhone through the car’s system via Bluetooth. Podcasts, properly done, will challenge talk radio’s turgid offerings. I no longer have to listen to ill-informed presenters struggling their way through basic logic and sentence structure while engaging with Bob from Boksburg. Thanks for assuring me I’m not alone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: