Online radio audiences have doubled in four years in the States…that’s 40 million people weekly. And of course, that doesn’t take into account the traditional FM/AM audience.
Not so easy to get accurate online figures for the UK, but there’s no doubt at all that radio is enjoying a buoyant time; 90 per cent of people in the UK aged 15 and over listen to the radio. And despite the yawn-inducing claims over recent years that radio is ‘so yesterday’ the audience is in fact climbing once more.
Almost a third of the UK population have listened online and the best part of eight million download podcasts – that’s according to the organisation that measures UK radio listening habits.
17% of Americans ages 12 or over listened to online radio in the past week, or about 42 million people, according to the latest in a series of studies conducted by Arbitron and Edison Research.
On a weekly basis, online radio in the US reaches 20% of 25-to-54 year-olds; up from 15% in 2008. Monthly online listeners are up to 69 million, or roughly 27% of the U.S. population. However, nearly half of the population, or 125 million, have never listened to online radio.
Lots of figures and lots of percentages but through the mists a clear path emerges.
The appetite for radio has not diminished; that’s a simple fact. The platform used to consume it may well have. So even looking at the US figures it is clear that online radio is growing sharply with a huge untapped market still out there. While the UK is further behind, it is still growing all the time.
So what are schools waiting for? That’s the point. Here is a perfect opportunity for schools to hit a huge range of buttons and all at the same time, so why aren’t they? Every Child Matters, personalization, global village, extended communities, student voice, increased IT skills, creative writing, citizenship, on and on goes the list.
Is it because there are still teachers that don’t get it – as in the integration of new technologies into schools – and so don’t want to, or is it simply because there aren’t enough hours in a day to do the flashy stuff? Well, I suspect the answer is a bit – or a great deal – of both.
School radio via the internet done well can be massive in terms of impact. School radio on FM via RSLs is again a hugely successful way of connecting with a local community. I’ve been involved in both on many occasions and the physical impact on students, never mind the quality or impact of what they produce, can be an extraordinary thing to witness.
The student that normally would rather do anything than sit in a classroom that now hangs around school and won’t go home. The disengaged student that is branded a nuisance in polite conversation that produces hour after hour of radio that attracts emails and texts into the hundreds.
It’s all feasible and it’s realistic. The trick over the years that I have learned is that Content is Key. Babbling away will always be just that. But quality content aimed at the target audience is the critical element. And No, that does not mean radio that the teacher likes, it means radio that the audience likes, appreciates, recognises as it’s own and is prepared to interact with.
I can’t stress enough how important content, and therefore the production element is, to making great school radio. So many times have I had (or heard about) schools buying radio kit and not having a clue what to do next. Most people wouldn’t buy a car and then realise they needed driving lessons. It’s not an after thought, it’s part of the process.
This is my plea – or pleas – for today. First; consider school radio. There is an audience way beyond your classroom and the impact you will have is lasting and extraordinary. Second; don’t go on air in any form until the content is sorted. What are you going to say when the mic is on? Who is going to say what and who is the target audience?
More another day. As a former radio professional I must say I am hugely satisfied to see my previous industry deconstructed in such a way that the No Entry signs have now been taken down and anyone – within reason, can take part.
If you want to know more – just ask.
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