Radio isn’t dead yet but podcasts will win in the end

Radio isn’t dead yet but podcasts will win in the end

Podcasts will kill radio as we know it. It’s just a matter of time and technology.

I read a couple of interesting Rajar stats the other day that stated 9% of adults in the UK, around 4.7 million people, download and listen to podcasts every week. In comparison, 90% (or 48.7 million adults) listen to live radio every week. For me, this isn’t surprising at all.

While podcasts have seen a renaissance since Serial was released in 2014, it seems obvious that radio still commands more of our average 26 hours of audio content listening every week. That’s because the way we discover and consume the two mediums is still vastly different.

Radio vs podcasts

Think about it. The majority of people drive to work (68%), with the average commute being between 20-30 minutes. That’s roughly an hour of listening time every day that people will use to either listen to the radio, their own music (probably CDs or Spotify) or podcasts.

I’d hazard a guess that most people spend that time listening to the radio, which explains the Rajar stat. But why? Because it’s easier to hit the button for a pre-set station (or listen to the same station every day) than connect their phone via Bluetooth, if they even have it.

If you drive to work, listening to podcasts isn’t easy. Once you’ve decided which app to use (Apple Podcasts? Acast? Spotify?) and found some podcasts you like, you’ve then got to connect your phone to the car via Bluetooth or invest in some technology to link the two.

In my case, I have built-in Bluetooth via an integrated in-car entertainment system. This means I can control my chosen podcast app (Acast, in case you were wondering) via the touchscreen. I still have to wait for the Bluetooth to connect, but it doesn’t take very long.

As more and more people buy new cars with this kind of hardware as standard, I believe we’ll start to see the balance shift towards podcasts and away from radio as they’ll no longer be forced to make do with the traditional choice of FM/AM on their in-car stereo.

People nowadays are time poor and place huge importance on being able to consume content when they want, where they want and how they want. Audio is decades behind adapting to the on-demand economy, but it will happen once the technology has caught up.

Netflix and smart TVs

You only need to look at TV consumption and the rise of Netflix to see how changes in technology – combined with a shift in consumer behaviour – can completely revolutionise an industry. But most people don’t realise how long it actually took for this to happen.

I was surprised to find out that Netflix has been around since 1997. Originally starting life as a DVD mailing company, it was a competitor to Blockbuster and appealed to people that preferred to have their favourite movies and TV shows delivered straight to their door.

As online video streaming technology improved in the early 2000s, Netflix saw a gap in the market for an on-demand service on people’s computers that would negate the need for DVD mailing (and possibly DVDs) altogether. It wasn’t long before Blockbuster disappeared.

Netflix recognised early on that lifestyles were changing and capitalised on it by creating a new service that met a need. But even as Netflix was becoming increasingly popular, it still needed a helping hand from technology to change the industry forever. Cue the smart TV.

First released in the late 2000s, smart TVs have streamlined the process of accessing Netflix. Rather than watching on laptops or computers (although some people still do), built-in Netflix apps on smart TVs have made it possible to consume on-demand TV with the press of a button.

Radio is the equivalent of a time when TV meant choosing between a small number of analogue channels. And audio is waiting for its smart TV moment. When it comes, it will mean podcast apps built into in-car entertainment systems, probably wi-fi enabled.

The next question then will be, who will become the podcast equivalent of Netflix? Will Apple exert its power and capitalise on its position as podcast founder? Could a leading streaming service like Spotify evolve? Or will a new name enter the market? Only time will tell.

What are your thoughts on radio, podcasts and the battle for audio?

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