As a relative newcomer to the field of trade journalism from broadcast engineering, I found myself seeing the terms “mobile” and “digital” used in completely different contexts than I was familiar with. Broadcast radio has always been mobile, and certainly has the potential to be digital. When speaking of new content and advertising initiatives, however, the terms now broadly refer to any platform such as smartphones, tablets and presumably the “connected car.”
Advertisers are constantly seeking new ways to reach their potential customers, no matter where they are, or what technology platform they are using. For many years, radio has been a primary means to accomplish this since at least some segment of their target audience listens to radio in various situations, and in various locations throughout the day. Radio is everywhere—in the home, in the car, at the office, and on the street or at the gym while walking or jogging. It has always been (and continues to be) a very widely used mobile platform for audio. There is apparently, however, a perception that radio is no longer a viable platform for reaching some of those mobile audiences. Look around, and you now see many people listening to audio from their smartphones far more than you see them listening to a portable radio. Combine this with the number of available content options in the car, and it is certainly understandable where the perception of radio as no longer being a mobile platform arises.
While it certainly is true that people are using smartphones in almost every aspect of their daily lives, many still listen to radio on a regular basis. A number of people listen to station streams via their smartphones, but are quickly discovering that their data usage and costs are skyrocketing as a result. One solution to this is to incorporate FM receivers into smartphones. According to a recent study by Coleman, many would reportedly like to have radio in their smartphones. This month, we cover the Emmis NextRadio project, which aims to work with broadcasters and cellular providers to do exactly that.
For advertisers, one big reason why digital platforms have become so appealing is near real-time feedback on the reach and effectiveness of their campaigns. Radio has been able to deliver listener numbers through ratings services, however, there has never been any good way to quickly measure listener engagement or response to a particular ad campaign for radio with the same level of accuracy as other platforms. Projects such as NextRadio have the potential to change this by combining the best of broadcast radio and data services. Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan has been quoted as saying we need to make radio “cool” again—I''m not so sure it needs to be “cool” as much as it needs to be relevant and accessible to consumers while being appealing to advertisers. Making broadcast FM radio available to consumers again on a platform that they carry with them constantly, while combining it with the interactivity they have come to expect from other media apps on their smartphone is certainly a technological step in the right direction.