Thursday, 8 November 2007

"Barcelona... And shake the foundations from the skies"

And as another conference fades away into the distance, what did we all glean from our time at NAB Europe in Barcelona? (Apart from the fact that the Arts Hotel is a jolly nice place to stay!)

There is no question that listening via digital, the convergence of online and radio, and the fact that radio is now a multi-platform, multi channel medium, dominated the topics in the conference sessions and discussions outside them too.

There was a whole extra day devoted to podcasting, and sessions about the topic in the main schedule of events... and the issue of 'time shift listening' and 'radio on demand' is something I'll return to time and time again over the next 12 months, I'm certain.

Ensuring radio stations are still create engaging and stimulating content was never far from the lips of the programming fraternity, however for the first time I've begun to notice a real sense of fragmentation in radio world.

The Futurists: These are the people who believe that for radio to survive, it needs to fully embrace the opportunities that the digital future has to offer. Radio on demand, multi channel offerings on multiple platforms, placing content where the listeners are... not expecting them to always come to you etc etc... The tone was set by Natalie Schwartz from Channel 4 Radio in her opening remarks to conference and there is little question that Channel 4 and it's services will be pushing this as much as they can once fully launched. These futurists tend to be from countries with large populations and mature radio markets.

The 'Non-Content' Collective: It was great to see someone from Pandora (Paul Brown, their 'International' MD) at the NAB Conference. I like Pandora. I think it's a very clever service and I use it at least once a week. But is it 'radio' in the classic sense of the word? Likewise there were other 'music only' streaming services represented and they, like Pandora have found a particular place in the radio world that is separate and distinct to what we know as conventional radio... but obviously very closely related. Again, in a multi-channel environment where decent on-air talent is at a premium, we can expect more and more of these kind of services to flourish. I feel a separate blog about Pandora coming soon!

The Luddites: I was surprised at how many 'old school-ers' there were around. I had several conversations with people who didn't quite grasp the impact that digital technology and the Internet will have on the traditional radio business. I'm frightened for them to be honest with you! I know different countries and different markets are at different stages in the development of radio... but pretty soon, geographical boundaries won't mean anything to a whole generation of people growing up with a sense that the world is on their doorstep, and they can access any media they want, at any time.

Larry Rosin from Edison Media Research spoke eloquently on the topic of The Infinite Dial. It's "radio's take" on that great book by Chris Anderson called 'The Long Tail', which is getting more relevant to radio day by day. Larry 'et al', are firmly in the "...let's march forward boldly into this brave new world..." camp. I confess that I will be marching with them.

Do nothing, and the danger is that your radio business will be left behind forever.

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