Working Together For Radio
May 5, 2015
I'm in a conference room in a hotel in Dublin, Ireland. Outside, we're bathed in sunshine; through the window is a canal shimmering in the light: in front, lots of young people whizzing past on the city's public bicycles. On the other side of the road is an Irish pub: earlier I popped in, eschewed the typical Guinness, and instead focused on a local craft ale.
The room I'm now in features most of the CEOs of Ireland's radio companies, clutching on to small glasses of wine. There's a lectern up front with a microphone, and a man has just asked me to say something. In front of the lectern is possibly the biggest mobile phone you've ever seen.
I walk to the front, and start talking about working on something codenamed "Project Fred" in 2007. I was a BBC staffer then, working with a bright and enthusiastic man named Michael Hill, on something we felt quite strongly about: the idea of a decent online radio experience for all of UK radio. Michael is now Managing Director of a company called Radioplayer - and here he is, in 2015, welcoming the fifth country into the Radioplayer family.
The Irish Radioplayer is an app which contains all of Ireland's major radio stations. The publicly-funded RTÉ's stations are on the app, as are all the big commercial radio players, too. It's free; and it's jointly owned by the radio broadcasters. You can download it now.
Now, as is clear, I'm personally involved with Radioplayer; so you'd expect me to sound positive about it. It's difficult not to: it supports Apple CarPlay, the Apple Watch and Android Wear. It has a Chrome extension, too, and some of the best searching algorithms to properly surface radio stations. Broadcasters can monetize it, use it to promote installations of their own app, or offer a great logged-in experience. I have almost nothing to do with its current trajectory, so it's nice to be able to point at something that's been done well.
But the main point here is that radio broadcasters are working together in this space. A rising tide gathers all ships, so they say, and if all of the radio business work together to produce an amazingly good mobile phone player, then the whole radio business stands to benefit.
It's telling to see the publicity shots from Irish Radioplayer, above, feature radio presenters from radio stations that you could consider as rivals. The story here is about one voice for radio, all working together, and isn't about privately-owned commercial radio stations criticizing the government-funded public broadcaster. (There was plenty of that in the conference the next day, mind you, particularly when the government minister was there.).
Speaking with one voice about radio is hugely important. Gone are the days where one station slags off another: now, more than ever, radio is acting as one - and ensuring the future of the medium.
Over in the UK, there's one company now selling programmatic ads across much of radio as well as Spotify and other online music services. Radio - in its new definition of audio entertainment - is working together here, too.
And also in the UK, this week has seen almost all stations carry fundraising messages for the Nepal earthquake. Another time when posturing isn't the right thing to do: and when working together makes most sense.
It was great to have a reminder of the benefits of working together, and a strong industry voice last week in Dublin. As I spend this week in Canada, and - in a few weeks' time in Asia - it'll be interesting to see how different markets differ.