The most successful radio shows have generally been those aimed at the younger generations (millennials). But music streaming software, with an almost unlimited supply of personalised playlists and stations, music on demand, and a vast array of podcasts, is now drawing young listeners away from even the most popular disk-jockeys. So what does the future hold for traditional radio?
Today, one-third of the U.S millennial population does not own an old-school radio. And this perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise: the combination of a plethora of streaming services, smartphones, and easy to access, speedy 4G networks means that (even when travelling by car or by foot) millennials have little use for traditional radio.
As well as convenience, another reason why so many millennials are choosing to abandon traditional radio is the abundance of choice that internet streaming services provide. With just a connection to the internet, listeners are able to match their mood and interests with very specific content; there are, for example, playlists filled with music from almost any genre imaginable; podcasts hosted by celebrities, comedians, and commentators; academic talks distributed by major educational institutions; and 24/7 news channels.
And, as streaming software continues to develop, the companies responsible are channelling significant resources into making their offerings ever more personalised. Artificial-intelligence, for example, is now being used to offer listeners bespoke playlists filled with music the software predicts they will like, and voice activation technology is making it easier than ever to communicate with software quickly and easily (no more messing around with fiddly radio tuners!). The question, then, is how can traditional radio shows, which by their very nature are formulaic and designed to appeal to the masses, draw in a generation which expects to have their specific wants and needs catered for immediately?
For one thing, most radio stations now offer an online version of their broadcasts. However, whilst this may give traditional radio stations a brief new lease of life, it doesn’t solve the personalisation problem.
For some, a transition toward so-called “hyper-local” radio stations (which focus on the stories and events which impact a very small community, and therefore should have niche appeal) could be a promising option for traditional broadcasters. But the logistics of running so many stations simultaneously raises sustainability issues over the “hyper-local” business model.
So, whilst the future of traditional radio stations is uncertain, what we do know is that, as streaming technology continues to grow in popularity (with many belonging to Generation Z (millennials) having far more contact with streaming services than traditional radio), radio stations will have to modify their offerings. If they don’t, then it’s likely that traditional radio will go the same way as cassette tapes, VHS, and minidisk.