Perspective - Why commercial radio will live on for another 100 years and beyond

By Ford Ennals | 23 November 2023
Ford Ennals.

The AdNews end of year Perspectives, looking back at 2023 and forward to next year.

In 2023, Australian commercial radio has been celebrating its 100th birthday and showing exactly why it will live on for another 100 years and beyond. The Australian radio and audio industry is more vibrant and exciting than ever, constantly evolving and adapting to new ways of listening, like smart devices and streaming, and finding new audiences, whether it is through digital radio, podcasts, or social media.

Despite what that catchy 1970s classic says, video didn’t kill the radio star, and Spotify won’t either. Radio remains an important part of everyday life for Australians. 79% of us are listening to broadcast radio every week*. Our radio networks are creating captivating podcasts and streaming content. Our biggest radio stars are finding new audiences and new ways to connect – whether you download your favourite Drive duo’s podcast or watch the Breakfast crew’s studio antics videos on Instagram or Facebook.

In a year when Threads didn’t maintain momentum and Twitter changed to X, one thing remained certain – Australians love podcasts. Percentage-wise, the Australian podcast audience is larger than that of the US. One in ten Australians aged 12 and over listen to podcasts every day*. The 50th Australian Podcast Ranker was just released last week, and in the four years since it first launched the number of participating publishers has grown from 6 to 30. Australian-made podcast content continues to dominate, holding 9 of the top 10 spots in October 2023, while the number one podcast was Hamish & Andy with 990,858 listeners and 2.127 million downloads that month. CRA is exploring ways to utilise podcast audience insights to help grow the sector even further – including Podcast Audience Profiles. Launching this month, this tool uses 150 data points to give publishers key insights into their podcast audiences, which will help them both inform advertisers and guide the direction of their content.

27% of radio listeners tune into streaming radio every week, whether it’s via smart speakers in our homes, or connected dashboards in our cars. The rise in connected cars is welcome but it has created a challenge for radio. CRA has been in discussions with Government about maintaining radio’s prominence in new model vehicles. No matter what you drive – whether it’s a brand-new Tesla or a 1980s Torana – you should be able to easily tune into a local radio station. This is critical not just for the sustainability of radio, but for the safety and connectedness of community. Radio provides an immediate connection to what’s going on in our worlds, and whether it is providing a traffic update or emergency bushfire coverage, local radio is an essential community service.

2023 was also the year that saw an important development in the measurement of radio ratings, with the launch of Radio 360. This sophisticated new hybrid measurement system combines traditional surveys, streaming data, and wearable devices. Radio 360 provided us with the first look at the size of the rapidly growing streaming audiences. This insight allows for improved audience targeting for broadcasters and advertisers. We will see more exciting developments for Radio 360 rolled out next year.

The media market has been challenging in 2023 but metro commercial radio ad revenue remained stable. We have found when the times are tough, advertisers rely on radio as it consistently delivers exceptional value and returns. Per capita, Australian commercial radio is the most successful commercial radio market in the world with more than $1 billion of ad revenue. We expect overall revenue to climb in 2024, supported by strong growth in digital audio revenue.

In 1923 when Australian commercial radio began, you could count the number of radio stations on one hand. Under the “sealed set regulations” the only way to listen was to buy a device from the station, and that device could only receive that one station. Only 1400 of these sealed set licences were sold. 100 years on, there are 260 commercial radio stations across Australia. You can listen on your phone, in your car, in your home. You can listen to AM, FM, digital, streaming. You can even ask a robot to turn on your favourite station when you walk in your front door. And millions are tuning in.

Looking ahead, 2024 will be an exciting year for radio and audio but it won’t be without challenges. There are a lot of industry movements being made as we see out 2023, and there is an obvious increase in interest in buying into the growing radio and audio markets. The media landscape is always shifting, changing, and reinventing itself. But as we have seen over the past century radio adapts, radio moves with the times – and we all stay tuned because the best is yet to come.

*Infinite Dial Australia Research 2023

Ford Ennals is the Commercial Radio & Audio CEO.

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