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Looking to the future

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 09:48 UK time, Tuesday, 2 October 2007

I've just had a really enjoyable few days celebrating Radio 1's 40th birthday. As you can imagine I met up with some old, friendly faces from the past, exchanged stories and had a fond chuckle about the way things were. They even allowed me back on the radio to read a few news bulletins with Chris Moyles, Tony Blackburn and Simon Mayo (which you can listen to here).

But thinking about the past also got me worrying about the future. Will there be a Radio 1 - or a Newsbeat - in 40 years time?

Radio One logoWell, in the chaotic and rapidly changing media landscape, it's impossible to give a clear cut answer to this question… but what I would say is that even in the next few years, things will be very different. Here's a story that might illustrate why.

A teenager was helping his mum clean up their house. He came across what he described as a "big furniture box thing, really heavy with knobs" and asked his mum what it was. "It's a radio" she said. It wasn't even one of those classic 1940s models either - this was a mid -80s design. You see, to many of today's teenagers radio is just history - and they are the future audience after all. It's not that they don't listen, it's just that they prefer mobiles, blue Screen Sky or Freeview or the web to listen on. This audience is wired all the time: and we have to keep up.

Newsbeat - and Radio 1 - must have our content "atomised" - literally blasted out everywhere often in micro chunks - available on every platform available now and those still to be invented in future. Not just audio either - we have got to be visual - moving pictures, stills, webcams, the lot. It means being on platforms from iPods to mobiles, and from social networking and messaging sites to e-mail and text. It means listening to audio on MSN Messenger and the growing use of tags, allowing searching and cross referencing of data.

We also have to be more than ready for the challenges of what they're calling Web 2.0: no longer are broadcasters in the business of "telling" their audiences stuff - we are involved in an endless dialogue, constantly evolving and sharing film and audio content, facts, tips and so forth.

It's changing with dizzying speed - it’s going to be fun - challenging - great for the consumer and will pose bigger questions than ever about the future role of public service broadcasting - Radio 1 and Newsbeat. I don't know what the result will be but I can tell you we're right up for the big game!

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 05:07 PM on 02 Oct 2007,
  • Darren Stephens wrote:

"Newsbeat - and Radio 1 - must have our content "atomised" - literally blasted out everywhere often in micro chunks - available on every platform available now and those still to be invented in future. Not just audio either - we have got to be visual - moving pictures, stills, webcams, the lot. It means being on platforms from iPods to mobiles, and from social networking and messaging sites to e-mail and text. It means listening to audio on MSN Messenger and the growing use of tags, allowing searching and cross referencing of data"

No, you don't HAVE to do any of this. One of the problems of the rather incestuous world of media is that it's very easy for hype to be whipped up and for a stampeding herd mentality to develop very quickly - and it's happened with all of this phone-in competition guff as well. Most people don't really care but the various branches of the media have stoked each other to a quite ridiculous extent.

The point is that in the rush to service all these new needs, people are really not wondering just how much need there is. A classic example is the "Second Life" bubble. A huge amount of hype surrounds Second Life but, in really, the number of people actually using it regularly and heavily is (still) small. Yes, the platforms are more diverse but that does not necessarily mean that the listening habits and behaviours of the audience are markedly different from the way they were 15 or 20 years ago.

  • 2.
  • At 05:14 PM on 02 Oct 2007,
  • Tim C wrote:

The teenager unable to identify a radio was surely an idiot though Rod? I mean, I can identify a gramophone, a steam train and the Colosseum and none of those have been in day-to-day use in my lifetime.

I've enjoyed Radio 1's 40th birthday celebrations and it's reminded me that there have always been two types of DJ on Radio 1. There are those who love the sound of their own voices and those who love the music. It's just a shame that the music-lovers are so often pushed to the margins of the schedule.

  • 3.
  • At 06:59 PM on 02 Oct 2007,
  • Harry wrote:

If the listeners cannot trust you they will not listen.

The idea that there needs to be an "endless dialogue" is absurd and it will be your undoing if you cannot do it honestly.

Besides which, how many listeners (those that aren't inventions of the staff) actually want remorselessly interactive Web 2.0 radio? It would be dangerous while driving, impractical while working and impossible if you do not have a mobile to hand or are not sat at a computer. Can't I just have some news?

  • 4.
  • At 02:59 PM on 04 Oct 2007,
  • Rodger wrote:

It's interesting that being "involved in an endless dialogue" is cited as a positive step.

Certainly viewer/listener feedback has its place, and likewise if a bystander's video footage can add something that the professional news agencies have missed, then all well and good.

However, it seems that certain media organisations, particularly tabloid TV and papers, are now far too ready to resort to the Man on the Street's uninformed opinion either as a substitute for objective and informed analysis, or to fill up space when there's nothing new to report on a major story.

  • 5.
  • At 01:19 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Luke wrote:

It's a hard one to judge: you can't gain listeners nowadays unless you use new techniques like Web 2.0, but you can't justify using new technologies unless you know the audience is out there.

This means (like when a new, fringe type of music comes along and isn't catered for) that by the time you get around to proving there's an audience for Web 2.0, the bandwagon has already passed by and you're too late to become one of the trendsetters.

Therefore, sometimes, you just have to take a risk and go with it, hope it works, and if it doesn't, cut and run.

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