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Future of radio: how radio can thrive in the new audio world

Jack Cales Apr 16, 2021 9:57:57 AM
Future of radio

Commercial radio has been around for about a century. Throughout its existence, the medium has always adapted to shifting environments and still continues to be a trusted source of news, information, entertainment and companionship, reaching over 27 million Canadians, 12+, every week. Each decade seems to deliver new forms of audio consumption from the Sony Walkman to satellite radio to online streaming services to podcasts. In this increasingly fragmented environment, we believe there are four key ways radio can thrive in a new audio world.

  1. Continue to produce compelling programming
  2. Embrace emerging technologies
  3. Band together as an industry to shape future CRTC policy 
  4. Expand revenue streams


Produce compelling programming

Programming is the fuel that keeps the engine running and the vehicle moving down the road. On-air personalities are at the heart of captivating programming as they create deep, trusted connections with audiences. Amongst a wealth of stats that prove radio maintains a huge fan base, Radio Connects’ July 2020 survey states 93% of all listeners trust their radio hosts’ information and opinions. Radio personalities must remain a key strategy in producing compelling programming as they know how to engage audiences and make their fans feel like they are part of the conversation.

Programming also needs to continue to evolve and innovate and can look across borders for inspiration. Similar to the European model, several broadcasters have launched brands nationally, like Bell Media’s recently introduced Move Radio. Others have suggested integrating more pre-recorded content, creating a more polished, finished piece to compete with on-demand content, along with looking at new distribution avenues to expand their brand. For more of our thoughts on how to build impactful radio programs, click here.


Embrace emerging technologies

As technology innovates at breakneck speed, for the industry to thrive, broadcasters will have to expand their platform footprint ensuring they are available on every application. According to MTM’s February 2021 Adoption Report, smart speaker ownership has increased by 21% in the past year and streaming to AM/FM radio by adults 18+ has increased 13% in the past 2 years.  Ultimately, radio must be available to their audience everywhere they are, at any time, and on every device. 

Millennials make up the largest portion of our population and are considered the tech savvy generation. Virtually all millennials own a smart phone and they are 54% more likely to stream audio online (MTM February 2021 report “The Tech Savvy Generation – Canadian Millennials”).  Future radio listeners growing up in a digital world will turn to radio as long as it offers an app-like experience with a simple user interface that is easy to navigate. Whether that is through station-owned applications, industry collaborations such as the Radioplayer Canada or politely asking Alexa, Google, Siri, Bixby or Cortana to turn on the radio.


Broadcasters need to band together as an industry to shape the future CRTC policy

In 2020, the CRTC announced an upcoming review of the commercial radio policy framework. To remain competitive with the less regulated digital players, radio broadcasters need to band together to ensure future CRTC policies take their voices into consideration. 

Many of the rules and regulations first outlined in the mid-80s are still in place and both the Commission as well as the industry welcome the opportunity to modernize it for the 21st century.

Radio is now facing endless competition not bound by regulatory requirements so in order to level the playing field, it is imperative the industry lobby the Commission with a unified voice. Without a strong and vibrant industry, broadcasters will be hard-pressed to continue to pay it forward.


Expand revenue streams

Radio has a committed, loyal audience with buy-in to the brand. There are a number of new opportunities where a station can promote new, exclusive content to its existing audience.  From mobile to HD to using Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) to regionalize ads or target them to specific user groups at a higher CPM, to creating customized content for device specific distribution, to even monetizing engagement referrals through a station’s social media channels.

Radio has a leg up on new entrants to the audio world as they already have a huge built-in audience to market to.  Now they just need to take advantage of that.


We are truly in the golden era of audio, the art form that radio pioneered and has always been at the forefront. It is why the largest consumer brands are starting to develop audio-specific strategies. Emerging technologies have reduced the barriers of entry, however, have also put radio in a stronger position to better serve its consumers and hence its clients. As long as the industry continues to reinforce its strengths, produce great radio through authenticity, attract younger listeners through creative programming, expand its digital footprint, and diversify its revenue channels, it will remain a vibrant and relevant medium for decades to come.