Commercial radio recently celebrated its 40th birthday – time for a mid-life crisis?
Launched on Monday 8th October 1973, the first legally authorised commercial radio station was LBC, the London Broadcasting Company. After a slow start, commercial radio swiftly picked up with the launch of a number of local radio stations and eventually, national stations, providing new and exciting opportunities for advertisers to reach their consumers.
Over the last decade, there has been a lot of speculation over the future of radio, and whether it can survive amongst the iPods and Spotifys of the 21st Century. The latest Rajar data shows that while weekly reach doesn’t seem to be suffering, users are listening for fewer hours on average per week across almost all commercial stations. This is obviously not great news for the advertiser, as listeners are now exposed to fewer adverts.
But right on cue, radio appears to be going through a mid-life crisis of sorts, with a number of new music streaming services popping up to join the ranks of Spotify and Napster.
One of the most hotly anticipated is Apple’s new iTunes Radio, which is set to launch in the UK in early 2014, offering a whole new radio experience to listeners. With more than 200 stations to choose from, listeners will be able to skip tracks, purchase songs and even customise stations around their favourite artists, songs and genres.
iTunes Radio is likely to prove attractive not only to consumers, but also to advertisers, allowing creativity and interactivity in ad formats and, most crucially, providing exceptional targeting tools. With registration and media consumption data, advertisers can use insights about listeners’ lifestyle and purchase habits to target with a precision previously unavailable to radio advertising.
Another way iTunes radio is setting itself apart from traditional radio is the frequency of ad breaks. With audio adverts only once every 15 minutes and a video spot every hour, this is fairly minimal compared to other stations; rival streaming services currently play around 8-12 ads per hour, whilst on traditional stations this number rises to 25.
It is currently unknown how much one of these coveted ad spots will cost, but for its recent US launch, the minimum buy-in was reputedly $1m worth of spots, with Apple forming partnerships with McDonald’s, Nissan, Procter & Gamble and Pepsi, giving them exclusivity within their respective industries until the end of 2013.
With the UK launch set for early 2014, brands don’t have long to wait before they can get onto the iTunes airwaves.
It remains to be seen whether iTunes Radio and other music streaming services are set to revolutionise radio advertising, but with year-on-year figures for online and mobile radio listening up 31% and 34% respectively, our radio consumption is clearly moving with the times. As advertising everywhere becomes increasingly digital, it would be a mistake to ignore the new possibilities offered by radio today.