3/19/13: Pew says radio's multi-platform evolution means healthier financial outlook for digital

Paul Maloney
March 19, 2013 - 1:00pm

As "technology is turning what we once thought of as radio into something broader -- listening" (as Pew wrote in 2006), online-only and satellite radio (while still a small share of overall radio revenue) have the more positive financial forecasts for the long-term.

That's from an overview essay of the "audio" section of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism new annual report on the state of the news media. The essay is called "Audio: Digital Drives Listener Experience." (While the study focuses mostly on news content, it certainly isn't limited to that, discussing Pandora, Spotify, and the Intenret radio Fairness Act, among other topics.)

Pew also concluded that NPR "may have positioned itself for the digital age better than other news radio." On-air listening declines as NPR may very well be partially the result of robust digital offerings on the web, podcasts, and mobile apps.

One digital platform that's failing is HD Radio. Now, more stations are actually dropping their HD signal than are adopting the technology, and there are fewer HD signals on the air than a year ago.

See more of the Pew study here. There are more charts from the paper here.

Paul Maloney
March 19, 2013 - 1:00pm

RAIN publisher Kurt Hanson is in Berlin to report on the Radiodays Europe conference, which wraps up today.

Radiodays Europe
, held annually (now in its fourth year), brings leaders from public service and commercial radio as well as related industries from across Europe (and the world). The conference is Europe's largest (sold out with more than 1,200 attendees) and likely most important radio gathering.

The event is taking place at the Berliner Congress Center (BCC) in the fashionable Alexanderplatz district (just a couple of blocks from the landmark Berlin TV Tower). That's actually not far from the nHow hotel, which hosted our own RAIN Summit Europe gathering last October.

Conference organizers/founders Anders Held (Project Manager, Sweden) and Rolf Brandrud (Project Manager, Norway) staged 52 sessions across four auditoriums, featuring more than 100 speakers for the events two full days. In fact, some of these speakers will join us for RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas on April 7, or RAIN Summit Europe in Brussels May 23.

Kurt Hanson reports on some of the highlights:

For the panel "The Executives: Sharing Radio's Future," four top-level radio execs gave a short keynote speech, then held a discussion about radio's future. See more here.

The "Spotify - Friend or Foe?" panel included Edison Research president Larry Rosin (who'll speak at RAIN Summit West) and addressed the question of whether radio should work with online music platforms, or strictly compete against them. More here.

UK-based "Radio futurologist" James Cridland moderated the "Hybrid Radio – FM, DAB+ and IP all together" panel, which also featured UK Radioplayer's Michael Hill (a previous RAIN Summit speaker). They discussed the enhancement of traditional radio by way of new technology. More here.

For the "Keys to the second life of speech radio" panel, NextRadio and TV/VP Frank Lanoux (Paris) and WDR Sports editor Marcus Tepper (Cologne) discussed why the future of radio might be speech, not music. Read more here.

Hanson reports several key points gleaned from attending these discussions. First, that digital radio, in separate-band DAB and DAB+ versions (as opposed to the U.S.'s in-band on-channel "HD Radio" approach), is having so significant an impact in some European countries, that some are even considering an FM shut-off later this decade.

Several of the panels discussed the "Euro-Chip" initiative, which is similar to our "FM chip" initiative. That is, a lobbying effort hoping to legislate the requirement of analog and DAB receivers in all future connected devices.

Internet radio in Europe, on the other hand, is growing more slowly than it is here in the U.S. That's seems likely to be due to the lack of available statutory music licenses in most European countries, and the slower development of "personalized radio" platforms, like Pandora.

You can experience more of Radiodays Europe via video and audio coverage of a selection of sessions, which should be available on the conference website within the next several days.

Paul Maloney
March 19, 2013 - 1:00pm

The Wall Street Journal calls NPR Music -- the music-centric website and multi-media service from NPR -- "a sought-after stop for both aspiring and established artists. More broadly, it has become a rising power in the music industry... (and a) serious contender for the ears and eyeballs of music lovers on the Web."

Given what's said about traditonal radio companies and their utility as a source of new music curation these days, that's quite a compliment.

The service boasts 2.7 million unique monthly visitors, 1.4 million podcast downloads every four weeks, plus 1.4 million iPhone and iPad apps installations. And the service nearly breaks even on its $3 million annual budget.

NPR Music features include the "Tiny Desk Concert" series, "First Listen" streams of forthcoming albums in their entirety, the "Live in Concert" series, and the weekly "All Songs Considered," a 6- to 8-song playlist of its hosts' favorite new music. NPR Music also plans to launch "personal music streams" created by DJs from NPR affiliate stations and throughout the public radio system, as a way to "corral the music discovery that's happening on the station level."

The five-year-old NPR Music service is "the closest thing we have to a pure startup inside what is now a 40-plus- year-old institution," NPR EVP/Chief Content Officer Kinsey Wilson told The Journal."This group of now roughly 20 people has had an opportunity to invent something from scratch."

NPR.org, the parent website, is currently sixth for online-listening among Triton Digital's Webcast Metrics rankings. NPR Music accounts for 15% of NPR's streaming audience.

Read The Wall Street Journal's profile of NPR Music here.