By Kate Fallis
Believe it or not, the radio world is not immune to the ever-changing effects of the broadcast landscape. It’s time to talk about the future of radio and how podcasting fits into it all. Editor of Radio 4’s PM programme, Roger Sawyer, joined us for the Shout! Big Talk on the 18th of October and had some interesting opinions on how we’ll be getting our news in the future and how podcasting links into that.
Being part of the BBC, Roger was very much thinking ahead to the next generation and how they will consume news, rather than just the current audience. He told the story of how his children often come to him with news and bits of information that he wasn’t even aware of, and how he’s always wondering where they got it from and if it’s even true. With younger people taking to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it may be difficult for them to differentiate fact from fiction. As we all know, there are plenty of scams and heavily sensationalised news articles doing the rounds, so for Roger, it’s all about being ahead of the game and figuring out the best way to provide reliable news to the younger generation.
Another thing he spoke very openly about was the new and exciting era of podcasts and how they could be used to a broadcaster’s advantage. He did mention that the BBC can be a bit behind the times and was originally just topping and tailing their on-air programmes for people to listen back to later. However, Roger told us a podcast must have much more to it than that. Podcasts need to add something extra to what a presenter may already offer in their everyday programme. His point links in nicely with what he said about the need for more engaging news stories and finding new ways to tell them. There’s definitely a market for human interest news features in podcasting that are too niche, too long or just not suitable for live radio. For example, Roger spoke of BBC broadcaster and journalist Steve Hewlett who was diagnosed with cancer in early 2016. Steve decided to take to the airwaves with his story and talked candidly to the presenter of Radio 4’s PM news programme, Eddie Mair. The response he received was overwhelmingly supportive, with listeners extremely interested in the topic and insight into Steve’s experiences with an aggressive form of cancer. Now I’m sure if Hewlett started up a weekly podcast a similar audience would be eager to listen, so there’s something else for the BBC to think about!
Naturally, Roger was also keen to reiterate how important online is for broadcasters in this virtual age, just as Alex Chandler did for television. Every radio station now has its own website with links to news, presenters, competitions and even advertising. It’s a new and very profitable means for broadcasters to engage with their audiences in a more interactive and visual way. Of course, social media is all part of this and every new thing that’s put on the website is likely to be shared on those platforms to generate website traffic. In many ways, I think radio is adjusting very well to the changing landscapes of the broadcast world and has a bright future ahead. Let’s be honest, people are always going to be keen to listen to something while they exercise, travel or even just at home, and podcasting will only strengthen the influence radio broadcasters have on their listeners.