THE BLOG

Remembering Why Radio Is Magic

05/05/2015 12:05 BST | Updated 03/05/2016 10:12 BST

When radio legend Tony Blackburn first starting using the new app Periscope, he was praised by some within the radio industry for embracing an opportunity to interact with listeners. He shared videos showing stations he was at and some of the work he was doing. It was all stopped when he was urged to down-Periscope by the BBC after filming there without proper guidance. Roy Martin at Radio Today was among those to praise Blackburn's efforts to use the App. Chris Moyles has also been using it, sharing an exciting hair cutting trip!

Now I am in danger of sounding like a dinosaur here, but my problem with radio getting excited about these kind of 'opportunities' is that radio has forgotten, seemingly, what makes it great in the first place. Radio's beauty and magic comes from the one on one communication and the connection you get with the listener. Before the days of webcams etc, part of the magic too was imagining what the voice looked like. Hardly ever does the image in your mind compare to the reality.

In the last 10 to 15 years, the commercial sector has been most been most guilty of forgotting what makes really good radio. By taking personality away from presenters (apart from on breakfast) it has churned out dozens of liner readers, who don't know how to connect with an audience.

I listened recently to a presenter telling me that in 20 minutes the news was on the way. A few minutes later he reminded me again. That was almost the entirety of the 'content'. Previewing the news is pointless unless you give the listener something more to listen to; tease them, or give them a carrot to listen to. This shows how people behind the microphone have become voices and not presenters.

I believe that the internet and subsequent apps and social media have given radio a huge challenge of course. But embracing them and using them as part of output needs to be carefully considered. In the last 12 months one of the best pieces of radio produced was the Serial podcast. No tricks or social media were needed to make it connect. Just good journalism and broadcasting and most importantly, great storytelling.

Chris Evans connects with his audience through being a fun and engaging presenter. You might not like what he does, but you cannot deny his success. Listen to the country's most successful commercial stations and you notice they connect with the audience through the traditional sense of good radio content. Talksport, LBC and Classic all have good programming. They all use other platforms to supplement what they do but not at the cost of the main product.

Tony Blackburn was right to look at Periscope and explore how it might provide added value. But too many stations and programme managers have become confused about what great radio is. What radio has, many other platforms cannot replace. An ipod loaded with music, a twitter feed full of opinion, a video app full of funny clips - none of those connect in the same way as good radio or audio can do.

At the Radio festival in the last few years there has been more talk about other platforms and the Internet than radio itself. Time to get back to basics as a former Prime Minister once said.