Tuesday June 30th 2015. I closed the door of my iRadio office and sat back in my chair to listen. Twenty minutes of sound effects, audio imaging and Brian Eno’s ‘Music For Airports’ playing on a loop. Anticipation was building… remembers Mark Cunning.
The last station launch I’d heard was our own iRadio launch in February 2008. I had goosebumps listening to our opening audio sequence in a packed office full of staff and invited guests. The goosebumps were back, but this time the sense of excitement was replaced with a sense of fear and intrigue. If Apple’s Beats One ‘works’ what does that mean for the medium of radio? If these guys at Apple, with all their money and all their access get this right…are we in trouble?
Suddenly ‘Beats One’ was live. The voice of Zane Lowe was talking to the world via a brand new medium. We had a radio service powered by the mighty Apple, available to stream to every handset, tablet, and laptop worldwide. Could Apple make the world smaller and create that sense of community through a shared love of music?
Four years on Beats One certainly hasn’t had the impact I feared it might nor the penetration its founders had hoped for. In June 2015 I worried that we were witnessing a new dawn, a seismic shift in how listeners consume audio. But it was not to be.
The reason why is simple enough. Yes, the listener is discovering great new music or consuming engaging content but there’s no opportunity to say ‘Did you hear?’ and share the experience in that moment.
There’s no doubt we’re in a more competitive market than ever before. Streaming services provide plenty of challenges for those of us on FM but the good news for radio is that we have the secret sauce that Spotify and Apple haven’t managed to replicate: personality and community.
In many ways, ‘Screentime’ is the biggest challenge in recruiting younger listeners to radio. There are just so many opportunities for distraction: on-demand video, social networks, messaging apps, we’re fighting with them all for some attention. That’s why iRadio has expanded its profile to so much more than just radio. We provide services that live on those phone handsets. Video, News, interactive playlists, community. We build our website and assets mobile first for this very reason, iRadio is a go-to brand for young people.
In a recent piece of research we commissioned, 96% of people surveyed told us they ‘trust’ iRadio’s news and current affairs output. I put that down to the relationships we’ve built with our listeners over the last eleven years. We understand their needs and aspirations.
Today iRadio has 220,000 daily listeners across fifteen counties. Our listenership among 15-34 year olds contradicts any argument that young people don’t listen to radio. 50% of our under 35 year-olds listen to iRadio every day. It’s something we remind a Dublin centric advertising market about. Fiona Field, former Deputy MD at Mediaworks wrote about an overreliance on ‘Dublin’. In an article written for Adworld she stated: “Marketers who ignore the true picture of Ireland may be missing a major opportunity to capitalise on the market outside of Dublin.”
We invest regularly in research because for iRadio’s continued success so it’s vital we know and understand the listeners not only on FM, but online and through our apps, via our social platforms and the events we host.
Our research has great insights for current and prospective clients. We know that within the next twelve months 20% of iRadio listeners are planning to buy a new car, 40% plan to buy a new TV. Our listeners are more likely to shop online than instore, they buy 34% more pet food than listeners to other radio stations (?!) and 20% have plans to move closer to ‘home.’
The listener in Ballina who was in 6th year when iRadio launched is now 29 years old. She left Ballina, she’s been to college, gone traveling for a year and now she’s living in Galway, working for a medical diagnostic company. She’s getting married next year and once the expense of the wedding is out of the way the couple plan to move home to Ballina. Her name’s Sarah. I know this because I met her at one of iRadio’s events recently in Galway. We get to know our listeners when we are out and about. They’re more than just numbers.
iRadio doesn’t broadcast from remote offices in the centre of Dublin, we’re in Athlone, slap bang in the middle of our broadcast region. We’re driving the same roads as our listeners, supporting the same teams, attending the same events and struggling with the same challenges that life throws at us all.
We’re proud that most of our presenters hail from our broadcast region, many of them having learned their craft in iRadio. That’s been a key ingredient in the iRadio recipe. In order to relate to our audience, we’ve been conscious to nurture and promote new on-air talent from within our region.
Our summer promotion this year is called ‘iGoHome.’ We’re sending our presenters home for a week, back to the towns and villages where they grew up. We’ll broadcast live from Mammy’s sitting room and kitchen, meet the characters they grew up with, hear the banter from the place they call home.
We’ll be in Galway, next year’s European Capital of Culture. We’ll be in Sligo where American firm ASG have just announced 100 jobs, Kildare which is fast becoming a suburb of Dublin, Athlone which is the one of main focuses of Fáilte Ireland’s current ‘Ancient East Campaign’ and Castlebar where only last week a group of local investors purchased 17 acres of commercial land for development with a view to creating an additional 300 jobs in the town.
As we look towards the next 10 years of iRadio, the brand will continue to grow and evolve. The needs and wants of our clients will continue to change, as will the appetite of our listeners. The music we play may sound quite different in 2029 but through continuing to understand our audience iRadio will remain relevant and engaging on the ground, online and on the air.
Mark Cunning is CEO of iRadio.
First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ May/June 2019)© to order back issues please call 016611660