Digital is about to make radio a whole lot more interesting for marketers

This week’s RAJAR results came with the news that 52.2 per cent of the UK now listens to radio via digital channels, giving fresh impetus for plans to press ahead with the delayed switchover from analogue to digital signal. Now I can’t help but feel that radio is about to get a lot more exciting. 

It could be argued that radio is the last frontier for digital media given the protracted process of the “digital switchover”. Initial plans for a digital radio switchover were delayed in November last year due to poor audience pick-up.  

But now that’s about to change and marketers will eventually be able to use the targeting and analytics of online advertising to woo the traditional radio audience – over 90 per cent of the UK population according to the latest official statistics.   

With this in mind it’s clear to see why Bauer Media paid a reported £25m for Absolute Radio – a radio station brand that’s “renowned for its digital assets”, according to Paul Keenan, Bauer Media CEO.  

Last week Marketing Week covered how digital radio body RadioDNS is developing plans that would allow customers to tag audio content they’re listening to in their cars as a means of helping advertisers evaluate their radio spend and finally helping them to better target motorists.  

The “time-shifting” proposition revolves around auto manufacturers deploying RadioTAG technology in their vehicles, and lets users “tag” audio content, including ads, so they can later focus on the messaging on their smartphones, tablets or laptops while not driving.  

However, this is just the start of things in my opinion. Sources within the industry tell me plans are also afoot to target radio ads to web users via online channels using cookies, meaning the potential for behavioural targeting will finally reach radio audiences. This surely poses a world of potential, not just for marketers but for the UK digital economy as a whole.   

However, for this to happen there is a multitude of things that have to take place first. For instance, the development of digital means the commercial radio industry is likely to have to work towards standardising their ad formats, plus fall in line on on issues such as gaining user consent to be targeted via the plethora of digital technologies.  

The road ahead will be filled with challenges, but the rewards should be plentiful.

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