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Working smarter is key to survival, conference hears

Working smarter will ensure radio continues to thrive in the digital world, delegates at the ABU’s RadioAsia Conference in Kuala Lumpur heard.

A common theme throughout a full day of discussions under this year’s headline theme “Smart, Social and Everywhere”, panellists at a session on “Working better, harder but mostly smarter” stressed the need for broadcasters to be agile, innovative and aware if they were to meet the growing challenges of online and social media.

The session was moderated by Natalie Pozdeev, Program Convenor, Graduate Diploma in Radio & Podcasting, AFTRS.

The session opened with RRI-Indonesia’s Program Director Mistam describing how his network had undergone some major re-strategising under the banner of Three Gs – Great content, great design and great delivery. Under their Digital Transformation and Innovation strategy, many of their 67 channels were being combined into super channels for a service due to be launched in a few days’ time.

ABC-Australia’s emergency broadcast lead Pat Hession spoke about how the national broadcaster had been confronted with major crises in the past three years – including bushfires and the COVID pandemic – so had to manage an increasing workload on reduced finances.

He quoted US racing cyclist Greg LeMond who said: “It never gets easier – you just get faster”.

The ABC’s answer had been sustainable innovation, implementing improvements they knew they could maintain.

“For example, we kept some Internet accounts open while others we closed down,” he said.

When they found their emergency information service suffered from peaks and troughs in usefulness and usage, they devolved some of the content to their local stations’ web pages, so it became part of the relevant communities.

Richard Palmer, Director of Market Development at Triton Digital, began by acknowledging that radio production and distribution had become far more complex than in older times.

“We’re not just broadcasters but media content providers,” he said.

Simple streaming was evolving into advanced streaming, with accompanying metadata able to provide a unique environment for each listener, depending on who they are or where they are listening.

He said podcasting had become more important and some radio stations had a policy of getting their on-air programming to podcasts within two minutes of broadcast.

He urged public broadcasters to add value to their programming with videos, accompanying information or – as in the case of the US network iHeartRadio – a whole virtual world where listeners could find their programmes together with performing avatars, games and much more.