According to a survey carried out by the CSA (“Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel” in French), 99% of Belgians own a device that allows them to listen to the radio. For most listeners, the radio is still a trusted media in 2022, and its technology has continued to evolve over the years. How does the radio still manage to reinvent itself? How does it adapt to listeners who have become more demanding and unpredictable in their listening habits?
A permanent evolution
Since its invention in 1899, the radio has made it possible to communicate easily with the population in the event of war, disaster, important events, sporting events, etc. Despite the arrival of television and Internet, the radio has been able to evolve by feeding off new and powerful communication tools. Indeed, radio has no limits. It has been able to adapt to listeners’ demands by allowing them to use different media, thus meeting listeners’ expectations.
This was without thinking about the arrival of the pandemic, which changed listeners’ habits in the way they consumed radio. During the lockdown, listeners no longer listened to the radio in their cars on their way to work, in medical waiting rooms nor in supermarkets. The radio stations therefore assumed that forced home working would have significantly reduced radio consumption.
However, thanks to digital radio, the opposite effect occurred. Lockdown has led to an increase in radio listening hours.
According to a survey conducted by “maRadio.be”, in the Belgian French-speaking landscape, the online audience increased by an average of 26% in the weeks following the first lockdown. The health crisis has thus strengthened the image of the radio and has enabled this powerful media to position itself with digital audio channels that have increased in just a few years.
This success of audio can be attributed to the variety of content offered by media groups and producers as well as the success of the radio on the internet.
During this period, there was also an acceleration in the development of podcasts. According to the “Institut National de l’Audiovisuel”, the health crisis particularly boosted the listening of podcasts, which met an increased demand from the public. Podcasting allows users to automate the downloading of audio or video programs and thus facilitates immediate and/or later listening.
Belgian radio stations are well-established brands and are highly valued by Belgian listeners for their proximity and authenticity. Thanks to its constant development, radio is a media that will continue to be heard of in the years to come.
Digital radio, focus on DAB +
Radio is still evolving every day. Radio programs can be downloaded and listened to on demand by listeners via the internet. This functionality is offered by digital radio stations, which are constantly growing and evolving. Digital radio can be listened to through internet, digital television, and DAB+.
According to a study conducted by “maRadio.be”, over the last three years, the volume of digital radio listening has almost doubled in French- and Dutch-speaking Belgium, amounting to a consumption of 38% in the Walloon-Brussels Federation and 41% in Flanders.
The biggest development in digital radio has been the DAB+. But what exactly is DAB+? Introduced in October 2017 in Flanders and in November 2019 in the Walloon-Brussels Federation, DAB+ is a broadcasting format that allows you to listen to the radio in digital quality, free of charge, without having to log in or to subscribe. This digital transmission method complements the FM network, which is currently saturated. The system promises better sound quality, a wider range of services and the possibility to integrate images and text. In practical terms, this means that the reception is much better, especially in cars. In 2021, DAB+ represented 19% of the digital radio listeners in Belgium.
What factor could explain the growing trend towards DAB+? Since 2021, a European directive has required car manufacturers to build car radios compatible with DAB+, without any additional charge. This new directive will increase the use of this digital radio, as the quality of DAB+ car radios is superior to the FM band.
In the near future, DAB+ will become the main media for digital radio consumption. Indeed, listeners are very satisfied with DAB+ radio because, in just a few years, digital radio has adapted to the new habits of listeners. It is clear that the future of radio is digital!