In 1895, a young Italian named Gugliemo Marconi invented what he called “the wireless telegraph” while experimenting in his parents’ attic. He used radio waves to transmit Morse code and the instrument he used became known as the radio. In 1906, Marconi shared the Nobel Prize for physics with Ferdinand Braun, a German, in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy. Radio works by changing sounds or signals into radio waves, which travel through air, space, and solid objects, and the radio receiver changes them back into the sounds, words, and music we hear.
Common radio formats:
- News, talk, and sports: These stations feature news and conversation, rather than music. They typically announce local, regional, and national news items along with sports coverage. They also post regular traffic updates, one of the main reasons why audiences tune in. They also might mix local content with popular, syndicated radio shows.
- Country: Country stations play a mix of recent hits and classic songs in their genre. These stations have broad appeal in age demographics.
- Contemporary: Contemporary stations usually focus on the top-40 hits of the moment, including pop music, hip-hop, and more. These stations target younger crowds, such as teenagers.
- Rock and alternative: Classic rock is one of the most popular formats, and metropolitan areas often have multiple classic rock stations. Rock and alternative stations play a mix of modern rock, classic rock, punk, and metal music.
- Urban: Urban stations, often referred to as rhythm and blues (R&B) stations, tend to cater to a younger audience. They highlight artists in R&B, soul, hip-hop, and rap.
- Classical: Classical music is usually geared towards older audiences and is not as common. They feature works by composers such as Beethoven, Chopin, and Bach.
- Religious: Religious programming is popular in certain areas, particularly in southern states. From youth-focused music to talk radio, these stations highlight spiritual content. Stations target different demographics with programming at different times.
- Nostalgia: Formats that pull content from a specific decade or span of years. For example, oldies stations may focus on the 1950s and '60s; classic hits stations would play the top tracks from the 1970s,'80s, and '90s.
- College: Many colleges and universities have their own radio stations, featuring music from up-and-coming artists. Run by volunteers, these stations tend to have smaller broadcast ranges. They tend toward niche audiences, such as college students at that particular university.
Radio Fun FactsEvents That Shaped the Media:
1896 Guglielmo Marconi, the father of radio, receives a patent for his “wireless telegraph.”
1919 First radio station in America begins operations in Pittsburgh.
1921 The New York Giants’ World Series win over the New York Yankees is the first sports broadcast on radio. Radio speakers replace headphones, allowing radio broadcasts to be enjoyed by more than one person at a time.
1926 Radio’s first commercial jingle airs for Wheaties.
1933 President Franklin Roosevelt turns to radio to talk with the nation in “fireside chats.”
1939 FM radio makes its first appearance.
1952 First miniature transistor radios sold by Sony—radio headphones again become useful.
1970 FM stations begin to offer stereophonic music.
1971 AM-FM radios become standard in new cars.
1994 Radio broadcasts streamed over the web. First 24-hour Internet-only radio station begins operation.
2001 First satellite radio service begins.
2004 Introduction of digital AM and FM broadcast signals gives consumers more program choices. New term coined for Internet delivery of radio-style content: “Podcasting.”
2007 Internet radio grows in popularity with 57 million weekly listeners.
2012 Four in 10 Americans listen to online radio for nearly 10 hours a week.
Sources: The Media History Project and iBiquity Digital Corporation
By the Numbers241 million American adults listen to radio each week.
70% of Americans tune in to radio for 2 hours and 40 minutes each day.
1 out of every 5 Americans has watched a video podcast.
17% of cell phone owners have listened to online radio from a cell phone connected to a car stereo.
A voice broadcast over the radio travels at 700 miles per hour. It can be heard 13,000 miles away— sooner than it can be heard at the back of the room where it originated.
There are approximately 14,865 radio stations currently operating in the United States.
15% of people in the United States download TV shows from the Internet.
There are approximately 60 different radio station formats.
Sources: Arbitron Ratings; The Media History Project; The Federal Communications Commission; The Infinite Dial 2010, 2011, and 2012, Arbitron Inc./Edison Research; RADAR, March 2012-Spring 2012; and Deloitte’s State of the Media Democracy survey, sixth edition.
The lowdown: what does the future hold for radio?
Despite the increase in platforms such as Deezer, Apple Music or Spotify, the most popular way to discover new music remains the radio.
Listening online via a computer or smartphone grows in popularity each year and, in turn, allows internet radio stations to expand their audience.
But how do they match up to DAB, in terms of new supports and ways in which people listen to music?
Here’s Radio King’s analysis of what the future holds for radio.
Internet radio versus DAB.
Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) is a ‘multiplexing’ transmission method that allows multiple programs to be broadcast on one frequency, unlike FM technology, which only allows for one program per frequency.
DAB’s goal is to replace FM broadcasting and become the future of radio.
Some industry experts are wary of this new transmission method.
Even though it may not affect online radio, it’s receiving a backlash from traditional radio enthusiasts, who aren’t happy to see the end of FM broadcasting.
DAB won’t negatively impact on online radio stations, which are designed for global coverage and not limited to a specific geographical area.
And this is where the difference between DAB and internet radio stations lies.
However, this method of transmission could benefit internet radio stations that want to develop local coverage and keep up to speed with FM radio stations.
Will future radio be visual?
Doesn’t adding visuals to radio make it just like TV?
Modern society is image-obsessed, so radio can maintain its individuality by not following suit. From the very beginning, the advantage of radio has been its ability to boost the imagination via the content being broadcast. Adding images to its content could make it lose its charm and scar the future identity of radio itself.
Even so, radio can benefit from adopting other ways of communicating and diffusing new content to attract on-air listeners (YouTube videos, website news, podcasts, social networks …).
Car radios in the future.
Recent studies in the US show a huge growth in online radio listeners.
This expansion is a direct result of the ongoing evolution of internet radio in the modern world.
The creation of mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, plus the development and adaptability of web radio across social networks, is turning internet radio into the airwaves of the future.
You may think that listening to internet radio in your car is impossible?
It was – before the arrival of connected cars, which since 2014 have opened up a field of opportunities for internet radio.
The future of radio is the connected car and no longer a DAB receiver that you have to install yourself.
As with FM, internet radio stations will be broadcasting to listeners in their cars!
By simply connecting a smartphone to a CarPlay or Android Auto compatible screen, your listeners can tune in to your station from their car.
Radio King’s plan is to allow all of its clients access to the connected car applications.
In the future, radio will be everywhere.
The possibilities are endless and will continue to multiply.
The consoles, connected watches and TV’s that we use every day will be just another way in which radio stations can broadcast and increase their audience numbers.
Since its creation, radio has continually evolved with the times.
From pirate stations during the 1960s to the launch of the first internet radio stations in the 2000s, this is a media that has always kept up to date with advances in technology.
Whichever way you look at it, radio is and will remain a simple, direct way to capture the hearts of its listeners.
Marian is a Romanian volunteer in Praxis Organisation involved in the World Radio Day campaign.