Back in 2000, Michael Hill, Tony Moorey, Ali Rusted and I worked together to launch the new DAB station ‘BBC 5Live SportsPlus’ - now BBC 5Live Sports Extra. The total listening audience was, at a rough guess, around 4*.
We were blazing a trail, but with a bloody long run-up. We’d punt out for texts, not because we had a hot topic to discuss, but in the same way that you might nervously shout into a newly discovered cave - to find out whether there was anybody there.
Around that time, I would amuse myself in John Lewis or Curry's and asking the Sales Assistant whether they had any ‘digital radios’.
Inevitably, the confused person would ask me to repeat the question, think for a moment (Curry’s staff take a little longer over that) and then point me in the direction of a standard AM/FM radio, but with a digital display. Oh how I laughed. Internally.
I would then give a self-satisfied grin, like a massively patronising Marty McFly, in the knowledge that I was already living in a future that they were still too naive (or insufficiently well trained) to see. I'd then say ‘Don’t worry about it’ and walk away.
So today in John Lewis, I took this photo. Still a bit tragic, admittedly, but done in the spirit of a happy enthusiast rather than a smug knob.
The audio & speaker department has more shoppers and floor space than TVs and tablets put together. There’s an enormous range of affordable (albeit garishly coloured) DAB radios. Alexa and Sonos are the sexiest tech brands in the store. As for headphones, people are spending incredible (and often, lets be honest, acoustically unjustified) cash.
We’ve won the future. Listening to stuff is, and always will be, wonderful. It’s fun to spend good money on, and a great gift. On Christmas morning, there’ll be more people with more ways of listening than ever before.
As audio producers, our job is to continually seize the moment and make sure the content is as exciting, innovative and extraordinary as the technology. And, happily, we are. We’re creating work, dreaming up approaches and developing ideas that give me the same feeling I had back in 2000. Brilliant, hugely ambitious podcast concepts, dynamic creative and voice interaction techniques that will again change how everyone thinks about, and uses, audio - listeners, platforms and advertisers.
Once again, I know what’s coming. I love it, and I can’t wait for everyone else to love it too. I just promise not to be quite such a knob about it this time.
*Now 1.2 Million.