A new “Irish Radio Player” app featuring all 43 stations in the Republic will be unveiled shortly in a bid by the industry to recruit younger listeners.
The app is the product of a four-year collaboration between RTÉ and the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) and is designed to help Irish radio stations take advantage of a shift in media consumption to mobile devices.
Scott Williams, the chief executive of Q102 and a board member of the IBI, said the player would be available in the App Store "in the coming weeks" and would be marketed via a "heavyweight radio advertising campaign" in advance of the usual Christmas bump in device ownership.
The Irish Radio Player will use technology licensed to it by Radioplayer Worldwide, a UK consortium, for an initial three-year-term.
The industry is concerned that younger listeners are basing their music habits around services such as Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube rather than tuning in to radio, while other developments, such as technological advances in car dashboards, are also exposing Irish stations to wider competition.
“We plan to compete on content,” Mr Williams told advertisers and media agencies at a radio industry event in Dublin today. The app has been four years in the making, “like a Government report”, he said. “We came together, we stroked all the beards and we came up with a plan.”
Although Irish radio stations have developed apps for their individual brands, consumers often ignore apps after they have downloaded them to their devices and may eventually delete them to make storage space for other apps.
“We needed an app that was universal. We needed radio on the phone,” Mr Williams said.
Listenership research by Ipsos MBRI suggests that 18 per cent of Irish adults have downloaded a radio app, while more than a third of 15-24-year-olds have.
However, just 2 per cent of all adult listening to the radio takes place on mobile devices, A further 2 per cent of listening takes place via other devices, for example tablets, laptops or through television platforms.
Ipsos MBRI managing director Damian Loscher said there was an opportunity for Irish radio stations to win bigger audiences on mobile.
Its studies show that the share of radio listening that takes place on mobile devices tends to increase over the course of the day. Among 15-24-year-olds, the share of radio listening that takes place on mobile is higher at 9 per cent and it reaches a peak of 18 per cent during the “bedroom listening” hours after 7pm.
Today FM chief executive Peter McPartlin said there was “probably an iceberg coming” for stations aimed at younger demographics and that this would eventually have an impact on the industry as a whole.
“We need the audience to grow up with some kind of radio habit, so it’s not just the music stations, it’s all of us,” he said.
Although eight in 10 adults listen to the radio every day for an average of almost four hours, the industry cannot afford to be complacent, Mr McPartlin said. “We shouldn’t take these things for granted.”