Meet Radio.co, the startup proving that radio is still relevant

It’s easy to look at radio as an ageing form of media. Why would you possibly want to listen to FM radio when you can stream the latest news, TV shows and films online, or simply watch videos of cats dancing on YouTube?

But radio isn’t dying. In fact, according to statistics from Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), it’s actually thriving. Nine out of ten Brits tune in to the radio on a weekly basis, according to RAJAR, and the average person spends 21.3 hours per week listening to live radio shows. Clearly, then, radio is surviving in an increasingly interconnected world.

Broadcast media doesn’t have to be old-fashioned. Digital radio platforms are leading the marketplace, and Manchester-based Radio.co is one of them. Launched in July 2015 by young entrepreneur James Mulvany – who’s been running businesses since he was 16 – Radio.co is a growing broadcasting service in its own right, offering people a way to set up their own 24/7 radio station in no time, using the latest tech and cloud tools.

Mulvany wants everyone to become a radio DJ and, just over a year after launching, his creation is finally reaping the rewards. So far, it has broadcast more than 75 million hours of content to ten million listeners across the world. I recently caught up with James and the team to learn more about the company.

1. What is Radio.co?

Radio.co is an online broadcasting platform allowing anyone to easily start a 24/7 radio station. You can schedule playlists to go out at certain times of the day, as well as invite live DJs to broadcast. We also provide a suite of tools to make managing and listening to client stations easy, such as customisable web players, mobile apps and a website builder.

2. Where did the big idea for Radio.co come from?

james_croppedJames Mulvany – CEO, Radio.co

I’ve always been entrepreneurial and have been running internet companies for 10+ years now. I set up my first online business in 2003 when I was 16 and have never had a job working for someone else.

In 2004 I launched Wavestreaming.com, which also operates in the internet radio space, and has been very successful in providing streaming services and software to terrestrial and online stations. Five years ago Cloud DJ – my radio-automation product – launched and we noticed more and more demand to move to cloud platforms, so Radio.co is really the next generation of this.

The thing that typically held back these sorts of leaps has always been the technology. Luckily, with advances in languages such as JavaScript, we’re now able to achieve some of our more ambitious ideas, which would have previously been limited to desktop software running entirely in a browser.

We built Radio.co from the ground up and imagined more of a user-friendly interface, something really so simple that anyone could sign up and broadcast quickly. To build it we used a lot of feedback from existing clients, and also planned our product to attract a new generation of broadcaster.

3. What’s the big problem Radio.co addresses?

Traditionally, starting a radio station on the internet is a very fragmented process. You have to work out how to connect your playout system, your live broadcasting software and your streaming server. Radio.co massively simplifies this process by providing broadcasters with an all-in-one platform. This means you can have a station up and running within a few minutes, with no servers to configure and no complicated software to learn.

The vast majority of radio software hasn’t been built with the user in mind. Most is very dated with poor UI/UX, sometimes even command-line based, which is confusing for broadcasters who want to quickly get a station on the air.

We carefully planned the user journey and workflow that Radio.co has to offer, and spent over a year creating the product and testing it to ensure that it delivered and broadcasters can be up and running the same day.

Radio.co also works with expert talent coaches and marketing gurus to produce training courses for our clients, giving them advanced strategies to help grow their stations and become better on air.

All in all, we think this gives us a clear competitive edge: there are few companies in the industry delivering any kind of training whatsoever.

radio_co_setup

4. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome since starting Radio.co?

Since launching in July 2015 we’ve worked on some big projects such as Radio Everyone for the Unicef Global Goals campaign, and launching a radio station for Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records. Big launches like these typically bring thousands of listeners at once, and building a system that can handle this type of traffic is no small feat.

One of the benefits to Radio.co is our distributed network of servers. Most radio services use one server and easily fall over in the event of attacks or downtime. When someone listens to Radio.co, they’re automatically routed to the nearest server, rendering attacks and downtime completely redundant. This has allowed us to serve more than 763 million hours of radio in the past year.

5. Where do you see Radio.co being in five years’ time?

We’ve grown from nought to 2,000 active stations in our first year; we want to hit 5,000 stations next year. Beyond that, we aim to continue growing and innovating with features for more “interactive” radio, adding more functionality, such as automatic recording and syndication of live shows to on-demand platforms such as Mixcloud and SoundCloud.

Radio.co offers a human-curated experience, which audiences value, and it has shown no signs of stopping. Interestingly, last year Apple entered the radio space by launching Beats1  to address this problem, as many so called “radio” services are really just computer-generated playlists. A connection with listeners is built by someone in a studio pouring their heart and soul into a show, rather than an algorithm.

I’m also in the process of launching a local radio station here in Manchester called MCR Live, which will broadcast online and via digital radio (DAB) across the city. The idea is to create a more interesting alternative to what a lot of local commercial radio has become (repetitive and not very local). We anticipate launch early next year. I’m really excited with this project, as it’s a great way to connect with the local community. For Radio.co, this will be a great way to test any new technology we’re working on.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting Radio.co?

It was important we created something that was easy to use and avoided “feature bloat” to maintain its simplicity. Now we’re post-launch and have feature requests coming in on a daily basis, it can be somewhat challenging to add new functionality sometimes while retaining the sleek design that is true to our core product philosophy.

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