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James Cridland Wows The Crowd at Tech Summit

The UK's James Cridland dazzled Tuesday's Tech Summit attendees with some very cool apps now being used in his country and advised U.S. broadcasters to try to speak more as one voice. Cridland emphasized why companies like Pandora and LastFM are making headway here in the United States. "They speak with one voice. It's one company asking for one thing, that's why they are getting into automobiles."

Cridland says "I hope it would be realistic for all U.S. radio companies to have a clear view that radio is a strong and vibrant medium, and that it benefits everyone in the industry if radio is successful. It's interesting, I think, that the UK's Capital FM promoted, in its recent TV ad, how brilliant radio is as a medium, as well as promoting Capital itself. [] That's from the UK's largest commercial radio company, and one that arguably doesn't need to care about anyone else but itself.

"A growing share of a shrinking market may look impressive to investors; but a growing market is ultimately more important to the long-term health of an industry. When talking up your station, if you do it in a constructive way, that benefits all of radio, rather than a destructive way that belittles your competition. It's not just good karma - I believe it's good business sense."

Cridland said radio is tremendously popular and well listened to. "We need to speak up more," he said. "We need to know where we want to go. And radio needs a single voice." Cridland emphasized that it's better for radio if they can get to a point where they are competing on content rather than on platform -- that was in reference to radio's schizophrenic use of the AM dial, the FM Dial, HD, HD1, HD2, streaming, etc.

Cridland is a radio futurologist. His view on the future of the industry: "If all you do is play '10 great hits in a row,' then I would personally advise you to get very worried, very quickly. Pandora, Spotify, or Slacker have the capability to do this job just as well, if not better. The most important thing for radio is the speech -- even for music stations. No amount of computer algorithms will replace the feeling of a live radio show that connects with you. The growth of podcasting and speech content on the Web is, I believe, educating a new audience of radio listeners that speech is just as interesting, if not more, than music."

He continued, "But my take is to forget the technology -- as far as is possible -- and concentrate on the content. Worry about what's coming out of the speakers, rather than how it gets there. If we compete on content, then the listeners win. That said, I think the lack of clearly identifiable national brands for radio is damaging to its future. The world's moving to national and international brands: yet radio has precious few national brands and almost no global ones. It's interesting that commercial radio in the UK is moving from a lot of small local brands to fewer national ones, even if they still contain local programming. We're at a disadvantage if we can't speak with a national voice and a national brand."

Cridland can be reached at

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