With new ways to listen and share, radio is making a comeback in Japan


With diversified ways to listen on the rise, radio is attracting renewed attention in Japan.

Fans can listen to radio shows on personal computers and smartphones and share favorite programs online through social networking services.

About 12 million people a month listen through the Radiko internet radio service that makes programs from various broadcasters available.

The service was developed by Fumio Miura, a professor at Kansai University and a fellow at operator Radiko Co.

“I want to evolve radio into completely different new media by, for example, utilizing artificial intelligence,” Miura said.

In 2008, Miura, then a worker at major advertising agency Dentsu Inc., teamed up with others to launch an online radio service exclusively for Osaka Prefecture. Although it was only a trial service, listener response was good.

This led to the establishment of Radiko in 2010 with investment from Dentsu and major commercial radio broadcasters. A regular service that streams programs from broadcasters in real time started the same year.

Radiko has also developed an app that lets users enjoy radio programs on PCs and smartphones.

In 2014, the company started an “area-free” paid service, allowing users to listen to shows aired by broadcasters across the country.

This was followed by a “time-free” function allowing access to programs from the past week and another function for sharing programs through SNS services.

Currently, the company is considering an AI-based service offering customized radio menus that can respond to voice prompts.

According to a survey by Video Research Ltd., radio listeners made up 7 to 8 percent of the country’s population in the 2000s. In recent years this figure has fallen slightly below 7 percent.

Takahiro Aoki, a Radiko official, said the decline in radio listeners appears to have halted. Radiko hopes to reverse the trend.

“We see potential in radio since listeners can reach shows with smartphones and even without radio receivers,” he says.