ACI Radio, the DAB station of Automobile Club d’Italia: It’s not just about traffic

Among the many radio stations present in the FM-World aggregator, one stands out for its name, which speaks of a great history: ACI Radio, the radio of the Automobile Club of Italy.It is indeed a long history: what today is a “non-economic public body” was in fact founded in Turin in 1898.

On Friday, September 1, we had the opportunity to talk about it with Piermattia Fioravanti, Business Development Manager at ACI Informobility. Of course, Aci Radio was discussed: Piermattia clarified many doubts concerning the positioning of the broadcaster, and we also discussed developments and future scenarios for radio.

The interview

Marco Hugo Barsotti: First of all, tell us about yourself and how the ACI Radio project was born.

Piermattia Fioravanti: I have been working in the ACI context for about 4 years, I come from a background in strategic consulting. Then I spent a period in a startup that dealt with mobility. Now I am in ACI Infomobility (an in-house company of ACI that works on mobility issues), where I deal with innovation, business development: essentially the product/service innovation.

From Instore Radio to Web Radio…

MHB: How was the ACI Radio project born?

PF: The goal was to give greater prominence to ACI group services: the insurance part (Sara), sustainable mobility and obviously the associative aspect typical of ACI.

One of the initiatives was to create an “Instore Radio“, that is a web radio inside the delegations and insurance agencies – which are often in the same premises – to promote the different branches of activity. I was forgetting: also to promote sporting events in the automotive world, Formula 1, Rally, Targa Florio etc.

…to DAB

Initially conceived as a simple internal web radio, the initiative then took on a more substantial twist, evolving first into an external web radio and then, in the span of a year and a half, into a DAB channel with national coverage

Today the radio, called ACI Radio, has a much more articulated programming and includes content related to all ACI group activities, from insurance to motorsports to travel and tourism, thanks also to the collaboration with entities such as ACI Blue Team. The project, also welcomed internally by the group, has now come into operation after almost two years since the start of broadcasting.


MHB: The programming of ACI Radio therefore has 360 degree content, which goes far beyond road traffic, what I personally, but I imagine others who read us, expected from the name. In any case, how much weight do you give to day-to-day information, to traffic?

PF: As for traffic information, ACI Radio provides periodic updates on the situation in the main Italian cities, but it is limited content.

Our dedicated traffic service is Luceverde,_ provided through a dedicated radio, Luceverde Radio. So we leave this local and instant information to Luceverde, focusing instead on a national programming that ranges over many other topics related to mobility and ACI services. We believe it is right to use the most suitable tools for different needs: to get immediate updates on the local traffic situation, the Luceverde app is certainly the most suitable._

France: a stereo and split “isoradio”

MHB: Of course, but I believe classic radio can still have its say. Let’s take the example of Vinci Autoroute: isofrequency (107.7 stereo) throughout France, but split by area. In Nice we can hear at most from Marseille, but certainly not from Lyon or Paris. And in this way radio can be much more on the spot, to the point of advising on which lanes of the various toll booths to position yourself on critical days

PF: The French example is interesting and in Italy the first steps are being taken in this direction, with some experiments of regional channels on DAB to spread targeted civil protection information. DAB in our country is still in its infancy, but there is the intention to exploit this technology to provide localized news.

Of course, it requires investments in infrastructure and organization. For example, planning is needed to insert regional updates within the national programming, and clocks to synchronize times. You then have to carefully calibrate the amount of information so as not to excessively distract while driving.

In short, regionally focused radio on the French model is a goal being worked on in Italy as well, as much as the development of DAB technology in our country allows. A project to be carried out with radio system players to provide motorists with increasingly targeted information.

Smart Speakers

MHB: You also broadcast on smart speakers. This listening mode is growing a lot. Can you estimate how many listens and what share of the audience it generates for you on this channel?

PF: Unfortunately the listening mode via smart speakers, on which we had invested, is encountering some difficulties due to changes in the policies of the major players in the sector._

In particular, Google and Amazon have progressively limited the possibilities for developing skills and actions by third parties, focusing on their own proprietary voice assistants.

This has created quite a few complications, with continuous changes in the rules and ways of working that have made it very complex to continue supporting this listening mode.

Unfortunately, it does not depend on us but on the choices of the giants in the sector, so at the moment listening via smart speakers is not performing as we expected initially.

Think that we worked with a startup whose founder was one of the top five Amazon skills experts in Europe, and this year he communicated to us that the activity would close down.

DAB & More

MHB: Ironic, considering that those we once called GAFA know everything about everything…

PF: Some companies like DTS are working through a company they own, on connected car digital radio systems that, leveraging GPS data, could allow tracking of listening location and provide targeted content.

..and FM

At the current state, the radio market is still very oriented towards DAB, while IP streaming is not as widespread as one would expect, because the major broadcasters have invested heavily in FM over the past 20 years and are reluctant to switch to DAB not for technological limitations***, but for purely economic reasons***._

They have spent hundreds of millions on FM and if they had to convert from FM to digital overnight, they would suddenly find themselves with infrastructure that has a much lower book value on the balance sheet.


So potentially in the future the geo-localization of radio listeners could become a reality, thanks to connected infotainment systems in cars, but we are still far from a scenario where this could become a standard. The challenge remains to find the right balance between technological potential and privacy protection.


MHB: In a trade publication in our sector it is hypothesized an intervention by the authorities aimed at imposing on large platforms the pre-installation of radio aggregators with equal dignity (prominence) compared to Spotify. What is your opinion?

PF: Not having direct commercial interests linked to advertising revenue, we can afford to think more freely about new technologies, without the fear of cannibalizing previous investments like other broadcasters.

Of course, we too have to attract listeners and therefore use the positioning mechanisms on the various platforms. But if there was greater fairness in the distribution of the radio offer, for example with random order of appearance, it would not be a drama

For us then starting with an “a”…no need for asterisks or hashtags to appear at the top of the list of stations on board vehicles!

Autonomous Driving

MHB: With the advent of autonomous driving, in the future people in the car will no longer have to drive but will be simple passengers. This will mean more time available for activities such as watching screens or listening to content while traveling. How do you think in-car radio entertainment will evolve to intercept this new need for content, once driving is fully automated?

PF: As far as we are concerned, we do not see big problems in the evolution towards video content to entertain those traveling in self-driving cars. On the contrary, we believe that information can benefit from it, since images have a greater communicative impact than audio and require less attention effort from those who use them.

We are already moving in this direction_ with some radio vision experiments. The transition to video is a frontier that we welcome positively, strong from the experience as a general radio but with the ability to evolve towards a multimedia offer, to make the most of the potential of automated driving. (M.H.B. for FM-World)_

RAI and the future of online audio listening: interview with Andrea Borgnino (RAI)

Andrea Borgnino (RAI): Rai PlaySound is growing rapidly, now also with regional content and versions optimized for mobility. Online, any classic FM listening rule is overturned, as is the case of our Radio3 (culture) network, that is top in the charts. RAI content on 3rd parties aggregators? It’s a very complex issue. Radio 2 Visual is only available on Rai Play, our app is dedicated to audio.


RAI and the Online Audio World

We continue our series of articles “Entertainment and Work in the Car”. After talking with Eng. La Teana from RTL and with Charles Kelly, today it’s RAI’s turn, where Andrea Borgnino (IWOHK) has held the role of editorial head of RaiPlay Sound for about 2 years, the RAI app/aggregator inspired in part by the prestigious BBC Sounds English model.

With Andrea we talked about new content, the profile of podcast listeners compared to linear radio listeners, and the issue of proprietary apps (single broadcaster) vs aggregators.

The full audio of the conversation is available at this address.

Andrea Borgnino

A real radio enthusiast, he has made it his job at RAI since 1997. Author of the Radio 1 program Golem, he later dealt with the Radio Techetè channel. For over ten years he has had a weekly slot called Interferences in the Radio 3 Mondo program and since July 2021 he is editorial manager of RaiPlay Sound, the RAI platform dedicated to live, on demand and podcast listening.

The Interview

Marco Hugo Barsotti: First of all, update us on RaiPlay Sound. We left off in April with 12 Live channels, plus dozens of on-demand and as users you said that in the first four months the numbers were going in the direction you expected….

Andrea Borgnino: _So let’s say the project is growing. The live channels have gone from 12 to 14, there are 2 new regional channels, one in Slovenian and one in German coming from the Trieste headquarters and the Bolzano headquarters.

So a big work of integration of regional contents.  In addition to these two more live channels there are also contents from the local newsrooms, Trieste, Sardinia, Sicily and soon we will also bring in Bolzano and Trento.
So: not only content in Italian, but also in Sardinian, Slovenian, German and Ladino, Friulian and Patois.

Automotive World

As for the APP, the big news is that it has been made compatible with the automotive world, meaning Android Auto and Apple Car. For both we developed  an optimized interface  that allows users to enjoy all the functions of RaiPlay Sound through these two interfaces.
This is a big step forward that I can tell you first, since we haven’t officially announced it yet.
We are also working on a platform for connected TVs, which I think will be available in September.

In terms of editorial content, to date we have over 200 original podcasts – and I point out that we’ve only been online for two years. We also have over 500 radio shows available online and 200 audiobooks.

Sophisticated Users

MHB: Do PlaySound listeners make the same choices as FM listeners? In other words, are the “listening charts” of the various programs the same or different?

AB: Well.. these are not data that RAI releases, but I  can give some general information.
The answer is that the RaiPlay Sound audience is very different from what we have in FM, as found in the last TER data.
For example, on PlaySound Radio3 is one of the most listened to live contents.
(Radio3 RAI can be loosly defined as  equivalent of BBC Radio3+BBC Radio 4, Ed. note)

Different (but similar) situation  for on-demand

Now, we made a tool very similar to Netflix’s top 10, which everyone can find on our site.
At this time
(interview recorded on August 4, 2023)  the most requested content is Radio3 Mondo,then Prima Pagina and Out Loud: all three contents from Radio 3.

Overturned Rules

What follows is the audio version of Lucarelli’s TV program Blu Notte, then Wikiradio, then …. let’s say that in on-demand listening, any classic FM listening rule no longer applies: It’s a fragmented listening of more varied content.

And even in linear online listening,  FM rules do not apply,


MHB: Let’s talk about aggregators and dedicated apps. Both you and RTL 102.5, to name just two, have a dedicated, very rich app. But by using it you remain confined there, while many listeners quickly switch from one broadcaster’s content to another’s: an aggregator is very more practical from this point of view. But obviously the dedicated content is lost there. Isn’t it conceivable an integration of the two experiences, at least with the aggregators developed in Italy?

AG:  The issue is broad; it’s a matter of distribution and system.
As for the video, you can see that the contents are not only on Rai Play, our app for video.
Distribution agreements have been made there. But us… we are still very young, not even two years old yet.
The only export concerns Spotify and it was done because the Italian market is on Spotify. But it wasn’t a transposition: on Spotify we go to put some series that we publish on RaiPlay Sound, but at a later time._

Today, RAI’s choice is  clear: to push our own apps  RaiPlay and RaiPlay Sound.


I was talking about it a few weeks ago with some colleagues from BBC: they even imagine a single app, a merge of iPlayer and BBC Sounds. A single app for the entire public service.

MHB: … Yes, but… doesn’t it seem to you that from the point of view of listeners it is not the optimal choice? Of course, it is in the interest of the broadcaster, but it is not convenient for those who listen…who could ultimately  reject the product and prefer an aggregator where they have total freedom.

AB:  Yes, but you have to keep in mind that we, as a public body, have to make clear and transparent agreements for the distribution of our content: it’s not a trivial matter, not at all



MHB: Let’s close with technology. Do you plan to evolve the visual offer of RaiPlay Sound, also with a view to meeting the needs of mobile use? I’m thinking of screens for rear passengers or even for the driver, in future self-driving cars.

AB: At the moment, we don’t have any visual offer projects. As you know,   Radio 2 is  available in audio and video format, but its video offer is exclusively on RaiPlay, not on our application which is purely dedicated to audio.
If in the future there will be video podcasts things could change, but for now, as I said, we are a pure audio offer.
 (M.H.B. for FM-World)