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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)_