The economic, social & cultural impact of the social network site Facebook on the Irish radio industry 2011-2016


McMahon, Daithí 2019. The economic, social & cultural impact of the social network site Facebook on the Irish radio industry 2011-2016. Thesis
AuthorsMcMahon, Daithí
Qualification namePhD

This thesis explores the relationship between radio and Facebook in Ireland during the period 2011-2016 and the ways in which radio production practices, audience participation and radio as a medium has changed over that time. From 2008, the Irish Radio Industry experienced a steep decline in advertising revenue which would continue for the next 8 years. Initially seen as a possible threat to the still largely analogue medium of radio, social media platforms such as Facebook were quickly adopted by radio stations and turned into tactical instruments to attract and engage audiences. Again, radio proved its resilience and adaptability to change. Although producers for the most part used Facebook creatively and skilfully to gather their audience in online communities, Facebook has unfortunately been found to be presenting some significant issues for the Irish Radio Industry.

This thesis employed a multimethod approach to explore the research problem from the perspective of the audience, the producer, and the media texts. This triangulation approach allowed for a comprehensive examination and analysis of the research question and an objective set of findings. The research included interviews with Irish Radio Industry professionals (N=11) as well as direct observation of the presenters’/producers’ daily production routines. An extensive audience questionnaire was disseminated via Facebook and yielded a high response (N=416). Textual analysis of radio station Facebook pages offered insight into the bespoke nature of each station’s output including audience tastes and staff production strategies. A longitudinal content analysis allowed the researcher to measure the growth of radio station Facebook and Twitter followers over a two-and-a-half year period.

This research highlights the importance of Facebook for radio stations in Ireland as an audio-visual tool to reach new young audiences who have grown up in the digital age, although it does expand the producers’ remit. I argue that radio stations can accumulate social, cultural and symbolic capital through Facebook, and in some instances, economic capital. This thesis highlights the changes that are representative of convergence culture where the audience play a much more active role in media production and dissemination, but their ‘play labour’ is simultaneously being commodified and profited from by Facebook and Google.

This research offers case studies which include some best practice in terms of social media management and will therefore inform radio production teaching in higher education. Based on the research I propose that Irish radio needs to act fast while the industry is still afloat and engage in collaboration between commercial and public service radio, regulation of online advertisers and social network sites (SNSs) and innovation to engage further with digital media and find new revenue streams. Should action not be taken I predict the conglomeration of the commercial sector of the Irish Radio Industry and with it the loss of valuable and trusted public services from local communities.

Keywordssocial media / Facebook / radio / audience participation / Irish Radio Industry / radio production / SNS; convergence / social network sites / political economy / commercial radio / public service radio; RTÉ 2fm / Radio Kerry / Beat 102103
PublisherUniversity of Derby
School of Arts: College of Arts, Humanities & Education
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)hdl:10545/624234
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Output statusUnpublished
AdvisorDavies, Huw
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Oct 2019, 11:26
Publication dates04 Jul 2019
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