When it comes to share of the ad spend pie, radio has been overshadowed by television and print, despite being a mass medium. To increase this share, radio has begun to look at going big on digital. While earlier digital was an ancillary slide on a brand’s strategic outlook, now brands are engaging with digital on a more holistic scale.
Drawing a similarity between the two medium, Rana Barua, Business Head, Red FM, noted, “I think radio and digital media are complementary to each other in many respects. Both rely on interactivity, user generated content, two-way conversation and can be accessed on the go.”
Red FM has been using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to engage with listeners. Most Red FM stations have their Facebook pages/ groups and the RJs are encouraged to utilise social media to interact with their listeners. The FM player provides regular updates on what is happening on the station, information about contests or initiatives, and also seeks listener feedback.
Mobile radio as well as web/ Internet radio are increasing the reach of radio amid the masses. Barua pointed out, “Recent studies have shown that a high percentage of listeners are accessing radio through mobile phones. A lot of listeners, especially young male listeners, listen to radio on the go, and even at home listening has slowly moved away from the old transistor radio. So, you will see a lot of SMS related contests, etc., on all stations. Feedback is immediate and helps radio stations track user response. For instance, we recently concluded a campaign in North India, wherein we provided listeners with a platform to voice their desire to see Sachin Tendulkar get the Bharat Ratna. During the course of the three-week campaign, we received more than 5 lakh SMSes from listeners in Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Allahabad, Varanasi, Indore and Bhopal.”
However, when it comes to Internet radio, one needs to keep in mind the fact that as per reports, a mere 4.5 per cent of Indians have regular access to the Internet. A high percentage of Internet users access it during working hours. Also, Internet speed remains an area of concern, affecting widespread use of web/ Internet radio. “So, while web/ Internet radio is interesting indeed, I don’t think the numbers are big enough to talk about at the moment,” Barua added.
While most radio stations today have a digital presence, hosting a live website is not the end of a digital strategy. Listeners need to be given reasons to come back and be engaged. As Barua said, “Are we engaging them, are we amongst the first five sites they visit when they log on every day? These are the questions a marketer should be asking himself each day. The problem is digital media is still an untamed, misunderstood beast for most of us. I think MTV India is one of the few media brands in India which has been highly successful in making an impact in the digital space. But the good thing about digital media is that you are only a ‘Friday’ away from fame/ notoriety and 1 million hits.”
What should be borne in mind is that digital media is there to complement radio and not the other way around. So the idea should be to highlight the radio brand through smart use of the digital platform by giving audiences entertainment that complements what one does on air. The attitude, philosophy, communication on the digital platform should be in sync with the on air content.
However, even though radio stations are making all possible innovations, advertisers have not started considering it as a mainstream medium yet. If a station has the numbers on the digital platform, radio and digital may work together in attracting more advertisers. But, as Barua noted, before one did that it was important to figure out whether one wanted to share the space with other brands and if so, how one could do that without diverting the listener’s attention away from one’s own brand. “Of course, if the station intends to add digital to its offerings it would need a strong and technologically savvy team to support it. Also, how does the advertiser gauge his ROI on the digital platform? These challenges are real and need to be addressed before one can look at clubbing offerings together,” he concluded.