The times when life was configured around that elusive 9 pm news broadcast on AIR, when definition of entertainment was weekly dose of ‘Chitrahaar’ and simple ad jingles kept resonating in consumers’ minds, are long gone!
The story of rise of a host of private radio channels fragmenting the dwindling listener base is unknown to none. While competing media forms are attacking radio on account of their audio-visual capability, listener behaviour has also transformed remarkably. Unlike the hardcore loyalist generations of yesteryears, today’s generation is philandering across a variety of mediums and multi tasking – texting, social networking, browsing the net, watching television and listening to music – all at the same time. Exclusive listenership/ viewership with little distraction is hard to find and something any medium can only dream of.
The explosive rise in the number of radio channels has spoilt the Indian consumer for choice and challenged radio’s ad-based revenue model. Zero switching costs for consumers, coupled with high branding costs aren’t a pretty place to be in. Being uni-dimensional in sensory stimulation, content differentiation in a world of clones is critical for radio advertising. After all, ‘Radio ads are like vegetables, if they aren’t fresh, they’re just not worth it!’
Customer engagement today has metamorphosed into a barometer of an ad’s success across all mediums – radio, TV, print, OOH and particularly so for digital. Growth of digital media has impacted radio advertising like never before, typically with high degree of experimentation in its executions and interactive nature that keeps the youth enthralled.
I can foresee that eventually Internet radio like Grooveshark and Last.fm will be mainstream in India. It’s not foolish to assume that stuff like BWA and Wi-Max, which we have been hearing about over the years, will eventually get rolled out in the coming decade. The battle will intensify once Internet radios are installed in automobiles and people get access to thousands of Internet radio stations.
I feel integration of radio and digital media in the future cannot be ruled out. However, the extent to which radio adapts itself and ensures smooth integration with the latter would determine the way ahead for the industry. India’s listener base is young and restless; hence engagement-driven content is crucial to success of radio.
The mantra to sustenance is to collaborate with other media. Having said all that, radio isn’t going away, it will just redefine itself.
(Sidharth Rao is Founder and CEO, Webchutney.)