Radio is the most vibrant and colourful medium in the country. It started from a zero base and today it is a Rs 12 billion industry. Now with Phase III being announced, radio will be the most powerful medium in the country. Small towns will see boom of radio, which started its journey from metro cities and which still has a big presence there.
In the next five years, radio can take its advertising share up to 7-8 per cent. And then it would have achieved a more reasonable degree of success. Small towns are the future of India. This is the place where the actual buying population lives and where retail boom is taking place. These are the towns where actual revolution is taking place in terms of innovation, interaction and information. Small town students are taking big leap in studies. Most of such students are churning out success stories every year. These small towns are going to be the real business hubs. With Phase III implementation, this media will see a huge boom in these regions.
There are lots of hurdles that FM stations in small towns face, but these have paved the way for innovations. They are basically the torch bearers in innovations. In big cities, FM just works on a fixed format and with same parameters in programming. But in small cities, FM stations are experimenting with new formats. These formats are of local music and local connect. This makes the content more listener friendly.
Most of the formats on FM stations in small towns are live. This ensures interactivity. Apart from on-air activity, small town FM stations undertake various innovative ground activities suiting to their clients.
FM stations in small towns have given a boom to small sector retail market. Local advertisers who never used any type of media for marketing are now using FM stations to target their consumers. Radio being a low cost and listeners friendly media is attracting more local clients. Low rates draw a significant number of small traders and businessmen on to the medium who could never afford to advertise on television or newspapers.
High cost of music royalty and operational costs are big challenges in front of radio stations present in small towns. Also, there is very little focus on these regions from national advertisers.
Media planners are always focused on big cities despite the fact that channel switchover in large cities is very high. Listeners are very loyal to small town FM stations. There is very less switchover and it gives a total mileage to advertisers. Local and standalone radio stations provide a closer and more personalised feel to the audience because they are closer to their sentiments. Smaller radio stations also enjoy more acceptability in their area of operation over larger radio networks for their in-depth knowledge and better understanding of the area’s language, customs, likes and dislikes.
The biggest handicap in selling small radio stations is the limited geographical awareness on the part of media planners and advertisers. For example, in our industry, any campaign beyond Kolkata implies moving into the North-East. And within that, a majority of industry representatives fail to recognise territories other than Assam.
Trained manpower in small towns is tough to get. They have to be fully trained before they are ready to go on air. But once they are on air, they do a wonderful job as they know the feel of the town.
Despite all these challenges and limited revenues, small town FM stations are really doing wonders and serving the listeners.
(Nishant Mittal is Chief Executive Officer, Radio Misty.)