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IndustrySpeak: Re-vision, reorient and reinvent for AIR to remain relevant

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IndustrySpeak: Re-vision, reorient and reinvent for AIR to remain relevant

The last few years have seen a liberalisation of sorts in the radio industry. With the private FM sector opening up, players have gone the whole hog through marketing activities and on-ground engagement initiatives to lure the listeners, and consequently, the advertisers. All India Radio (AIR), arguably the strongest player in the sector by the sheer advantage that regulations and policies do not hound this media vehicle in the manner that private FM stations have to face the brunt, is still amazingly behind in the race.

AIR stations – FM Gold and FM Rainbow – offer Indian and western music, have the advantage of news and events coverage and a strong penetration across the country. However, they are still not top of mind for listeners or advertisers. spoke to media experts on where AIR FM stations stand. The popular verdict is that AIR needs to identify its targets, revisit its strategies in areas like programming and marketing, make the media more commercially viable and in all reorient itself to become relevant to today’s listeners and hence advertisers.

AIR still relevant, but it is time for reinvention

To get a better perspective of radio’s spread, Indian Readership Survey 2008 R-1 shows that the penetration of radio all India (Urban + Rural) stands at 19 per cent, while satellite TV is at 31 per cent and print at 20 per cent. Venkatesh S, Senior Vice President, Lintas Media Group, explained, “This picture changes dramatically when one looks at the all India urban numbers -- radio moves up marginally to 22 per cent while C&S penetration moves up to 59 per cent.”

In the current radio revenue structure, a significant portion of the pie comes from metros and mini-metros. AIR is not very strong in these areas. Venkatesh further elaborated that AIR continued to be relevant in the hinterland, but it needed to reinvent itself to cater to the changes in audience tastes in the metros and mini-metros, which see the maximum share of the total radio spends. He said, “Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore account for 65 per cent of the ad spends in 2007. AIR could possibly look at a differential programming strategy to handle the top 25 towns and the rest of the country to garner higher share of spends.”

Kunal Jamuar, General Manager, Madison Media, explained, “At present, there isn’t much advertising on the AIR stations except social advertisements. In terms of listenership, there is slight advantage because of the English tracks played. However, now with many other private channels too playing English tracks, this advantage too is limited.”

Rajneesh Chaturvedi, National Director, MEC Access, identified marketing as a need gap in radio. He said, “FM Gold and FM Rainbow are definitely competing with the private FM channels on-air today, but unfortunately, their listenership in the market is very low as they do not market themselves well.”

Tips to make AIR ‘Active, In & Relevant’

There clearly are focus areas that when AIR would work on, would make it stronger in the FM space. Media observers have said that AIR FM should identify its target in various markets, and then re-orient itself to strengthen the bond with its core listeners. If this is followed, AIR’s FM brands would continue to retain their relevance and may even grow from the current base. AIR might also find business sense in opening more private FM licenses and multiple frequencies within the city.

Mona Jain, Chief Strategy Officer, IMX, said, “Just as Doordarshan, AIR has a strong pull, though there is scope for improvement. They need to commercialise well, which would eventually help them in the market. Since they have the basic infrastructure, the content they carry is important.” Arun Tyagi, AVP, Media, Reliance ADA Group, added here, “FM Rainbow and FM Gold can give tough competition to the private FM stations, but only if they are marketed well.”

Rajneesh Chaturvedi added, “AIR FM stations though credible would have to come up with innovative shows or programmes in order to do well. Surely FM Rainbow has the necessary reach, but due to the lack of unique programmes they are losing out to private FM stations.”

Agreeing with Chaturvedi, Manoj Malkani, Senior Investment Director, MindShare, said that FM stations would have to be innovative in their programming or else they might lose out on their listenership. Kunal Jamuar said here, “They can leverage on the role of providing news eventually as it would be content that would decide the future. If they market themselves well it may help them to some extend but overall the deciding factor lies with the content.”

AIR does have its share of fans too. Tyagi said, “FM Rainbow and FM Gold are doing well in the market and as a client, FM Gold and FM Rainbow are equally important for me. For instance, FM Rainbow in Bangalore is doing extremely well and not bad in Mumbai either. It’s not that bad after all.”


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