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Praveen Tripathi

Chairperson | 13 Jul 2002

"Radio is a sleeping giant"

Mumbai airwaves are abuzz. The city has, in last two months, seen five quality FM Radio stations upping the ante. Media planners are however clamoring for independent listenership benchmarks that can help them allocate media monies. Reacting quickly, AC Nielsen - ORG Marg has announced their plans for Radio Audience Measurement study.

In this exclusive interview with Amit Agnihotri of exchange4media, the Chairperson of technical committee, Radio Audience Measurement study, Praveen Tripathi discuses some research design issues, the expected schedule and the future of the medium.

Q. Lets begin with Radio Audience Measurement initiative. At this stage, with FM Radio only a few months old and many stations barely a few weeks, wouldn't the research data be skewed by awareness (or recall) than actual listenership? In your research design, how would you address this?

You are right. The research design will have this issue. But, I think the issue really is the lack of awareness than awareness! The bias would settle in because listeners are not clearly attributing listenership to the right station because their identity has not settled in. This, of course, is the problem with recall-based research. With wristmeter technology, this problem doesn't persist.

But, quite like television, as the signature of each station gets established, this issue will get resolved. Though, this will take some time but not very long. Fortunately, radio is a very habit forming medium. Most listenership is by appointment. Even NRS bears this out. Out of 'any listeners of radio' very high percentages are those who have listened to 6 or 7 days a week.

So given this frequency, the registration of stations will happen very fast. So the problem of attributing listenership to wrong stations or top stations will sort itself out quickly. As I said earlier, yes, in the beginning the research will be coloured by lack of awareness of small stations.

Q. Post the initial meeting with various radio station heads and agency/client representatives on 3rd July, what is the status on research? We left the meeting with a few crucial questions - which research methodology (Recall or Dairy) to adopt and how should we define the universe. Where is the technical committee on these issues?

Post the meeting, we have asked Nielsen to share with us comparative international studies between dairy and recall study. We want to see if listenership of larger stations is boosted in a recall study. In case we don't have conclusive evidence, we have requested for some additional funds to conduct experimental research to arrive at the right methodology.

On universe definition, we are writing to agencies to seek their perspective.

Q. >When is the first round of data expected?

I would assume, some time in November. By then the listenership patterns would have settled.

    

Q. OK. Moving on, as senior media professional, what should radio stations do to ensure a high audience share? What should be their strategy?

I think, as a strategy, they should create exciting programming on time bands that are complimentary to television viewing and not competing. This programming should be focused at say youth in afternoons and working executives in evening.

Q. What about housewives? Will they become a key FM Radio audience?

Absolutely. Like every medium, there is a myth about FM Radio. That it is a medium of youth only. The programming and packaging of most radio stations reflect this belief. Even agencies have bought this myth. You see 'youth brands' dominating the airwaves. Coming to your question, housewives will surely become an important TG. If a station can empathize with her and address her local and personality issues, it will be bang on target.

Q. Right. What are the learnings from this high churn of satellite TV environment that can be transferred to radio programming and planning?

First, is that, as options multiplied, viewers had no loyalty. Again in radio stations with 5 choices from day one, there will be little loyalty. Whosoever is able to offer great entertainment at the given day part, the audience will be with him.

The other big learning from television is that big breakthroughs have come not from snatching shares from other programmes but by creating fresh audiences. Whether you take Hum Log, Mahabharat or KBC. Each of the big surges has come because programming created a completely different category. And not because one serial had a better dialogue or location than the other!

So everybody cannot remain a music station. They'll have to innovate. I think the big breakthrough in radio programming will come from the non-music format where a TG has strong personality identification.

Q. On Media Planning side?

I don't believe that we are in a business of delivering vanilla exposures, cost efficiently. We need to understand the personality and characteristics of FM Radio better and use it to the advantage of brands.

Brands should deliver their advertising message peppered with the personality of the medium. When that happens, then medium is working also as a creative!

And the cost of developing unique formats and content on Radio is much less than television. So I expect a lot of experiments on Radio.

Q. Finally, from here on, how do you see FM Radio evolving?

I think, in the beginning, brands and advertisers will drive the content. Given the comparatively lower cost of radio programming, brands will commit monies on formats and time bands and then try to create content-brand personality sync. And stations would be keen to get such commitments.

But finally, there is no substitute for editorial insight. Down the line, stations will drive the programming.

On the whole, I believe that Radio is a sleeping giant. And now it is waking up after a long slumber.

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