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Rachna Kanwar

SVP & Business Head, Digital Media & New Business | 29 Oct 2012

Online radio has a tiny share in the marketing pie. We had initial resistance from planners and clients. But this is ‘the’ medium, it is where people are converging, a space where people are coming and engaging. The spends on Internet are growing year on year. When you notice within that space how the money is spent, you will notice that there is a lot of experimentation that is happening.

A veteran digital specialist, Rachna Kanwar is SVP & Business Head, Digital Media & New Business at Radio City. She has spent over 19 years in the Media & Entertainment industry with multi-dimensional experience across radio, TV, documentary films and Internet.

An FM radio & Internet professional, Kanwar had worked with Bennett Coleman & Co (Times FM, Times Internet) prior to joining Radio City. She has held leadership roles in the areas of media product development & management and is currently responsible for music portal & web radio Planetradiocity.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Saloni Surti, Kanwar speaks about Planetradiocity, how web radio has grown over the years, media convergence, and more...

Q. Radio City was the first to initiate web radio. What was the rational behind it?

It came from various need gaps that we thought there were on the digital platform. One was of course the medium itself, basically the terrestrial radio. We could not take the exact thing on the Internet because of various government regulations and that was a big need gap, because internationally people do have an online version of terrestrial radio and there is lot a synergy that exists between the two platforms – terrestrial as well as online.

The other reason was that listeners had been talking about differentiation on radio and because of certain reasons we could not offer different genres of music on terrestrial and that is why we decided to offer the service on the Internet and that’s where we started multi-genre radio stations. There was a lot of differentiation on the online platform because at that point, and even today, music is served in a very uniform format in all the websites. Radio City has always taken pride in its music expertise, so we also thought of using this music expertise and create a specialised product for our listeners online.

Q. Since the time of its inception, how do you think Internet radio has grown in the industry?

When we launched, it was a very fledgling medium. It was very new and people did not really understand when we spoke to people. But listeners are very smart, especially online listeners, and they keep trying out new formats. Initially, there was resistance or ignorance. But since then a whole lot of media is now moving on to the Internet and so is music and radio. Thus, today when we talk about online radio, a whole lot of other players have entered the market – though their offerings are not as engaging and they are not really web radio – but people are taking note and there is a lot of traction now.

Q. How is programming on the web different from traditional on-air programmes?

The biggest difference would be that terrestrial is local and web is global. Terrestrial is more focused on local, while the online platform goes to everyone; the content cannot be restricted to local area, it has to be appealing to global India. So, if you keep in mind the global listeners, automatically the programming changes.

The TG for both is extremely different. Their preferences are different, the kind of interactions you can have are very different.

Q. What are the challenges in creating content for online streaming?

If we are reaching out to a vast audience, one has to keep in mind that they cannot keep content local. So they cannot give local references nor can they speak about local issues. Once you have your TG clear, there is no challenge as such in creating content.

Q. Please share your views on media conversion.

I think Internet is a medium where all other media is converging today. I don’t think it is right to call it as the future anymore, it is the present. Everybody is taking note of that, for radio it is becoming very critical to take note of that, because music forms a very important part of radio and consumption online has increased tremendously in the last few years. Thus, Internet is a very important medium.

Q. Are you taking any initiatives to integrate your web portal with other mediums?

In 2009, we merged our both entities – RadioCity.in and PlanetRadiocity.com into one music portal. We are very active and keen on taking the Radio City brand forward on digital. In terms of the portal, one immediate thing that comes to mind is ‘Freedom Hour’. It was an extension from terrestrial to digital. It was later aired on terrestrial as ‘Freedom Hour’. We are extending that platform to independent artists on the mainstream channel. We use a lot of inventory and our promos on air. Thus, we use our terrestrial medium to promote our digital property and vice versa.

Q. Radio already has a small share in the marketing mix, what is advertisers’ approach to online radio?

Online radio has a tiny share in the marketing pie. We had initial resistance from planners and clients. But this is ‘the’ medium, it is where people are converging, a space where people are coming and engaging. Thus, people are realising the importance of the medium. The spends on Internet are growing year on year. When you notice within that space how the money is spend, you will notice that there is a lot of experimentation that is happening.

I would say that even how we are selling is slightly different, because for us it becomes another radio station. We already have 20 stations and our online portal becomes the 21st station. Our sales people are also able to sell it like that. I won’t say it is easy to sell, but I would say gradually people are taking note of it.

Most of our advertisers are coming from terrestrial advertising, such as Vodafone, Kent RO, Benadryl, TVS and so on.

Q. Where do you see web radio five years from now?

Five years from now, web radio will be at the centre-stage of any kind of media online. All media today are converging on the Internet, a lot of people are consuming music and radio on digital. Today we see people accessing radio apps on their cell phones, we see a lot of people tuning in to digital radio at their work places. It is a very dynamic space and the way people are consuming media has changed a lot. Today, television consumers watch content online; I see the same happening for radio.

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