Guest Column: 11 Radio industry trends of 11 years that shaped up the radio space

In the face of radio’s growing popularity, players across categories have been working up the ladder by being relevant yet distinctive with their offerings

e4m by Tarun Katial
Updated: Oct 26, 2017 7:00 AM

The dynamics of consuming entertainment has changed over the years. Television, print, music apps, radio, all the mediums have undergone a transition with the changing times. In the face of radio’s growing popularity, players across categories have been working up the ladder by being relevant yet distinctive with their offerings. Being at the helm of a radio network since its inception, I have not only observed the progression of this industry but also have been an active participant by challenging fundamentals, adopting innovation and contributing to the medium’s growth. Today, radio stands tall with respect to its reach and the power of spreading information. It is no more just a means of entertainment but a world full of possibilities. This profile of radio as an imperative piece of mass-communication and entertainment has been built over the years. Here’s looking back at those 11 trends that shaped up the radio industry through the last 11 years.

Expansion of Private FM stations to Tier – II and Tier- III cities

Post the 1991 reform, private radio stations came into existence mainly in metro cities. A decade later, the number of private FM stations across the country flourished so much so that today we stand at a total of over 240 radio stations in India. The government upon realising the reach and effectiveness of this media has consciously made efforts to have its presence in remotest of towns and villages. Now, the frequencies reach out to people in the farthest corner of the nation, where other means of communication and connectivity might still be non-existent.

When marketers realised the potential of radio stations
Earlier, the most preferred platform for brands to place their advertisements was print and television. With the advent of private FM stations reaching out to the people in urban and rural sector, the ad spends on radio has witnessed an upward trend. As per the Madison Advertising Outlook 2017, radio advertising constitutes to 3.6 percent of the total advertising pie in India. Even in the digital age, where most ad campaigns are gaining popularity through social media platforms, radio stands strong in terms of effective ad campaigns with a high recall value and expansive reach.

The power of audio in being a changemaker
From being a medium of entertainment to getting real-time updates, radio has become a strong voice for social causes. Through constructive communication, meaningful brand associations and stronger connect with the RJs, radio players along with being vocal about raising awareness about issues in the society, also step ahead to actively work for the cause.
Initiating discussions and activities around eco-friendly concepts, educating the future generation about the need for water conversation and harmful effects of pollution, women empowerment, pothole issues, helping the needy and underprivileged through donation and many other social causes, have formed the core of private FM stations. Award-winning initiatives and RJs being honoured for taking up different initiatives, has added credibility to the radio’s power of being an enabler in bringing about positive changes in the society.

RJs - The new celebrities
When we say radio, what comes to our mind is tuning into a frequency and listening to a voice that captivates you through the show and music. While this continues even today, the connection with the RJs has evolved over time as listeners now want to know them by face value too. Today, radio is - listening to your favourite RJ with whom you can easily connect over Facebook live, meet them as contest winners and interact with them during on-ground activities. The popularity of RJs has risen to an extent that they are invited to participate in reality shows. The bond between an RJ and his audience is such that they happen to be much loved by the audiences even on other platforms. RJs enjoy a celebrity status and are recognised wherever they go, further bolstering radio’s popularity.

Celebrities turning RJs

One of the recent transformations that the radio industry has witnessed is the trend of established celebrities becoming RJs. Celebrities these days are connecting with their fans beyond the 20ft wide screen. Being an RJ is not an easy role to play. They have to be well informed. An RJ is required to connect with his listeners just through his voice, which emotes everything that they are feeling. This is an art in itself. Celebrities are putting themselves in the seat of an RJ and testing their mettle on this platform. Renowned artists like Annu Kapoor, Anu Malik, Anil Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Salim Merchant among many others have successfully donned the hat of a radio jockey. The trend of celebrities becoming RJs has gripped the radio industry and it is here to stay.

Shows across different genres finding its way on Radio
At a time, when radio is compared closely with television as a preferred medium for infotainment, the show formats on radio have undergone a stark transformation with a view to maintaining its listenership. From mostly airing romance and humour based shows, the channels are now bringing different genres of shows that cater to different sets of audience. Interesting show formats including sports, folk culture, trivia, technicalities of music making and more, have opened a world of insightful entertainment while on-the-go. This has also paved way for advertisers to reach out to a different set of target audience through a single brand while gaining effective ROI.

Inclusion of different genre of music
While there is so much content easily available to consume across different platforms, playing only Bollywood music does not fulfill the listening demands of the millennials. Radio stations are playing different genres of music and bringing different artists on-board to stand in the face of competition. Retro music has continued to work well on radio followed by core Bollywood and regional music. The newer likable additions such as folk, Sufi-folk fusion, devotional, independent music have found a place on the radio as well. Moreover, we are going a step ahead by re-creating popular songs as well as creating original music by collaborating with independent artists. It would be safe to say, that radio stations do not mean just Bollywood music anymore, they are serving their promise of providing more music to the listeners through the inclusion of different music formats.

Radio-jockeying - From a part-time job to a career
When private FM stations came into being, radio jockeying was considered as a part-time job. People questioned the livelihood of RJs believing they aren’t really earning and should consider doing another job to become financially stable. Then, gradually came in the recognition of being an RJ. They have fans like celebrities do, their opinions are heard and their views make a difference. This made everyone notice the hard work that goes behind being an RJ. Fame, the responsibility of being an empowering voice behind a brand, the technicalities and the knowledge that one requires to be successful at radio jockeying have given it recognition as a career option. RJs have also turned into career advisors for people who are keen to become an RJ. The established RJs mentor them and get them acquainted with all the hard-work that goes behind their celebrity status.

Radio a platform for storytelling
Malgudi Days has often been referred to as the best stories showcased on Indian Television. Even after decades, the essence of those stories is still fresh in viewers’ minds. That’s the power of good storytelling. The AZ Research Report released last year, states that over 64% population listens to radio every day hence, it makes for a perfect platform to bring invigorating stories to the millions. Since less than a decade ago, radio shows transcended from romance based fictional and non-fictional stories to more inspirational stories about life. Such stories form a deeper connect with listeners and help them reconnect with their inner-self. We have brought differentiation in story-telling through formats in music and content with ‘Hit The Hit Rahenge’ and ‘Suhaana Safar with Annu Kapoor’ respectively. More importantly, the mantra of storytelling works best on the radio because of the soothing voice of an RJ along with the excellent storytelling skills, take listeners to a world of limitless imagination, these stories while invigorating the audience’s imagination, inspires them. This helps the radio station with establishing a strong connect with the audiences, who keep coming back for more refreshing tales.

Radio expanding in the digital arena
With the advent of the digital era, radio has expanded its footprint in this space to reach out to its extended target audience. From RJs enacting in contextual videos, bringing contests on social media, connecting with listeners through FB live for live polling on debatable topics, posting real-time local updates and much more, have successively brought radio, its shows and RJs much closer to the digital savvy population.

In addition to the 10 industry trends listed above, I must say, radio in itself is a trend that has shaped the radio industry the way it is today. It has become an influential medium reaching out to millions with a sense of purpose. While facing challenges from other mediums, radio has sustained itself in all its glory and continues to be the second fastest growing medium with a growth rate of 13.2 percent according to Madison Advertising Outlook 2017.

Tarun Katial is the CEO of Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube