How digital integration helped radio up its scale during the pandemic

Radio industry leaders share insights on the digital innovations they have curated and how brands can benefit from the rise in online integration

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Updated: Dec 2, 2020 9:03 AM
Radio digital innovations

The pandemic has caused massive disruption in media and amplified digital innovations. Radio, like every other medium, saw the opportunity to revolutionize and has identified new delivery platforms to leverage content.

FM channels have either launched flagship digital properties or partnered with music OTT platforms to stay in tune with their TG. With this digital integration, industry heads say interest among brands will peak as it is paramount in today’s times to have a presence in the digital space.

e4m spoke to radio industry leaders to understand the digital innovations FM channels have conceptualized, the OTT platforms they have partnered with and the road ahead for integrations.

Digital Innovations
According to Abraham Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited they forayed into the space of web radio with the launch of BIG Radio Online (BRO), a platform for young adults who seek entertaining and motivating content. “In these times of entertainment from home, we have been successfully conducting digital concerts through our property BIG Café Online. Recently, we got a huge response for our ‘Facebook presents Dil Se Duniya’ concert with Shreya Ghoshal and also for our recent fundraising digital concert with Sunidhi Chauhan that was part of our campaign Together Against Cancer.”

“We embrace digitalization in the way we sell as well. Our re-launched ‘Buyadsonbigfm.com’ for the long tail of advertisers is to create solutions, create packages, buy spots and make payment at the mere click of a button,” Thomas remarked.

Sharing more insights was Rahul Balyan, Chief Digital Officer, Mirchi, “While Mirchi is known as a leader in FM, Mirchi’s digital reach is double its FM reach. This transformation of Mirchi has been happening over the last many years, and when the lockdown happened, our creative teams were well-positioned to leverage this digital reach. We adapted quickly and started creating content through video calls with celebs, doing live sessions with music artists. We created a lot of feel-good content when everyone was feeling overwhelmed by the lockdown in the early days. As a result, since the lockdown, our YouTube subscribers have grown by 20%, to now reach 11Mn. On social media, our 170 RJs who have a following of over 18Mn, also grew their follower base by over 20%.”

Talking about the work done at RED FM and Magic FM, COO and Director, Nisha Narayanan shared, “We reinvented ourselves by taking our Red Live IP’s from on the ground to digital. We successfully executed the South Side Story around Onam and the Dugga Dugga Festival during Durga Pujo. The SSS was a ticketed event and the Dugga Dugga fest was by invitation streamed on the Bookmyshow platform.”

Podcast offerings have got a big boost too, she said. “We also went a step forward by advocating about podcast content variety and launched ‘The Podcast Hour’ on-air in the HSM market in partnership with Spotify.” The Podcast Hour on RED FM was aimed to bridge the gap between audio and radio and help our listeners discover new audio content on our station, Narayanan said.

For Rachna Kanwar, COO, Digital Media, Radio City and Mid-day, there have been several digital campaigns done across all social media platforms which were in tandem with Radio City’s on-air communication. “This helped us generate a stupendous 280% growth in our social media reach numbers. We also leveraged our RJ influencers and their reach to drive these campaigns.”

Speaking about the digital campaigns they curated, Kanwar shared, “To highlight some of our digital campaigns, we did Instagram live videos during the lockdown with famous personalities like Dia Mirza, Kapil Dev, Shruti Hasan, Rana Daggubati that garnered an overwhelming response from netizens. We associated with Think Music, Divo, Aditya Music & D Beats to conduct Facebook Lives for our popular IP ‘Concert From Home’ in the Southern cities of Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore with participation from some of the biggest names in the South Music Industry. We also partnered with Virtual Planet to entertain the audience in Rajasthan. Both these activities saw 2 Million live viewers and witnessed a total reach of 3.5 Million. This is the testimony of having a strong relationship with our audience as well as expanding our audience base. Through all these digital campaigns, we have brought the perfect concoction of entertainment, socially relevant content, and curated initiatives, providing an exciting digital experience for our listeners across the country.”

Partnership with OTT platforms
For Thomas, BRO has been partnering with various audio streaming platforms.

Speaking about how Spotify has helped them leverage, Thomas said, “Our partnership with Spotify enables users with access to more than 15,000 minutes of BIG FM’s select content spread across 13 marquee shows and 1,240 episodes. Add to that our key properties such as ‘BIG Spotlight’, an interactive show, features eminent leaders and influencers from across industries along with ‘Baat Ghar Ki with UltraTech Cement’ hosted by Ravi Kishan are available in podcast format on aawaz.com to reach a wider and newer set of listeners.”

Narayanan commented, “We did partner with various delivery platforms. Our podcast offering gets syndicated on all the popular podcast platforms and we work very closely with these distribution partners. Our premium live events were streamed as deferred live for a one time watch on the Bookmyshow OTT platform. We also made changes in our podcast backend and embarked on a robust CMS that gave us legroom to start to serve programmatic ads on our podcast streams.”

He stated that streaming is a new delivery platform for us and we will be present on platforms where our audience is, and today we are on all on-demand music and podcast platforms with our originals. She says, “We certainly see streaming as a strong distribution channel, but it is still a small pie when compared with terrestrial radio reach and consumption habits.”

Kanwar remarked, “For businesses like ours, it is essential to identify new delivery platforms to leverage content. OTT platforms have been helping the brands to create original content for the audience both across geographies and demographics. After thoroughly analyzing the OTT space and exploring our options, we signed a 3-year licensing deal with Spotify wherein our audience can listen to more than 1400 episodes featuring 16 of our audio IPs. Our premium and award-winning audio IPs will target not only Spotify users in India but also the diaspora that is on the audio streaming platform across the world. With the world moving rapidly towards the digital space, brands must have a strong presence here. Digital content streaming is here to stay, and it will open a wide array of opportunities for us and every other brand to reach our audience.”

Balyan shared, “We have a partnership with Gaana, and we curate 24 radio stations for them. We created a new station in the lockdown called ‘Mirchi Toota Dil’, which was designed to help people overcome their disappointments with life. There were many stories of people feeling alone and depressed in the lockdown, so this station was created as a companion to those who were feeling low. Now one of the top-3 stations in our digital station portfolio called ‘Mirchi Toota Dil’ clearly touched a chord with the digital consumers. We also saw people going back to their comfort zones and nostalgia becoming a big theme, which reflected in our ‘Mirchi 90s’ station becoming the top-5 station in the portfolio. The overall consumption of these stations saw significant growth as people consumed more entertainment in the lockdown – across both digital and FM.”

Radio digital integration
Thomas stated, “With Radio + Digital being the future of the industry, we believe that this has given an advancement to the brands to build a holistic audio entertainment experience for listeners as well as for brands to leverage. With the world becoming more digitized and the disappearance of geographical barriers, the opportunities for distribution of audio content to global audiences is growing immensely. For us, the focus is surely on adding incremental reach through multiple touchpoints.”

Thomas said that through their initiative Big Partnerships, they are exploring synergies with different platforms to offer amplified reach to our advertisers and our content. Big FM has signed up 20+ partnerships where clients can get a potential audience reach of over 15 crores. These include audio streaming apps, digital platforms, OTT platforms, TV, OOH and we are in active discussions with multiple partners. These partnerships are incremental as audiences can be monetised through this.

Narayanan shared, “The potential power of radio and digital advertising becomes clear. When combining digital and radio, businesses have seen incredible results. The value proposition for brands has only got enhanced with digital and certainly it is more bang for the buck as digital and radio is a potent combination where feedback loop gets closed and the brands also get an opportunity to engage with their TG directly.”

Balyan sharing his perspective said, “Given the reach of 60Mn digital consumers a month, Mirchi can add a lot of muscle to the client campaign beyond just radio. We now see Mirchi’s talent and content as being platform-agnostic, and thus even our client solutions are platforms agnostic.”

On a parting note, Kanwar concluded saying, “Every brand today wants its presence to be felt in the digital space. The extended lockdown has accelerated the pace of digital growth and it is now mandatory for brands to include digital in their marketing mix. Radio on the other hand is a traditional and one of the most engaging mediums. We have 17 web radio stations which are a part of our digital portfolio that gives an added benefit to the advertisers. This combined with our impressive social media presence and RJ influencers make radio a sure-shot winner on digital. Integrating radio with digital amplifies the audience base and brands can enjoy the benefits of both the mediums.” 

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