No unified measurement: So, how does the radio industry work?

Radio operators, in the absence of an extensive unified measurement currency, adopt RAM, IRS 2018 or data from third-party research agency. How does it work for them?

e4m by Madhuwanti Saha
Published: Aug 27, 2018 9:00 AM  | 7 min read

Radio Mirchi’s second channel Mirchi 95 pulls in 9.6 lakh listeners in Bengaluru & Hyderabad, and Red FM has more than 35 per cent market share in Kerala. Thanks to the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) launched this year, these detailed breakups of the listenership data are now available with radio channels.

Undoubtedly, such insights from IRS data based on listener profile, demographics, frequency and timeband come in extremely handy for the radio industry, which does not have a unified measurement in place. And in the absence of a unified system, most players take help of third-party agencies, commission independent researches or subscribe to Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) data by TAM Media Research.

To each his own
Take, for instance, ENIL-led Radio Mirchi. Prior to the launch of IRS, which they have now adopted as their currency, the radio station worked with IPSOS, the third largest market research company in the world to gather listenership data from 2015-17. The channel had initially subscribed to RAM data, but pulled out of it in 2015.

According to GG Jayanta, National Marketing Head, Radio Mirchi, IRS 2017 is an “excellent tool”.
“It shows the importance of radio as a medium and category. The penetration of radio has increased by 15 percentage points in urban areas, from 15% to 28%, representing a growth of 87% in listenership,” he shared.

Another big player, Red FM, follows IRS to a certain extent, especially for tier-II and III towns. However, the station, depending on the need, conducts qualitative study in different markets from time to time.

Nisha Narayanan, COO & Director, RED FM & Redtro and CEO, Digital Radio, shared, “To enhance the product and marketing, we do an internal research that we mostly keep to ourselves. But the industry needs a unified radio measurement system.”

Homegrown international players such as Radio One measure consumer behaviour through an internal tool called ‘The International Indian Monitor.’ It helps them track the unique upscale audience digitally using social media.
Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD & CEO, 94.3 Radio One, mentioned, “For reach quantitative measurement of radio, the annual IRS study is good. But the radio industry needs to understand that advertisers want engagement data, and reach is not enough.”

However there are stations, such as My FM, that neither follow IRS nor RAM. My FM, which operates out of 30 tier-II and tier-III cities, follow their own currency for product purpose.
Rahul Namjoshi, Business Head, MY FM, shared that they work with an agency called Karvy. They conduct quarterly survey with 200 respondents as sample size in top 12 cities each.
“The idea is to improve our product and see where we stand. It gazes the listenership preferences on RJs, music and timeband,” Namjoshi said.

Let's talk sales
The advertising revenue of the industry is estimated to grow by 10 per cent in 2018 to stand at Rs 2,063 crore. But in an industry governed by advertising revenue and somewhat challenged by the lack of a unified measurement currency, how does the stations sell their inventory?
In most cases, advertisers take a 360-degree approach that goes beyond FCT to digital and on-ground properties. Moreover, some are of the opinion that radio is not sold on measurement but on engagement, impact, reach and frequency.

According to Narayanan, radio inventory is sold based on brand perception. As a result, they are part of most of the media plans, especially if the planner wants to reach out to the younger audience.
Talking about the strategy followed by her channel, Narayanan said, “We don’t restrict to FCT as we believe in a 360-degree approach. There are different verticals for revenue generation such as digital and events. Content monetization is another area we focus on. It can be combined based on client requirement (event, digital supported with on-air).”

Radio Mirchi uses IRS 2017 as its currency to sell its inventory to the advertisers. Jayanta shared, “They (advertisers) are looking for a full suite of solutions beyond radio, encompassing integration with all or any of our concerts, events, digital and web series. Our business has grown on the back of ideas, innovation and partnership with the client.”

My FM works on their “client’s business challenges”. Namjoshi claimed that their approach is different from others.
“We propose media solutions (such as on-ground activation) which can address business challenges.”
The station has been working with national and local brands (such as Lotus Electronics store in Indore) for the past 11 years, he said.

But Asheesh Chatterjee, CFO, Big FM, is of the opinion that radio is sold more as a medium with “high-impact, high-frequency reach.”

Big FM, one of the subscribers to RAM, operates more on the ‘hero, hub, hygiene’ model. The station has worked with more than 1,800 brands.

Chatterjee explained, “Heroes are the bigger tentpole properties with highest brand recall such as Big Golden Voice. In hub, comes our real estate, gadget and movie review shows which have a narrow TG. These unique formats offer rich content integration. This makes the brand recall much better as the client message is passed across in a far more meaningful and clutter-breaking manner. Big FM looks at platform agnostic solutions. Some solutions get augmented in radio and are amplified on digital property.”

Meanwhile, even media planners feel challenged as the medium suffers from a lack of sufficient reliable and regular data. Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO of South Asia Dentsu Aegis Network - Aegis Group, shared, “There isn’t sufficient radio research in India. It is a challenge for media planners as they have to evaluate based on their judgement, intuition and the paltry available data. As a result, it has remained a relatively smaller medium.”

Advertisers like KidZania, who has Radio City as their radio partner, look at RAM figures given by agencies and stations. Tarandeep Singh Sekhon, Marketing Director, KidZania, said, “I am making do with what’s available. With a mix of qualitative feedback, we mostly do FCT and bigger activation.”

So while different stations resort to different ways to measure their audience, industry experts feel that it is absolutely necessary for the category to have a unified audience measurement system. Well, the good news is that AROI and MRUC are currently working on such a system.

Where’s RAM heading
RAM subscribers keep a track of their weekly data from four main markets based on physical diary-entry method. But the methodology will soon transition into digital medium as TAM Media Research is testing a software that captures in-mobile listening.

L V Krishnan, CEO, Tam Media Research, explained, “With listening to audio content getting more skewed to the mobile platform, it is only imperative that measurement moves in the same direction. Hence, we are testing a measurement software that picks up the audio bits of the content for that specific frequency. The software encrypts whatever is getting transmitted or listened by the audience. At the second level, it reports which station and what respondents listen to. It’s all real time basis. It’s the stage one of going digital.”

“With no hardware needed in this method, the measurement is scalable in nature and can be expanded to remaining markets. Also, this fits into our overall vision of measuring not just radio, but audio as well. In this manner, we will also be able to measure audio streaming apps and podcasts on mobile device. Thus one can measure the interplay between various audio platforms,” Krishnan added.
For the process, Tam Media Research has roped in Vtion as their software partner and field agency Kantar. The research agency plans to unveil the new system for some markets this year-end.

So, till the new unified measurement system takes shape and TAM’s digital measurement comes to form, the current state of affairs with regards to measurement and selling, it seems, will continue.

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