World Radio Day 2022: How the Radio industry is paving the way for its next phase of growth
Industry leaders walk us through the innovations in the Radio industry and what the future holds

World Radio Day 2022: How the Radio industry is paving the way for its next phase of growth

Industry leaders walk us through the innovations in the Radio industry and what the future holds
  • Every year, World Radio Day is celebrated on 13 February.
  • The theme of the 2022 edition of World Radio Day is devoted to ‘Radio and Trust’ because despite a global decline in trust in the internet and social media networks, radio continues to be seen by people as one of the most trustworthy news sources.
  • We speak to industry leaders to understand where Radio as an industry stands today in India, how it has evolved and what more needs to be done to make sure it continues to stand the test of time.
Back in the late 70’s, English new wave band The Buggles shot to fame with their incredibly catchy debut single, Video Killed The Radio Star which rued the technological changes that they thought would eventually kill the audio medium. This was the time when television was slowly becoming more popular and people were slowly moving from radio to the visually attractive video medium.

Fast forward 43 years and Radio has turned out to be one of the most resilient mediums. Radio has not just survived the coming in of television but also more technologically advanced audio devices be it our Walkmans and CDs, to now even audio streaming app. It has been the ultimate survivor that has evolved with the dynamic changes in consumer behavior and has adapted well to the changing times.

While the pandemic led to an obvious drop in ad volumes on the medium, things are slowly on the path to recovery. If recent data from TAM is to be believed, after a 27% drop in radio ad volumes in 2020, there was a 29% year-on-year growth in 2021.

Every year, World Radio Day is celebrated on 13 February. The Day was decided by UNESCO back in 2011 during its 36th conference. The theme of the 2022 edition of World Radio Day is devoted to ‘Radio and Trust’ because despite a global decline in trust in the internet and social media networks, radio continues to be seen by people as one of the most trustworthy news sources.

We thought this would be a good time to look at Radio’s evolution and understand what has led to the medium’s resilience and continued relevance.

The evolution of Radio: Adapting to changing consumer needs

Despite being one of the oldest mediums, Radio has stood the test of time. Apart from the fact that it has massive reach in the country, it still remains one of the most trusted mediums. Over the past few years, most of the major FM players have gone digital because at the end of the day, it is all about evolving with consumer needs and giving them exactly what they want.

On a few things Mirchi has done in the past few years to stay relevant, Prashant Panday, MD & CEO, Mirchi, ENIL said, “We’ve understood that our listeners want their radio station at their convenience. We have therefore curated some of our stations which are available on Gaana.com. In international markets (US, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain to begin with), we have launched our own digital platform on which our consumers across those countries can consume Mirchi radio stations from their own country and from back home in India! Secondly, we have understood that our listeners love audio stories. With this platform, we offer exciting audio stories and entertainment across multiple languages! Moreover, we also make podcasts and audio stories for external platforms like Gaana and Spotify.”

During the last two years of the pandemic when the internet was full of misinformation and fake news, radio came to play a critical role, that of a trusted source of information. “In addition to bringing people closer during the lockdown, it also built a community that thrived on shared togetherness and positive influence,” explained Abe Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited. “At BIG FM, we partnered with multiple audio platforms for our marquee properties and key offerings. Collaborating with these platforms opened many industry doors for us, sparking the idea of perfect amalgamation of radio and digital which gave rise to a host of opportunities to distribute content to a global audience. Entering the Web Radio space through digitalization, we forayed into the digital radio space via a touchpoint like BRO – BIG Radio Online. We also entered the podcast space as a prime example of a radio network taking the next big step towards becoming an audio entertainment company,” he added. In fact, Big FM also launched its social commerce platform BIG Living last year, to build a stronger connect with its consumers.

The past few years have brought about a sea change in consumer needs and preferences and for the medium, the task has not just been to understand this evolution but also to change with it. “As listeners have evolved in respect to their content consumption choices, we have consistently strived to produce a full-fledged package that includes viable content, good music, and wholesome entertainment on radio as well as on our digital platforms. We were the first ones to adapt to the digital medium and launched our first internet radio station 11 years back. We have grown to provide 18 online radio stations, each with its own distinct and relatable regional programming content. We are seeing favorable advertising sentiments for radio as we continue to emerge as a pioneering force in the Indian radio space and expand our digital capabilities,” shared Ashit Kukian, Chief Executive Officer, Radio City.

However, what has continued to keep the medium relevant is keeping consumers at the core of everything they do, said Nisha Narayanan, Director & COO, RED FM and Magic FM. “The audience has a wide spectrum of entertainment options available today. Customization is the key word today where each one wants to be in his own space and enjoy the entertainment. For giving the most to our consumers, we are constantly in sync with their aspirations and needs. We strive to provide our listeners with a wholesome experience built over Radio, Digital, on-ground events and IPs and a wide array of content in the formats of podcasts, indie music and user-generated content creation and dissemination,” she shared.

Putting the best foot forward for advertisers

With evolving consumer needs, the expectations of advertisers have also evolved. While ensuring the medium puts its best foot forward for its listeners over the years, a lot of work has also gone behind coming up with robust advertising solutions for advertisers.

Talking about why radio continues to be a strong advertising medium, Anupama Singh, Consultant – Content Management, Carat India, “Radio as a medium, at one end of the spectrum, works as the last mile reminder medium and at the other end, helps the marketers to reach the audiences in the media dark areas, where electricity/literacy can be a challenge. The privatisation of Radio in 2001 opened a lot of opportunities to the marketers- large and small. For large marketers, radio helps to build frequency and hyper-local targeting. For retailers, it is a cost-effective medium that helps them reach their audience with the least spillover.”

So how has the medium been working on giving robust solutions to advertisers? Talking about the kind of solutions they have been working on providing, Narayanan said, “We never believed in offering vanilla solutions as radio offers opportunities to innovate and micro target at the city levels. With our RJs being influencers in their own way, we firmly believe that a good solution, coupled with its delivery are equally important.” She further ads that their approach has always been to offer integrated solutions comprising of multimedia platforms. “We are also collaborating with many of them in designing their creatives through audio and video, besides taking care of other communication needs. Integrated multimedia campaigns and on ground, digital podcast productions for the clients are something that we take up as customized projects,” explained Narayanan.

Today, it is all about coming up with bigger and better solutions for advertisers, said Panday. “We used to house our digital products within Solutions in the past. We are now carving digital products out of Solutions. With our platform launch in international markets, we will start aggregating audiences on our own platform. This will give us unprecedented insights on our consumers, something that has been missing on FM radio and even external platforms. We will also finally have our own digital inventory to offer to advertisers. Therefore, a whole lot of action can be expected from Solutions and Digital. Together, we expect this to grow from one-third to half of our revenues in the near future. FM radio may grow at 6-8% in the years ahead, but Solutions and Digital can grow at 15-18% CAGR for many years to come,” he said.

What the future looks like

As a medium, Radio has a huge potential. It is an interactive medium that holds its listeners’ attention by offering socially-viable content and enhanced on-air properties. The medium’s digital platforms have become another consumer touchpoint. Moreover, most radio stations have powerful influencers in their RJs who have been able to build a deep connect with their listeners on various social media platforms making them strong voices in the industry.

However, with consumers wanting to access content according to their own convenience, one of the biggest challenges for traditional radio was the fact that it could bit be accessed on-demand. “However, to address this, the radio industry is now transforming themselves into an audio entertainment company by venturing into podcasts, videos through web radio, and social content for the modern generations who want content at their fingertips at all times. The change in consumption patterns has given rise to a new trend in the radio industry with digitalization being the new trend,” said Thomas.

On what is feels need to be done to ensure the medium stays relevant even in the future, Kukian said, “There needs to be a true amalgamation of traditional and new-age medium with radio being the core. Within the world of digital, Radio as a platform provides a direct emotional connect with the audience. In today’s time, radio is not confined to just on-air audio content, but has also moved to online platforms and this phenomenon is only bound to grow as we move forward. Therefore, integrating radio with digital viz ‘Radigitalization’ a term coined by me, is going to play a central role for the radio industry in the future.”

Sharing a similar thought, Singh added, “Using innovative content formats on digital platforms such as podcasts and partnering with various music platforms like Spotify and Gaana to market their content going forward, is what the future for radio looks like.”

Private FM stations worldwide have been fast moving from analog to digital globally and the future could look very different. HD Radio from Xperi Corporations that offers Digital Radio Technology for Radio Stations, Car Radio System, Mobile and any device which has radio built in services has successfully conducted a trial to provide digital radio technology for FM frequencies with All India Radio (AIR) recently. Speaking about how things are at an inflection point, Ashruf El-Dinary, Senior Vice President, HD Radio, Xperi Corp said, "While countries across the world have been transitioning their mass media from analogue to digital over the past 20 years, in India, Radio broadcasting has largely remained analogue. Moving from analogue to digital broadcasting is an effective way to future-proof the radio industry while closing the digital divide. Our HD Radio team has developed FM broadcast solutions that deliver information, entertainment, and critical alerts to automotive, home and mobile devices. We created the future and see great opportunities for digital radio broadcasting in India."