The Difficult Selling of Online Radio


Like most other industries, the media is going through difficult economic times. Media planners and buyers are increasingly looking for maximum return on investment as well as in-depth campaign feedback for their clients. This makes it more difficult to sell advertising space, especially for the online radio platform, which is still trying to prove itself as a reliable and profitable investment.

The number of unofficially measured listeners, the skepticism of agencies that are still stuck in the traditional buying mentality, the high cost of data in South Africa, the lack of knowledge people have about where they can find the platforms , and many who fear the unknown, are all problems plaguing online radio platforms, especially when it comes to trying to convince agencies and clients to part with their ad spending.

Tim zunckel

Liberty Radio Awards CEO Lance Rothschild summed it up perfectly, saying: “Online-only broadcasters don’t generate any real income and to my knowledge this is a global trend.

Radio management and programming consultant Tim Zunckel shares Rothschild’s point of view, saying, “Online radio has not been very successful in finding a revenue model that best suits the medium. We’ve approached it from a very traditional point of view, where we have a product and we’re trying to sell traditional advertising… People have to think about their programming and how their content is appealing to advertisers. We have taken the old FM model and we have just changed the delivery platform and that is disappointing, ”he said.

Station scenarios

Jon Savage, founder of The eye, recounts how they’ve been “immersed in pitches for over a year now, from agencies to brands big and small – of all levels and if I’m honest we haven’t yet closed an advertising budget with real legs, ”he says.

“It’s VERY frustrating because we now host one of the biggest shows in the country and believe we have one of the biggest digital audiences per FAR, but we still struggle to find brands that are brave enough to spend some money on. money in the digital radio space… Brands always feel more comfortable spending money on well-known personalities than on meaningful content. ”

Busi Ntuli

Busisiwe Ntuli, founder of Trans-African Radio, says: “Advertisers are always more comfortable advertising through paid interviews and on our website, rather than on the online radio platform.”

TransAfrica Radio, as well as Gareth Cliff’s online radio offering, CliffCentral, have participated in campaigns to inform agencies and clients about the support and the opportunities it presents.

National and traditional radio auction houses have noticed all the effort online stations make; United Stations now sells advertising for The Eye and CliffCentral.

Wake Up OnlineSouth Africa’s leading online radio auction house is also making great strides by adding TransAfrica Radio and Massiv Metro to its portfolio of 11 online stations and forming partnerships with major agencies and clients. direct. “It was not very easy to sell us, not to have someone independent who could verify what we are really saying, so the agencies were quite skeptical,” explains Ntuli.

Awake Online offers integrated packages on several online stations in its portfolio.

Integrated advertising packages

In addition to selling traditional radio advertising formats, including the 30-second advertising spot, all online stations surveyed create integrated advertising packages, offering more than online radio space in order to enhance attractiveness to agencies and brands. .

“We’re still selling traditional radio advertising, while we set up our digital feeds and get the stats from the digital side,” says Tony Mallam of Massiv metro. “Ultimately we want to be a digital radio station with a very large electronic database, but at the moment we are using the traditional methods of radio advertising, coupled with an integrated approach, also integrating it with the rest. of Massiv Media “, he adds. This includes the out-of-home television and digital television assets that Massiv Media owns.

“Online radio is always a tough sell,” Mallam says, “But we’ve managed to attract seven or eight mainstream advertisers… The biggest problem is that media buyers, strategists and planners are using Telmar, and if you’re not on Telmar, you’re not even on their radar. You have to sell yourself, be a lot more visible and make a lot of noise to get their attention; you are not an automatic purchase ”.

The end of the game for Massiv Metro down the line is getting to programmatic buying, with a hybrid of that and traditional radio advertising.

For CliffCentral, advertising options include podverts and podvertorials (words coined by the station to include live, interview and branded content done in an authentic, conversational style and distributed as podcasts), amplified by social media and live events.

TransAfrica Radio paid for the interviews, as well as outside shows and activations, and amplification on its social media channels and website. It also introduced a “cost per listen” revenue model as opposed to a general cost.

Actual engagement audiences vs. mass reach

One of the main selling points of online radio is the targeted audience the stations serve, with Ntuli commenting that online radio guarantees listenership, while traditional radio operates on estimates.

Gareth cliff

“Brands are slowly adopting things at the cutting edge of technology and The Eye is at the cutting edge of technology! We’re playing in the space of content and culture in a way that many traditional brands would never dare, ”says Savage. “Our business proposition is focused on real engagement audiences and real numbers – we try not to deal with ‘reach’ because we think the term is too imprecise. You can buy reach but you can’t buy engagement… Our whole goal at The Eye is to show that 30,000 truly engaged fans is a hundred times more powerful than a 3,000,000 reach.

CliffCentral founder Gareth Cliff has a strong message for brands and agencies: “More than ever, business is driven by constant and relentless change, and if advertisers don’t embrace that change, they will get stuck and will lose their relevance. CliffCentral is no longer a platform for the future; it is the platform of the moment.

Notice everyone, the online radio is here. It will become more and more prevalent over time, and it looks like it will consume more and more branded ad spend.

Stream radio on DStv

Another non-traditional way to listen to radio, although intended for traditional radio stations, is by using the DStv audio platform. There are currently 58 radio channels and 36 DMX audio channels on this platform. They are offered as added value to DStv customers and the media group does not sell airtime on them. The channel’s delivery costs on the DStv platform are negotiated with the radio stations concerned.

While DStv declined to give a breakdown of the number of listeners, the group said in a statement: “DMX audio channels are the most popular among our DStv Premium customers, while radio channels are more popular with our customers. on other DStv packages. “

Asked how audio channels are chosen to appear on their audio platform, DStv replied, “We are looking at the channel’s audience and audience, and whether our customers are interested in getting the channel. As this is highly motivated by our clients for our clients, the process is usually initiated by the radio station itself. There is a cost for the channel to deliver their feed to us, but a reward in that their audience is not limited by geography and they become accessible to all DStv customers in South Africa. Our DMX audio channels come from a single supplier who organizes the playlists for each channel according to the music rights available in South Africa.

Jon Savage, L ‘Eyeil


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