The Online Radio Opportunity | Online media
The South African radio industry has proven over the past 20 months to be robust, agile and adaptable. The public and advertisers turned to radio stations for information, camaraderie and mutual connection. The power of the radio industry is highlighted in the latest RAM BRC data and this shows that the appetite for radio remains strong.
Many radio brands across the country have cultivated a deep trust with their audiences using their FM and digital platforms. This relationship has become increasingly important as the dependence on their primary source of news, entertainment and information increases. The rise of fake news and calculated disinformation is fought with reliable service, and radio has a proven track record in this regard.
In the wake of Covid-19 separating people socially, radio has managed to bridge the gap by practicing inclusiveness. Radio listeners now feel like they are part of communities and groups through storytelling, content, virtual activations and compelling engagement.
Radio audiences are constantly evolving, with connectivity and choice being the determining factors. Recent developments between mobile operators and ICASA concerning spectrum, is driven by consumers’ accelerated need for greater and faster Internet connectivity. Advancing work environments and consumer trends have catapulted people into the 4IR jets, enabling radio to create new opportunities for listeners in the digital space.
I’ve already talked about the benefits of a blended approach to new technologies and the power of our existing platforms. This statement remains true as we extend traditional and digital opportunities to our audiences. The Internet remains a key element for new audio offerings and niche content, online radio is not limited to reproducing FM services to audiences using the Internet. Perhaps as a starting point, why is online radio such a big opportunity for existing broadcasters?
Audio value chain
The South African radio industry has spent years developing and refining radio brands that resonate with the public. By understanding the power of broadcast and targeted delivery, successful industry players have created an audio value chain that advertisers and audiences alike rely heavily on.
Specialty programs and presenters have always created interesting additions to programming that has traditionally tried to attract the largest possible audience. Niche programming adds nuance and flavor to the sound of a station. Online radio is an opportunity to focus on niche audiences, music, and content. Online extends these pockets to full-fledged services.
Music streaming services and podcasts are considered major competitors for online radio. Through market research, we have found that radio is the perfect match for a variety of other media offerings. Radio is a meeting place for services and audiences. Online radio has the ability to promote and exploit audio on demand like podcasts, online radio creates opportunities to play and promote whole podcast parts or series. This medium still has the possibility of live engagement and human connection in real time and can integrate other audio content into the online listening experience.
Music streaming services are an opportunity for radio to broaden its offering. Since online radio enjoys the power of personality and character, this medium organically creates an organized music experience that can add emotion to a playlist. These can be extended to streaming playlists accessible as part of an integrated online radio experience. As good as the algorithms are, they don’t offer the warmth of personal experience.
Online radio stations can be grouped under one brand or can be an extension of a traditional FM station. As a result, a brand can offer many opportunities to listeners depending on their mood or situational need. Online radio is available with a swipe of the screen, in a variety of formats such as live sports, daily chats and casual hits.
As traditional practitioners, we understand the technology behind radio broadcasting. Online is a new space with a slightly different rulebook where brands can deliver premium audio offerings that don’t require huge budgets. Online radio is cost effective and reliable because we already have robust environments and technical infrastructure. We have experienced staff who have created the best online listening experiences using years of trial and error in FM environments. We have the technological know-how to deliver to a variety of distribution platforms.
Additionally, online radio creates a huge opportunity for media professionals, from presenters to journalists to content creators. Since geography is not an issue and technical barriers to entry are low, the industry is able to procure the best minds and skills available. We are also able to share our resources across multiple online stations, creating brand synergy and loyalty with talent that resonates with the public. Online radio creates flexibility which leads to more opportunities for everyone involved.
Technological developments and the more efficient use of streaming bandwidth improve the end-user’s listening experience. Using modern codecs also dramatically improves audio quality right at the point of broadcast. The cost of streaming from an online radio station has also always been seen as a barrier to entry, local provider IONO is able to provide an hour of audio streaming for as little as 20 m / b which dispels certainly the idea that online radio consumes a lot of bandwidth.
A colleague recently drove from Johannesburg to Cape Town listening to a local radio station, online. Despite a notable interruption in data transmission, most of the trip was spent with an online radio streaming via Bluetooth over the car stereo.
African Media Entertainment (AME) is excited about the opportunity that lies in the online radio space. AME radios (Algoa FM and OFM) have already extended their FM offer. OFM, covering the central regions of South Africa, carried out a very successful operation second online radio station serving a local musical need. On our radio platforms, we have highly trained practitioners who are excited to connect with existing and new audiences as we expand our footprint.
Dave Tiltmann is Managing Director of African Media Entertainment Group.
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