Radio is growing faster than other conventional mediums: Abraham Thomas

Radio City has secured the numero uno position in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore as per the latest RAM ratings and a recent A-Z research report. The radio station has been recognised as the most cost-efficient radio platform for advertisers in the country. 

According to RAM, Radio City is #1 based on Average Listenership % Share in Mumbai and Bangalore with 15% and 25.2% respectively. (Source: RAM, Markets: Mumbai and Bangalore, Demographic: 20+ All, Statistic: % Share, Day part: Mon – Sun 12am -12am, Place of Listening: All, Week 32- Week 35). Radio City’s recent programming line-up in Mumbai and Bangalore helped the network maintain its first position. 

With the announcement of Radio City Cine awards 2017 and flagging off auditions for Radio City Super Singer season 9 in 39 cities, Radio City is targeting this festive season with a an exciting programming line-up that reflects the local fabric of each city and is in sync with the preferences of the local listeners. As the most cost-effective radio station with a top-notch programming line-up, Radio City is poised to be the ultimate destination for brands looking forward to making maximum impact with their festive campaigns. 

In a freewheeling conversation with Adgully, Abraham Thomas, CEO, Radio City, speaks at length about the radio industry in today’s media landscape, puts the spotlight light on the ad cap, advertiser interest in the medium, festival programming line-up, radio audience measurement system and much more. Excerpts: 

Post the Phase III auctions, what are the challenges that Radio City has come across?
We have launched 11 new stations and we face competition in 22 of our markets. In that sense, the whole thing has been quite challenging, but these are also markets which are not new to radio. Radio has evolved a lot in the last 10-15 years. There is better understanding of the medium – both from the advertisers and from the listeners. Local advertisers are using more of radio now than they were doing earlier and also, the national advertisers are willing to use radio as the local medium. 15 years ago they would actually say that take the TVC and use the audio from there. Today, the same national clients are creating different creatives for different markets. Everybody now wants a local medium to reach their audience. Therefore, both national and local advertisers are using the medium for its strength. 

The other thing that radio very seamlessly does is that it is very easy to integrate digital and on-ground with radio compared to other medium. For example, all of our talents are digital influencers and they have a huge fan base. The message can be thus integrated into social media beyond radio. These things are actually helping advertisers get on to multi-media offerings. Hence, I think radio is growing faster than other conventional mediums. 

What about ad rate hikes and sustained advertiser interest?
We have been managing to get this kind of ad rate increase year on year. It is a strategic relationship, so it’s about what you can deliver and that’s how it happens. It is never in favour of making press announcements in terms of increase in ad rates. It is an individual attempt that we do and is on the basis of the value we deliver. Therefore, it’s been a fairly seamless process again. 

Where GST is concerned, there is little bit of lack of clarity, being burdened with not the paperwork but with the process of filing for pre-returns. So people have to be cautious pre-that and even post that, till the time we don’t get used to it. That is taking some amount of time. But I think they are over-the-arm. With this festive season, we are optimistic about the spends picking up. 

What about radio as a marketing platform in today’s scenario?
Obviously, the biggest medium for marketing is radio itself. We do a lot of online, digital and social media marketing, because that we have realised it creates a much greater buzz at the local level than conventional mass media. In order of priority, it’s a reverse now – we start with radio, then online and on-ground activities (in-mall activations) and some amount of mass media. 

Listeners feel that there is too much RJ chatter on radio compared to the music that is played...
I think the chatter is only from people who don’t listen to radio. While we keep a control on the duration of talking, it is the content that is the decider. If the content is interesting, it can go on for two minutes longer and people are okay with it. If there is no content, we tell the RJs to keep it short and move on. We have a certain process through which we identify at individual city level about what the format of the show should be. We try and keep it real and crisp. 

Aren’t radio players taking too frequent and long ad breaks?
The ad cap on radio is self-regulatory. I also believe that listener has the choice. The benchmark is set is around 13-14 minutes an hour. There are some peeks like festival season but the average we try and keep it to that. We look at it the different way. For us, the first thing is the songs. Even the clock will have so many minutes of music anyway. Then we get into the content and the ad. It’s not reverse. Songs don’t get compromised beyond a point. 

With copyright laws becoming more strict, what kind of challenges does that pose in terms of content acquisition or even airing the songs?
This has been an ongoing discussion in the industry for so many years and we have reached an understanding at a certain level, while some matters are in the court. But we have all struck our business relationships with the music owners. From that point of view, now it is said to be predictable. 

Why haven’t we seen too much of variation in the content on radio? How do you create a differentiation?
There is obviously a functional and emotional benefit that you offer your listeners. The functional benefit is that you are offering is great music – the kind of music that listeners like. Content that builds an emotional connect with the listeners is about city pride. So, if you are a true bred Mumbaikar, then it is Radio City, because we are about Mumbai; and the same goes for all the places that we are present in – be it Gorakhpur or Patna. Thus, the music and city connect are our differentiators. We map the mood of the consumer throughout the day and then we kind of match it with the kind of music that we play. So, there is a certain research-based method that we use in our programming. 

We use our day part very effectively. We have our Retro part 9 pm onwards, which is by far the most popular retro show. 

How is the industry working towards having a better radio measurement system in place?
Everybody today recognises the need for a better measurement to increase the ad-pie; unless the advertiser knows where he is investing his money, he is always apprehensive about putting more money onto the medium. So, measurement is an absolute imperative. The current system covers only four cities and has not been updated because of which it has its limitations. Therefore, the industry is now very seriously working towards arriving at a slightly more robust and larger study. The AROI is actively pursuing that and hopefully we will be able to announce a more inclusive kind of measurement soon, wherein more markets are covered. In measurement, it is always cost versus accuracy. If you want to be 100 per cent accurate, then the cost will be that much higher. Therefore, there is need to find a balance and also decide on who pays for it – the advertiser or the broadcaster. These issues are being worked out in details. But it is imperative that we have e robust measurement system in place, because a lot of markets have come in and there is no indication about them. 

Do you think there is a need for introduction of news content within the radio stations?
I think nobody has been as responsible as in handing news, especially crises, as radio, without sensationalising news. The primary objective has been not to spread panic. Radio a very responsible medium, time and again radio has proven that.


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