Does radio still pack a punch?
Community radio has experienced a tough year as advertisers cut their community budgets to sustain their commercial budgets for TV and radio. But there has also been growth in new advertisers who have tried the medium, found it effective, and continue to invest in it as a result.
Advertisers want a solid return on investment, including statistics and figures, to quantify their media decisions. They want measurability, accountability and value for money and because community radio is fairly unmeasured, it takes the knock when budget cuts are necessary.
Marketers and advertisers are demanding media platforms that offer more flexible and creative concepts; those that offer genuine interaction and response.
This is where community radio has the upper hand as they get what they are looking for from the listeners because it incorporates more than just community radio, with mobile and brand activation added to the mix. It is here that advertisers are able to get the measurability and response that they are looking for.
Community radio’s greatest competitor is not another medium, but rather the education of the media industry, and the lack information being fed back to the client. Over the past 10 years, community radio has grown from about 3-million to 8.8-million listeners, encroaching on the commercial radio space. In smaller broadcast areas, community radio even holds the market share of listeners within that particular footprint.
What holds it back is the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ philosophy as unless you are actually in a particular community radio station’s catchment area, you cannot listen to the broadcast. When it comes to advertising on community radio, media planners also tend to go for the easier option – booking with commercial radio – rather than finding out which stations actually target their clients’ audience directly.
While commercial radio often downplays the DJ personalities behind it, community radio generates its own mini celebrities as the DJs live within the community, are still ‘touchable’ and widely available to their listeners. Community radio stations often provide an excellent training and development base for their DJs, who are then poached by the commercial stations leaving community radio to start from scratch.
More than just airtime
Community radio offers more than just airtime. It can include brand activations, sampling, store openings, push to mobile, competitions, interviews, call in and talk shows, and even docu-dramas.
More recently, the medium now also offers a broad spectrum of facilities to include Facebook, 70+ mobi-sites, in-station SMS dashboards and comment lines and opinion polls. Satellite broadcasting, where the client comes into one studio and can link up to any number of stations in any or all provinces at once, is also on offer.
The radio industry is saying goodbye to firmly structured and repetitive programming. ‘New Radio’ will be designed around fluid and creative concepts. The benefits for community radio is that it has always been fluid and flexible, offering it a positive selling point as the stations are always willing to accommodate a client who is looking for a slightly different angle for their advertising.
Listeners tune in because they like the specific format of the programming which is directed towards the immediate needs of the community. This makes catering for advertisers’ programming requirements fairly easy. Also, not all community listeners have the opportunity to tap into the digital aspect of media yet.
Some of the more upmarket urban stations are beginning to successfully integrate technology, the more rural listeners rely very heavily on radio to keep them informed and entertained. There is also reluctance from some of the listeners to start using digital platforms, as they don’t understand the costs involved and are not ready to spend money on something they don’t really understand.
A community radio station is a social media hub. But this is not necessarily within the digital space. The reception area is always full of consumers looking for help and/or information. Because the stations are involved in so many school projects, local sporting events, charities, old-aged projects and the like, they provide information and help large numbers of people daily. The stations have surprisingly strong links with top sportsmen, local government officials and local musicians, and are very in touch with what is happening around them.
There is a general misconception that community radio is ‘backyard’ radio, which caters for the lower LSM groups. As a result, this tends to prevent a lot of advertisers from investing in the medium.
However, this is not the case and advertising is on the increase with many advertisers trying out community radio, liking it, and slowly increasing their adspend. Community radio reaches people within their personal space. It involves the local community and evokes loyalty and participation from the listeners. It’s a penetrating medium, reaching consumers – from all races, religions and LSM groups – who have disposable income. Added to this, its geographical footprint is small, targeting people who actually want to listen to the radio, with little spillage, therefore making it cost effective.
Because community stations are mandated to cater for the needs of the community, they often structure their programming according to various age groups and other demographics. For example, on most stations, the morning show is aimed at a specifically female audience, with discussions around the home, cooking, health, children etc.
The afternoons are more generally programmed to include a more family aspect, and the evenings are centred either around more business, sports and economics, or music for the youth. Some stations focus their Saturday mornings totally around children, and stations like Bush Radio in the Western Cape, even have children running the entire morning show, from the DJs to the producers. It’s very easy to allocate the right advertiser to the right time channel on community.
Community radio stations are starting to understand that being professional and productive is of vital importance if they want to attract advertisers. We are seeing a higher rate of compliancy and the stations are starting to see that by going the extra mile for the client, they will increase their revenue. So now we are looking at stations who are getting serious about running their stations properly, and who are seeing the benefit of improved programming by steadily increasing listenership and therefore increased adspend.
I expect 2012 to be a year of growth and development for the sector, and am looking forward to new and exciting developments.
Rachelle Jaques is sales manager of The Media Connection.