Community radio advertising specialists, The Media Connection, have added new commercial radio stations to their offering. And no, it’s got nothing to do with Government Communications and Information System’s (GCIS) decision to centralise ad bookings for community stations on a platform of its own design.
“The GCIS’s decision to create a centralised booking system would be of great benefit to the community radio sector,” says key accounts executive, Rachelle Jaques. “It will assist in improving the infrastructure at station level, creating better financial benefits, which in turn would create improved professionalism, additional training and better programming. The Media Connection will be tendering, like other media owners, for the contract.”
Adding commercial stations, Rock FM, Kowie FM and MPower FM, to its portfolio of stations is a coup, though. “Although The Media Connection has traditionally focused on community radio, we have always had commercial stations under our roof, albeit outside of South Africa,” says Jaques. “We represent commercial stations in Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.
“So adding the likes of Northwest FM, MPower and Radio Pulpit is only complementing our community radio stable. This gives us the opportunity to offer our clients either highly localised community stations with a smaller footprint and higher concentration of listeners or regional commercial stations with a larger footprint.”
Just what is Rock FM? The station, says Jaques, is a small commercial outfit based at the Northgate shopping centre in Randburg. Rock FM 91.9 broadcasts to the surrounding areas including Fourways, Randburg, Bryanston, Sundowner, North Riding, Lanseria, Cresta and Kyalami.
“The two owners are Sean Erlston (Cani FM, Smart FM, Horizon Stereo, VCR Stereo, Radio Midrand) and Hector Motau (Kaya FM, Radio Bop, motivational speaker),” Jaques explains. “The station is licensed as a low power commercial station. Rock FM is a music station, which does not broadcast news, sports and traffic. The primary focus of Rock FM is the music, which is middle-of-the-road rock music ranging from The Rolling Stones and Journey, to the latest, including Nickelback, The Black Keys, and Coldplay, as well as some indie and pop rock.” The station has a three-year renewable FM broadcast license.
Of course, the community radio sector is where the Media Connection’s expertise lies, and that’s looking pretty good where advertising is concerned.
Jaques says they have noticed a “marked increase” in ad spend. “I do believe that part of this is due to the fact that the communities are relying quite heavily on their own stations to become the mouthpiece for the community, and addressing issues which are pertinent to the area. This, in turn, increases the listenership, that in turn increases the ad spend on the station.
“We have also seen advertisers turn away from blanket generic advertising, and looking for more creative and direct ways to get in touch with consumers, and community provides the ideal platform for this type of individual communication. The stations are extremely willing to accommodate campaigns that include competitions, interviews, and interactive elements This is making the medium more “useable” and measurable to the advertiser,” she says.
Jacques believes the hard work put into compliancy is also reaping benefits. “We have seen a marked improvement in the performance of stations, and their enthusiasm to go over and above the general call of duty and to give clients reasons to continue to utilise community radio.”
The Media Connection provides sales and administration to new stations but do they take on a mentoring role? Yes, says Jacques. “We spend time with each station training them on schedules, material logs, compliancy issues, recordings, contracts and other administrative roles. We also provide a bit of sales training if the station requests it. There is also interaction between the stations themselves and they often work together and get ideas from one another with regards to campaigns and programming,” she says. “Some stations offer their programmes to others on a syndication basis, so that there is quality programming available all the time.”
The community radio sector is one that appears to be growing, with more and more stations being launched. But Jaques says the industry is by no means saturated, and that there’s room for more. “The fact that we are successfully placing advertising on 132 stations, shows that the medium is in demand, both by clients and listeners,” she says.
“They fill the gap in the communities for either geographical areas, where either there is not great coverage from a commercial point of view, or there are special interest communities (either language or religion) who prefer to have a station who caters to their personal preferences.”
Jacques says stations are also starting to latch on to social media, something that helps them interact more efficiently with their listeners. “The station is quickly able to assess their listener’s needs and adapt accordingly. This in turn makes the listeners more loyal to their station, and provides an audience who is tuned in and receptive to the message the station has to deliver,” she says.
And adds that they always look forward to representing start up stations.