Radio is a healthy sector of the media, but Nick Grubb considers what is needed to make it that much better.
For a medium that’s comparatively so resilient, there’s a lot to be optimistic about in the industry. Last year, the radio sector was incredibly successful, what with the emergence of some really big campaigns that utilised radio almost exclusively. This has gone a long way in convincing advertisers that radio still has plenty of clout.
That said, of course there are concerns and if we’re to continue to grow in these fragmented times, many of these will require a consolidated approach by radio’s key players.
In no particular order, here are a few of the things we’re contemplating at the moment.
1. The Radio Audience Measurement Survey (RAMS) doesn’t help programmers make better radio, and it doesn’t help planners shift product for their clients. I’ve defended RAMS for years by saying things like: “Yeah, it’s erratic but it’s more stable when you look at trends blah blah, etcetera.” I don’t feel compelled to defend it anymore. Programme managers and DJs long ago learnt to celebrate the ups and explain away the downs and as a unit of measurement of audience enjoyment, it’s virtually useless.
Besides that, the data is fixated on share of audience while the advertising industry seems more intent on the audience numbers because it justifies cost versus reach. Sure, the two are connected, but it seems to me we need something that is designed more with the end-users in mind.
I don’t know what a more effective audience measurement tool would look like. The good news is I don’t have to know because the South African Audience Research Foundation (SAARF) is currently surveying the industry for input on what we all want the future to look like, in terms of measurement. So, please get involved if you’ve got a solution in mind.
2. Radio must prove its ability to deliver results with every rand spent. We’ve got to work a lot harder to understand how to do this consistently and across every category. We have to consider that even within the categories, there are often very different measures of success for campaigns from one company to the next.
ROI (return on investment) is a general and over-used term. We need to get a lot more knowledgeable about what our clients mean when they say it.
The Radio Advertising Bureau will play a very important role here. For it to do its job properly, it needs to highlight successful campaigns and work with clients, agencies and the industry itself to develop a more uniform and less subjective means of evaluation.
3. Radio needs to learn from its past. Too many great radio people have been cast aside as radio owners have run for the mirage of a digital future. We have a digital future, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t need the specialists who have spent years understanding music rotations and research. We need to keep specialists in our business for as long as possible, and respect the knowledge they have because some principles of entertainment are universal and not easily learnt.
4. Radio people need to open their minds more to new things. While we must look after the old guard, we also need to put them shoulder-to-shoulder with the new. In so doing we will develop the best people.
There is no perfect example of the new breed of radio station anywhere in the world right now. It’s there to be invented. It needs courage and thinking that isn’t mired in the habits of the past. It needs people with an understanding of technology that’s so intuitive they are not even conscious of the platforms on which they consume their media.
If we are to find these people, and more importantly convince them to work for us, we need to be committed to our staff. We need to train them, and nurture them towards new and exciting horizons for their careers. We must also work hard at creating a culture where diversities of age, gender, experience and race are harnessed and used to full advantage. It’s idealistic and ambitious, yes, but it is so worth it.
5. We matter because people engage with us, and we need to engage with them more. That we reach into people’s daily lives is a cliché by now. We need to ensure we continue to do this, of course, but the key will be finding ways where it’s just as easy for people to reach out to us too. The platforms are there already but engagement could be much easier, and much more compelling.
We are not the transmitters, the bricks-and-mortar – we are curated entertainment. We’re good at curating but finding ways to properly get our listeners to co-create with us (that’s more than an on-air gimmick or a widget on a website) will go a long way to helping us build on the societal role radio can play when it’s at its most useful. n
Nick Grubb is managing director at Kagiso Radio.