Our industry as a whole ignores what it doesn’t know. This is a fact. “I have never listened to RSG. Or Ukhozi. Because I’m ignorant of the station, its content and nuances, best I don’t place advertising revenue there. Hell, I’d hate to be caught out!”
There is something special about hearing something in your home language. Many South Africans will not understand this, but when you converse for 80% of your day in a language that is not your own, you yearn to speak, hear, and absorb what is so core to you – your home language.
I am a proud Afrikaner. When I watch television in Afrikaans it is a different experience to watching it in English. When I read Afrikaans, it touches a certain part of my spirit that English never will. And of course when I listen to radio in Afrikaans, my soul jumps for joy.
Vernacular language media brings with it something incredibly powerful. It speaks to a person’s core, their culture, the deepest part of their being. It elicits emotions and feelings in a way that no other media can. Whether that vernacular be Afrikaans, Sotho, or Hindi – it is powerful. And that is why media types that can communicate in the vernacular are so incredibly strong.
kykNET is a powerhouse on the DStv bouquet. Ukhozi FM has more listeners than any other radio station in the country, and is rumoured to be the third biggest station in the world. If one looks at the top 10 performing programmes of 2012 against LSM 8-10, five of them are in Afrikaans.
From a print perspective, we are also seeing Zulu language newspapers excelling. A quick look at the circulation of a title like Isolezwe demonstrates this.
So why then do some of these media lag so far behind traditional English language media in advertising revenue? The audiences are clearly there, but what about the ad revenue?
Allow me to demonstrate.
RSG – Radio Sonder Grense (Radio Without Borders) – is actually an amazing radio station. It has just over two million loyal listeners. More than half of them are in LSM 8-10. At two million, it has more listeners than many other more ‘popular’ radio stations like 94.7 Highveld Stereo, Talk Radio 702, 94.5 Kfm, East Coast Radio, 567 CapeTalk and Jacaranda FM.
Yet every single radio station mentioned above earns more advertising revenue than RSG. In some instances a lot more. According to AdEx, Jacaranda and Highveld earn four times more revenue than RSG. If you think they earn this revenue because they have a core LSM 8-10 listenership you would be wrong. Jacaranda have fewer LSM 8-10 listeners than RSG, and RSG has the same number of LSM 8-10 listeners as Highveld.
But the picture gets worse!
CapeTalk earns more advertising revenue than RSG. However, CapeTalk has 137 000 listeners, and RSG has 2 090 000. RSG has
1.1 million LSM 8-10 listeners – nearly 10 times more than the total listenership of the total CapeTalk audience.
Something smells off…
Ukhozi FM is another good example. According to AdEx, it earns R245 million per year. That is 55% of the advertising revenue of 702. Only difference is that Ukhozi FM has 6.9 million listeners and 702 has 794 000 listeners. Six million more listeners and 55% of the advertising revenue! Oh, and by the way, Ukhozi FM has more LSM 8-10 listeners than 702.
So let me state that I am not having a go at 702, CapeTalk, Jacaranda or Highveld. I think if anything it is a compliment to their amazing sales teams who make sure that they get their fair share of advertising revenue and then some. They have amazing products.
It bears repeating: our industry as a whole ignores what it doesn’t know. This is a fact. “I have never listened to RSG. Or Ukhozi. Because I’m ignorant of the station, its content and nuance, best I don’t place advertising revenue there. Hell, I’d hate to be caught out!”
No surprise that the top revenue earners in radio are all stations based in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Clients and media planners too often plan and book on stations they know, and listen to themselves, instead of trusting the numbers. If you trust the numbers, vernacular media would receive more support.
Vernacular media is incredibly powerful. You touch souls. You leverage understanding. You identify with some deep-seated emotions. It requires more work to produce an ad in the vernacular, but your impact will be that much greater! It performs superbly well, and is often sold short because people just don’t understand it.
Chris Botha is the group managing director of The MediaShop.