RADIO DEBRIEF: The radio industry celebrated and honoured radio performers this weekend at the annual MTN Radio Awards with a spectacle that demonstrated just how much the sector has grown over the last five years. It is no doubt the premier gathering of the who’s who in the radio world with attendance becoming an important part of radio’s social calendar.
Congratulations to all the winners and nominees who really made this year’s adjudication job a tough task, as the standard of the entries from all categories improved at just about every level. It shows radio in South Africa to be in healthy state when it comes to creativity, innovation and quality of delivery.
What was absent at the Awards, however, was no provision for any online radio or digital radio categories. This was made even more evident when Best Sports Show was given to ballz.com via community station Mix FM, to which the show is syndicated. Seeing veteran broadcaster Darren Scott come up to accept the award starts to tell a story of how the face of commercial broadcasting may well be taking a definitive turn towards the digital realm.
The reality is that the broadcasting world of commercial radio as we know it may change quite dramatically over the next year with the continued convergence and blurring of the lines between radio and the online digital environment.
The first indication of this has been the sudden emergence of online radio stations such as Ballz FM, Two Oceans Vibe and Assembly Radio and even the online streaming of local programmed music content on MTN’s Play Radio. Commercial radio scoffed at these offerings mainly due to the perceived small numbers, and even further dismissed them with the disclosure that the audience measurement being used online was actual Web hits and not necessarily listeners.
The move to ‘unradio’
But much has changed since then and we now see 5FM’s Gareth Cliff departing from one of the biggest radio stations in the country to the digital realm. Cliff’s ‘new beginnings’ is a purely online digital platform. It will deliver what he describes as “unscripted, uncensored, unradio” all housed on the WeChat platform using www.cliffcentral.com as a source provider.
It would be wrong to suggest this is the start of a huge migration of commercial radio personalities to the digital space. Nevertheless, what it definitely does indicate is that commercial radio audiences as we know them are no longer listeners but in fact users who play on a variety of platforms on a daily basis and audio consumption is merely part of this process.
As such, it also means that radio personalities, niche music playlist providers and speciality content generators all have the capability, with very few barriers to entry, to enter this digital space delivering the same content but without restrictions and regulations.
The doomsday sayers will again pronounce the end of radio as they have been doing since the invention of the cassette player, but that need not be the case if commercial radio understands that they have the advantage of already being established content providers. They should embrace the opportunity to provide this content to users in whatever platform they want. Radio stations are going to have to start creating additional online activations of their music, content and personalities as brand extensions and additional engagements to their offering.
In this edition of Radio Debrief we have an article from the founder of Assembly Radio with 10 000 to 12 000 unique users per month and actually situated next to the stage in Assembly, the premier nightclub and rock venue in Cape Town.
Even though these numbers may seem small, here a unique user audience wanting a unique user offering is catered for through the music, shows and the lifestyle it projects. Kevin Kai plans to give birth to a network of online stations such as this and has some incredible insights into online radio.
We also take a look at what US NAB CEO, Gordon Smith, had to say in his keynote address at the Annual NAB 2014 in Las Vegas, and why Theatre of the mind is still such an important part of our radio content from Steve Mina.
Enjoy and keep the radio heartbeat pumping in whatever form you choose.
Thanks to our sponsors, The Media Connection, for making this Radio Debrief possible.
Yours in radio
Guest editor Gavin Meiring is director of Brandswell, and former station manager of Heart 104.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @Gavinmayring