As media channels increasingly blur, you would be surprised at how few media professionals can answer the question, “What kind of business are you in?”
That’s a question of what a business does, not what it is.
What is it that media businesses do?
If we create content for sale (like pay-TV or any print publication) then how do we answer the question of free content online, all the time at the push of a button and the blink of a screen?
If we sell audiences (RAMS, TAMS, AMPS, readership, circulation), how do we derive those audiences, measure them and quantify their value for our customers? Numbers can lie just as much as words can. People are behind both.
If we connect brands to their communities, how do we compete with social media for that title? Brands and their fans and consumers can speak directly to each other now.
If we entertain, educate and inform, how do we empower an ever-demanding community who resist commercial messages and, especially in South Africa, continually question the source of our information?
There are two things to remember, which speak to all these questions for all types of media:
- Technology is our friend. Though technology has accelerated change, it is human behaviour that has brought it about in the first place. Any media platform worth its balance sheet can understand the behaviour of its audience and can create content that will appeal to them and therefore influence their behaviour. The more technology, the more places you can deliver that content in a way that your audience most appreciates.
- Brands are humanising. In order to respond to the ‘anti-trust’ movement of consumers (who have become prosumers) brands have begun to create themselves in their consumers’ image. This means that embedding brands in media content becomes easier and more welcoming to audiences.
Looking specifically at radio, growth is slow or steadily declining globally. There are however some uniquely trend-bucking radio stations that have shown excellent results despite the global trend. What are their success factors collectively? They’ve invested in talent and embraced that which radio does best, co-created content. By doing this, they’ve brought brands close to audiences while simultaneously providing compelling content wherever and however their audiences want to consume it.
The worldwide radio summit 2016 is taking place next week in Los Angeles and the panel I am fortunate to be forming a part of, is discussing radio’s fortunes. The official topic is ‘Where art and commerce meet – driving ratings and compelling content that pays off’.
I’ve been thinking about what I want to say and in truth it’s very simple.
Radio stations particularly are humanised brands that bring people together by creating an opt-in community. There is no cost to listen to radio and while many in the business of radio may disagree with me, I see that as a great advantage. It means that all those who wish to be members of our community may do so. You can’t even block people like you can on social media. There is no cost barrier to co-creating radio with us. It’s not about the how, that’s where technology helps us, it’s about the why.
People don’t just listen, they play a role in their radio community. That’s value for customers. It’s entirely voluntary, and that’s a greater form of loyalty than repeat-purchase intention could ever be.
Justine Cullinan is station manager for 5FM