The growth in popularity of online radio, not only in South Africa but across the globe, has created a gap in advertising sales for this medium.
Tamara Bethwana and Emma Jane Robson spotted this gap and co-founded Awake Online, which Robson describes as “an awakening into digital, which is the future of radio and how everyone will tune in”.
A major reason for the duo’s decision came from their experience of the accessibility of traditional radio. “We used to sell commercial radio at such a high percentage that radio really wasn’t applicable and affordable for everyone. We want to create an advertising space that any brand, no matter the size of the budget, is able to put out their message,” says Robson.
An impressive client list
Despite only being around for half a year, Awake Online already has an impressive list of clients; a manageable 10 online stations including TransAfricaRadio.net, GaySA Radio, Africa Business Radio, The Grind Radio, and Niche Radio. All of them are themed on a particular topic and when Awake Online does advertising sales for them, cross station packages are offered.
The company managed to hook these clients through utilising past connections that Bethwana and Robson already had, lots of knocking on doors, engaging with them, listening to what they have to offer and how they position themselves, and then assessing the best approach to form a close relationship.
Being a disrupter in the industry is the current strategy for Awake Online. Numerous business deals are in the pipeline, which will bolster the company’s position.
Educating clients as to why they should pick online radio for advertising is a priority, as is trying to convince terrestrial radio that this is not a competing sector, merely an additional one.
An uncensored medium
The duo touts the freedom of online radio as one of its major benefits. “With commercial radio there’s a lot of limits. People saying ‘no you can’t do that’, ‘you only have three minutes to do that’. It’s pushed past 10 people before the content is pushed out,” they say. They also mention a targeted audience (no waste factor on advertiser’s budget), no geographic limitations, and the ability for listeners to stream on demand as other positives.
In-depth campaign measurability leading to thorough client feedback is a priority for the company, with Awake Online eventually planning to utilise Colony Live across all of its stations for audience measurement and feedback. Both Robson and Bethwana are sceptical of the BRC’s RAM audience research with the former saying, “I wouldn’t say that RAM is a correct indication of really drawing figures. People going home to home and asking ‘what’s your favourite station?’ is not a true indication of a correct following”.
For listeners, other benefits include the ability for them to choose when, where and how they want to consume content, which is niched based on their interests. “Listeners are able to pull from rather than be pushed at. They are able to personalise their radio, listening to what they like rather than what the station wants them to listen to,” explains Robson. Free wi-fi hotspots are increasing in the country and the popularity of accessing online radio on mobile means listeners can take the content literally anywhere.
Stuck with traditional radio
Both Bethwana and Robson agree that the main challenge facing online radio from both listeners and advertisers is a stuck mind-set. People are scared to transition to digital radio because they are still stuck on traditional radio. “It’s fear and the other factor is that online radio was viewed as a hobby. Anybody could set up and call themselves an online radio station,” explains Robson. But the growth in this medium in SA is undeniable, so advertisers and listeners should all take notice.
Awake Online is also going beyond online radio to give back to society. They have chosen Dignity Dreams, a charity which assists young girls with sanitary products. “I said we cannot start this company without deciding on an NGO to help,” Robson says, as the partners are both actively involved in charity and believe strongly in not only taking, but giving as well.
The company has its own studio, and will provide clients with branded content, facilitating the process from start to finish. It also has a partnership with In2Ads, which allows the business to offer digital OOH screens as well to advertisers. “The OOH is to add more value to what we’re selling. We’re driving online but there is an opportunity to go OOH on a digital screen as well,” explains Bethwana. Activations are also an option.
To showcase its success, Bethwana and Robson have already had two buyout offers, which they have turned down, firmly stating that they are not selling. “Our company is derived from a passion for radio and getting the opportunity to use such a beautiful medium to deliver messages… We are fresh and we are new and it’s all about money and staying in the game and we’re ready to disrupt.”