Harry Herber considers why radio continues to be such a powerful medium and which stations are the most lucrative.
Perhaps the medium that has shown the most resilience through the entire technology revolution is radio. Sure, it has embraced the new digital world. Every radio station worth its salt has a website, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. But then so too does every other media company that interacts with its audience. Out of home media companies may have embraced the digital world in a different way, and integrated it into their product offering differently.
And many will have apps for easy access, although I fail to grasp why because turning on a knob is no big deal. Okay, before everyone bleats I understand the app provides much more information, like competitions, podcast access and so on. But honestly, 90% of radio is much the same as it was 25 years ago. Hell, I’m pretty sure John Robbie’s been around for 25 years with minimal integration of technology on his part.
But revenues have been stable and market share of the advertising cake has in fact edged up over the years. Formats have been adjusted only marginally, and content has kept abreast of the changing social, political and entertainment environment. But what draws people to switching on the radio, fundamentally, has remained the same for decades. Radio is their friend. People feel they know the DJ or announcer. They relate to them. They relate to the music, the language, the format, the humour and the opinions. This happens day in and day out. Radio is an ingrained automatic habit. It’s with you when you drive; the soothing voice while you are in the shower or cooking in the kitchen. It’s intrusive but it doesn’t intrude. And it’s certainly here to stay.
And then there is the loyalty factor. Loyal fans refer to “my station” and having been “around when 702 launched in the ’70s” and they say “it’s been my station of choice ever since”. Many South Africans have a radio station of choice. And clients embrace everything I’ve just said, and are really involved with the medium.
I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try and define a pecking order for which station is perhaps the most valuable asset to the South African advertiser.
Now I know target markets differ. I realise there are horses for courses. But there are also many brands that are purchased, potentially, by just about anyone in South Africa. Think about it: Coke, airtime, bread, supermarket products… They may all have a target market sweet-spot, but are also found in just about every home in the country. Given this, how do the stations rank in ‘ad-value’?
Well, I’m a simple soul. I like using numbers with a purpose, so I devised a simple methodology. Advertisers need stations with an audience. They also want that audience to have money. So I have listed every station from the All Media and Products Survey (Amps) in terms of their yesterday audience. Then I took the average personal monthly income of those listeners. By multiplying the listeners by the earnings, I get a total value of every station in South Africa. Simplistic I know. But it is interesting when you look at the results. And I bet no marketing person or media strategist would have guessed the top five in the right order. Here they are:
That’s right, Highveld is only fourth and the top three are SABC stations. Also, Kaya is in the top 10 and 702 isn’t. You’ll see RSG has a really ‘valuable’ audience – pity no one sees its value. Let’s be honest: if I had to just look at strategically including one station on just about any schedule it would be Metro FM. Hell, it’s head and shoulders above the rest.
Just a different angle on things…
This post was first published in the March 2015 issue of The Media magazine.
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