An overview of the latest RAMS 2015 release indicates that radio listening was in fact down – roughly five minutes aggregated across all stations, days and day parts. Of course, that’s hardly statistically significant but what is interesting is that in general we still listen to an average of 03h16 of radio per day. Perhaps things are a bit slower in the Free State – they have more time on their hands – and, as a result, their listening measures a massive 04h14. And by the way, forget about TV, we spend more time listening to radio than we do watching TV, 03h16 vs 02h59!
Where is the slight drop-off in audiences most evident? If we look at radio listening by each quarter hour on a weekday average, it’s the morning drive and the afternoon drive which have seen the biggest loss of audiences. This is strange and goes against what we think, given that people are spending more time commuting, and with load-shedding, peak hour traffic is a nightmare.
On the other hand, maybe commuters are extending the times they go to and from work, spreading the traffic over longer hours. And come to think about it, when last were you somewhere where there was little or no traffic?
Radio is the ‘my’ medium
When looking at weekend listenership, Saturday afternoons appear to have dropped off – yet this is peak sports broadcast time. What really stands out is the big drop on Sunday mornings. The ALS stations always perform well in the morning particularly due to religious broadcasts, but there’s been a constant drop from May 2014 to the latest data. Don’t tell me society is changing! South Africans will, for the foreseeable future, remain great believers in God, Soccer and Rugby – our three deities!
Interestingly, radio has also become an out of home medium.
Interestingly, radio has also become an out of home medium. How? Well, today consumers listen through their mobile devices – a huge 40% of us in fact. Just take a look around you when you’re driving past a queue for public transport at the number of earphones plugged into mobile devices.
Radio is a “my” medium. And station loyalty in South Africa is as high as ever. Check out the high social interaction we all have with our stations. Active engagement via Facebook and on Twitter continues to grow exponentially. And it goes beyond the stations themselves – on Twitter the DJs often have a larger following than the station.
Talk radio stations like 702 appear to consistently deliver the same numbers – with 116 000 likes on Facebook and a listenership of 821 000, this station has a loyal audience (SAARF RAMS June release 2015, Facebook data 3/6/15). Primedia recognises this value, and makes sure the advertiser pays a pretty penny to engage with their listeners.
WC radio performance
It’s concerning to note the drop in listenership across most stations in the Western Cape. Are we encountering a trend change, or is it just seasonal, a research quirk, or one of those ups and downs? It’s difficult to say, but the drops are pretty significant in some cases. The Western Cape has been one of the most active radio markets over the past decade. It certainly has the most competitive radio landscape in the country. As a result, it isn’t surprising that stations have to sell and market themselves fiercely, to attract both listeners and advertising rands.
A niche platform
In our ever changing media environment, it’s imperative to remain relevant. Marketing and branding is key since we have so much fragmentation, not only in radio, but across the media spectrum. Strategic support for radio means growing share of mind, giving a brand a personality, creating a feeling of closeness for listeners and maintaining that.
While radio delivers a mass audience and is still the “reach and frequency” medium, it has simultaneously morphed into a niche, one to one platform. Plus, the stations are marketing all of radio’s benefits – the short lead time, the fact that products can easily be woven into content, the theatre of the mind, appointment listening and radio’s powerful stage for call to action. Radio is consistent and social. It’s a 24/7 medium and you know what to expect – trust, intimacy, listener engagement and entertainment. This is one helluva positive environment for a brand!
Radio is marketed as a voice you have a relationship with, which you can connect with almost anywhere. It is listened to everywhere – in homes, cars and taxis. Radio is on when shops are open and people can respond immediately.
Visualisation of a brand can easily be brought to life, leveraging the DJ / listener relationship. Listeners rely on their chosen, favourite stations, be they regional or community, to keep them abreast of topics that are relevant to them. Advertisers have to leverage this, which is then easily measured by listener response and brand perception.
Station marketing initiatives
There have been various initiatives by stations in the Western Cape to leverage their brands.
Good Hope FM Breakfast Show won the Commercial Breakfast Show category at annual MTN Radio Awards 2015. The show line-up changed to accommodate a new show, Afternoon Live (2pm – 4pm). It was the first regional radio station to deviate from traditional time-slots. The station also cooked more than 67 litres of soup which was delivered daily to various organisations, charities and children’s homes. There is also the Good Hope FM Dream Dress Competition during which the the station offers 40 matric ball dresses to deserving matriculants.
Heart104.9fm associates itself with key city events to reach different markets such as June Youth Month, Annual Heart Woman at Heart in August and Mommy & Me. KFM offers K-Day, the Annual Gun Run and the Big Chill at the Breede River.
Social media integration
It is encouraging to observe the upward surge of radio stations integrating and finding synergy with online and social media platforms – they have become central to marketing efforts. Both radio and digital share immediacy as a prime attribute. When combined, radio serves as the loudspeaker – to navigate listeners to the respective platforms for visual updates and showcase activations and events. Campaign performance can be measured and monitored throughout the day, and respective data utilised to amend and/or improve performance.
When stations harness the strengths of social platforms, it allows the listener to engage, view the offer or “continue the conversation” in their own time. A campaign then highlights more detail in the social atmosphere, after radio has done its job. For instance, a brand promoting a campaign on radio can use the station’s Facebook page to further expand on the detail and enhance the entire offering.
However, the Western Cape radio scene is known to be challenging. It is difficult to build reach due to the poor signal (because of the mountains), demographics and different lifestyles (the beach and mountains). But, ultimately the Western Cape we know, enjoys being different. And here, social media has a vital role to play, if you are to target and communicate successfully.
It’s no surprise that a Western Cape station’s digital platform growth can look like this when measured over five months: website visits increased by 11%; page views increased by 10%, Twitter followers increased by 9%, Facebook Likes increased by 12.51% and Instagram followers increased by 52%.
The sticky subject of advertising rates
Radio has always been considered a cost effective, efficient medium for return on investment. However, the constant above inflation rate increases, with some stations audaciously at over 20% per annum are fast dispelling this reality. While the argument of a “low historic base” may be true, we must realise the economic reality. We have a bleeding economy, and client budgets simply cannot sustain these type of numbers. A Gauteng-based national radio station even has drive-time rates now split into hours.
Traditionally rate cards have always corresponded with the show times. This allowed some negotiating leeway, and the ability to secure a marginally better deal for the client. Now this is as good as gone. The counter argument from the station is that the action is as a result of simple supply and demand.
Lastly, the age old problem of the difference in value, audience and price between drive time and the rest of the day remains unresolved. It cannot rationally be justified, but is exacerbated by advertisers and agencies alike insisting that drive time is where they want their spots! Media strategists may soon face the agonising reality of telling a client the truth: “I believe in radio, but yes, I know the value has been hugely eroded…”
IMAGE: Good Hope FM Jason Abels
This story was first published in the October 2015 issue of The Media magazine.
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