Ra­dio rev­o­lu­tion

Amidst a chang­ing tech­no­log­i­cal land­scape, ra­dio re­mains a rel­e­vant me­dia force to be reck­oned with.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By SU­SANNA KHOO bytz@thes­tar.com.my

MU­SIC con­tent is be­ing served up via a va­ri­ety of sources nowa­days, in­clud­ing via In­ter­net video chan­nels and mu­sic stream­ing mo­bile apps. How­ever, Kudsia Ka­har, pres­i­dent of Com­mer­cial Ra­dio Malaysia (CRM) and deputy group chief broad­cast of­fi­cer at Star Ra­dio Group be­lieves that ra­dio has yet to lose its shine as a vi­able mu­sic plat­form as it has more than just catchy tunes to of­fer the gen­eral pub­lic.

“The com­mer­cial ra­dio in­dus­try doesn’t see mu­sic ser­vices such as stream­ing apps as a huge threat to our ex­is­tence. What sets ra­dio apart from such ser­vices is the lo­calised con­tent, and ra­dio acts as a tastemaker where lis­ten­ers are con­cerned,” she says.

“There’s a lot of magic be­hind ra­dio; where es­tab­lish­ing an emo­tional con­nec­tion is con­cerned, it’s al­ways go­ing to be ra­dio.”

Kudsia says that it is the im­me­di­acy of ra­dio that makes it stand out as it has the abil­ity to draw the at­ten­tion of the pub­lic to ur­gent causes such as fundrais­ing to sup­port vic­tims of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

“Where ra­dio shines is all the stuff that comes be­tween the songs. It’s not just about what’s cool or what’s hot. It’s also about get­ting in­volved. It’s in­te­gral to the de­vel­op­ment of our so­ci­ety, to keep peo­ple in­formed,” she says, adding that even the qual­ity of com­mer­cials aired have a role to play in keep­ing ra­dio rel­e­vant to its lis­ten­ers’ needs.

Online shift

To date, Kudsia shares that com­mer­cial ra­dio reach among the Malaysian pop­u­la­tion has reached 92%, and says that it’s no co­in­ci­dence that this was be­cause of tech­nol­ogy.

In fact, th­ese lo­cal trends are very much in line with what Sin­ga­pore-based tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions provider, Ra­dioac­tive re­ported in its sur­vey, In­ter­net Ra­dio Trends - South-East Asia 2013. The or­gan­i­sa­tion dis­cov­ered that 25% of ra­dio lis­ten­ers no longer lis­tened to tra­di­tional AM/FM ra­dio, but in­stead tuned in via In­ter­net ra­dio web­sites or apps.

“In five, 10 years time, a ma­jor­ity of lis­ten­er­ship will be on the dig­i­tal land­scape, but ra­dio will still re­main rel­e­vant. It’s just that the con­tent has changed to suit the life­styles of those who are de­pen­dent on tech­nol­ogy,” says Kudsia.

How­ever, she notes that ra­dio op­er­a­tors will need to con­tinue to evolve in or­der cap­ture the hearts of the dig­i­tal au­di­ence, as they con­sume ra­dio very dif­fer­ently.

“You have to en­gage them visu­ally as well,” Kudsia adds.

Gone are the days where pos­sess­ing a deep, sexy voice and hav­ing “a face made for ra­dio” was enough for a ra­dio per­son­al­ity to get by. In­stead, the in­dus­try now re­quires that ra­dio an­nounc­ers main­tain a multi-plat­form per­son­al­ity whereby they are, for ex­am­ple, ac­tive par­tic­i­pants on so­cial me­dia and have no qualms about mak­ing video ap­pear­ances.

“Ra­dio sta­tions are over the moon if they get to work with some­one who is al­ready well known across dif­fer­ent plat­forms,” she says, quot­ing the ex­am­ple of Ryan Seacrest who is not only a ra­dio star, but is also a TV host and pro­ducer.

Cul­ti­vat­ing flex­i­bil­ity

Kudsia feels that ra­dio op­er­a­tors ought to de­velop con­tent that is plat­form ag­nos­tic so that they can eas­ily es­tab­lish them­selves on whichever plat­forms are most favoured by their tar­get au­di­ence.

“I be­lieve in cre­at­ing con­tent once and then lever­ag­ing it across dif­fer­ent plat­forms,” she says.

Cur­rently, the mo­bile plat­form is a pop­u­lar choice among lis­ten­ers, hence mak­ing it an av­enue that in­dus­try play­ers should aim to fo­cus on. For Kudsia, this is some­thing that she ea­gerly wel­comes as she views smart­phones are “the ideal mar­riage be­tween ra­dio and tech­nol­ogy.”

Be­sides that, she also iden­ti­fies YouTube as another im­por­tant mu­sic dis­cov­ery tool that ra­dio op­er­a­tors need to pay at­ten­tion to.

“Just look at the num­ber of artistes born be­cause of YouTube,” Kudsia points out. “For the ra­dio in­dus­try, things like YouTube and Vevo are great be­cause we can now track what peo­ple like and can make choices on what songs to put on air based on that as well.”

In ad­di­tion, Kudsia says the role of so­cial me­dia has in­creased in re­cent times.

“Ad­ver­tis­ers are no longer just in­ter­ested in how many lis­ten­ers you’ve got on FM. More and more they are ask­ing how many Face­book or Twit­ter fol­low­ers you have, what the click through rate is for your web­site. You will need to show your en­gage­ment level with your au­di­ence,” she says.

Keep­ing the fu­ture in view

CRM is presently work­ing to­gether with the Record­ing In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Malaysia to make it pos­si­ble for lis­ten­ers to pur­chase their favourite songs on the ra­dio charts di­rectly from a com­pany’s web­site or mo­bile app.

“Re­search was done in South-East Asia be­fore which showed that youth here are will­ing to pay for mu­sic if it were made eas­ily avail­able to them,” says Kudsia. “CRM has al­ways been in sup­port of lo­cal mu­sic and would like to share it with a wider au­di­ence and to make sure that peo­ple can buy the mu­sic straight away.”

She shares that CRM is also work­ing to­wards hav­ing more re­laxed reg­u­la­tions with re­gards to lo­cal ra­dio con­tent.

“Au­di­ences are so much more ex­posed now be­cause of the In­ter­net and we should be able to ease up a bit on reg­u­la­tions and re­spect their in­tel­li­gence,” she says.

As a whole, Kudsia be­lieves that the way for ra­dio op­er­a­tors to stay ahead is to step up their re­search and de­vel­op­ment (R&D) ef­forts.

“R&D is now a ne­ces­sity for ra­dio com­pa­nies. You need to de­velop your con­tent ac­cord­ing to the what each de­vice, sys­tem or plat­form can do,” she says. “Mar­ket­ing per­son­nel will need to be savvy where so­cial me­dia is con­cerned and things like tag­ging are ex­tremely cru­cial.”

Kudsia ad­mits that th­ese are things ra­dio sta­tions didn’t have to deal with pre­vi­ously, but stresses that th­ese topics now need to be a part of their daily vo­cab­u­lary.

“This con­stant un­der­stand­ing about where your au­di­ence is right now and where they’re go­ing to be (in the fu­ture) is re­ally im­por­tant for your sur­vival,” she says.

Hello there!: reza Mo­hamed, ra­dio dJ for Suria.FM at work in a stu­dio at the Star ra­dio Group of­fice.

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