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