afaqs!

Meow FM 'cat'apults into the niche space

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | August 06, 2008
Launched a year back, the radio station from Radio Today Broadcasting boasts of a loyal viewer base and inquisitive men listeners

Radio & #BANNER1 & # Today's radio station, Meow FM, created waves in the FM space when it launched more than a year ago in New Delhi. Positioned as a 'women's only radio station', it is the first ever niche radio station in the country. afaqs! spoke to the man behind the women-centric radio station, Anil Srivatsa, chief operating officer, Radio Today Broadcasting.

There was plenty of apprehension before launching Meow, confesses Srivatsa, but now he is even more convinced that it was the right move to not get stuck in a rut. "True differentiation needs to be obvious; it can't be all music," he says, after having won a huge fan following among listeners.

As per RAM data, in Delhi, Meow enjoys a share of 3 per cent; in Mumbai, the share is 2 per cent. In Kolkata, however, where it was launched recently, the share is 8 per cent. Besides the three metros, Meow also beams from three smaller cities - Amritsar, Jodhpur and soon, Patiala.

Anil Srivatsa
Srivatsa doesn't go by the RAM data. "They measure us with everybody else," he complains. He is looking forward to the launch of radio measurement by genre. Besides, he says, "We have lots more interaction with the radio consumers than the RAM sample size does and we have our own wherewithal to employ research."

In fact, Meow has a dedicated team called Meow Research, which conducts research on women, lifestyle choices, product preferences and the various aspects of a woman's buying pattern or behavioural pattern. This data is churned out every two weeks and will soon be made available to anybody - advertisers or media agencies - who wants to use it. "We interact with women on a daily basis across three metros and three smaller cities. So, we know them best," says Srivatsa.

Meow has been received well by half of the advertising community, but not the other half, that is, the media buyers. "There is no effort on their part to understand anything new, probably because of lack of time," says Srivatsa. "Since the spots are bought in bulk across media, media planners fail to buy the innovative offerings which we provide," he explains. On the other hand, the marketers, he says, are much more open to taking creative challenges and try to stand out from the clutter because even they have a vested interest to fulfil.

He gives the example of Vodafone, which sponsored his show, 'Between the Sheets'. He went on air and promoted the brand in a way that may seem unusual to many. He urged his listeners to patronise Vodafone because they were sponsoring the show. "If you like my show and want it to continue, you need to support them as much as you support me, because they are sponsoring the show," he said.

Vodafone, of course, benefited from it. "They got many sign-ups that night. A format like ours attracts a very passionate loyalty, which is not possible on a mass appeal channel," he says.

Meow attracts advertisers who are interested in women's products and women consumers, such as the FMCG brands, retail brands and educational institutes. "You won't see too much property, banking and financial brands on our station," Srivatsa asserts.

He doesn't perceive any market as being radically different. They are all women, after all, he says. "Amritsar and Jodhpur have been a big surprise for us. They are doing as well as one of the metros," he says, indicating the equal popularity of the station in all the markets in which it's present, adding that smaller cities will consume it with much more passion than the metros.

Interestingly, Meow FM's listener base comprises 60 per cent women listeners and 40 per cent men. And why are the men there? "For the women," he observes. "We expected a lot of men to tune in because they are interested in knowing what women want."

Having created a strong connect with its listeners on air, the radio station launched a social networking website a month ago, called Merimeow.com, which has 4,000 members. Men are signing up here too, so much so that there is a regulation for entries from men on the site.

"We have got 375,000 page views by 5,000 people. So, there is more time spent on the website, unlike other websites," he declares. The website acts as a great research tool for Meow. It allows the radio station to analyse the profile of its female audience - how many are single, working, fall in which age group, and so on - and authenticate what the research says.

Meow also plans to venture into events in a bigger way. "Events give us the satisfaction that we are capable of gathering our listeners, over 3,000 in strength, on ground," Srivatsa states. Last year, the radio station held events such as the Golden Ovary Awards, which was an initiative to mark Women's Day on March 8, in association with Godfrey Phillips Bravery, apart from the Walkathon, which will be held again this year.

Srivatsa believes that it is the fine balance between sense and nonsense and talk and music that has helped the radio station gain the popularity it has today. "Serious entertainment can be delivered with a lot of laughs and that's the art of building loyalty. Music is not the best form of capturing loyalty, talk is," he says, shattering the myth that RJ talk is a put-off for listeners.