India Radio Forum: Radio is not a re-distributor of content

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | May 20, 2010
Abdul Khan, advisor to MD and senior VP, Tata Teleservices provided a critical view of the radio industry

At the India Radio Forum, Abdul Khan, advisor to MD and senior vice-president, Tata Teleservices articulated the need to redefine media and communication. He said that the old theory of advertising would cease to be practised, as more advertisers would move to the digital world. The existing 500 million mobile subscribers in India, he said, is an indication of that.

Radio in India, Khan said, has grown; and the government has also recognised the power of the medium. But radio must now go beyond and take notice of the growing mobile radio phenomenon. "About 20 per cent listeners listen to the radio on their mobiles. Radio stations must leverage the opportunity," Khan said.

Partnerships such as Radio Mirchi with Airtel, and Big FM with VAS provider OnMobile, were examples of fruitful associations. Mirchi Mobile -- Radio Mirchi's tie-up with Airtel -- provides Airtel users 12 regional stations; and Big FM's association with OnMobile, called Big Mobile Radio, will also provide the radio experience on mobile.

Internet radio is another opportunity that radio stations in India could look at, Khan said. From a radio station with a website, the perception has to change to a media company with enhanced digital experience and genuine interactivity. But none of the services that ask listeners to pay would work, Khan added. "Why would a listener want to pay for a streaming radio channel, when he can get it for free? Radio is supposed to be free," he said.

Khan reiterated that a makeover of the business model was mandatory for the radio industry, from format-based to flexible multi-format oriented programming that offers choice to consumers. Experimenting with new content is key to generating advertising.

"Radio stations must not look at themselves as re-distributors of content (music); but instead, create good programming and user generated content," he added. The internet, he said, is a great platform to urge and encourage viewers to create content.

Being anytime, anywhere, at all possible consumer touch points -- whether mobile, Web, Ipod or cars -- would help radio stations monetise better. Asking the listener what he really wants -- not by relying just on research data, but going on-ground and finding out first-hand -- could provide better insights, Khan believes.

Khan remarked that the popularity of radio jockeys brings great brand connect. Creating and nurturing talent, therefore, should be a priority for radio channels. "People like people; not technology, formats or frequency bands," he stated. Lastly, he said, giving power to listeners and listening to their demands is crucial.

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