Radio is morphing from its audio-only self and the change is taking place at a fast clip as more radio brands hop on to the digital horse. While some are galloping already, others are picking up pace. We explore the shift from the perspective of players like Radio Mirchi, BIG FM and MY FM.
What does an RJ (radio jockey) look like? We're not supposed to know. Or, are we? An RJ is supposed to be that quirky voice that speaks about the city, gives us updates, feeds us music and keeps us hooked to the audio medium. Instead, RJs of almost all the popular FM stations are now visually identifiable and have heavy digital presence across platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The FM radio industry is undergoing a major shift.
FM radio brands are going all out to recreate themselves across digital platforms backed by their brand equity built over years and the popularity of RJs. Today, radio content and advertising campaigns are crafted keeping the digital presence in mind. Players like Radio Mirchi have already launched digital-only products which are seeded in the radio brand's equity.
The Indian radio industry is valued at Rs 3,130 crore (EY-FICCI report, March 2019) of which private FM accounts for Rs 2,400 crore. However, the overall share of this medium (that covers 52 per cent of the population) in the advertising pie is a low 4.2 per cent. The share has stagnated over the years. All of this is compelling radio brands like Radio Mirchi – 98.3 FM, Red FM – 93.5, Radio City – 91.1 FM, My FM – 94.3 FM among others, to reinvent.
"We are more like an entertainment company today with multiple touch-points on radio, on-ground and digital," Nisha Narayanan, chief operating officer and director of Red FM and Magic FM (which has 7mn+ digital subscribers) told us when we interviewed her in December last year. Naryanan's declaration led us to explore further. Rahul Balyan, chief digital officer, Radio Mirchi now tells us, "We look at our RJs now as social media influencers and content creators, and not merely as radio show hosts."
"We look at our RJs now as social media influencers and content creators, and not merely as radio show hosts": Rahul Balyan, chief digital officer, Radio Mirchi
Like Red, almost all FM brands like Radio Mirchi, BIG FM and MY FM also have been redefining themselves with an increasing digital presence, rather than just being radio companies. "We see digital as an opportunity to grow. We now see ourselves as being in the ‘content and solutions business’, and not just the FM business," Balyan mentions.
Apart from the business, what does the digital extension do? Does it drive listenership to radio or is it the other way round?
Balyan says, "We have reached a point where we are not distinguishing between our listenership on radio vs digital reach anymore. With digital, we are doubling our reach. We don't even try using digital marketing for growing radio anymore. Since the world is becoming digital and content-centric, we are changing accordingly. Also, right now, we don't pitch digital and radio separately to clients, we just take a brief. Whichever platform is needed, we put it together."
At present, Mirchi's radio reaches 45 mn listeners monthly and reaches another 50 mn+ consumers on digital every month. The station's digital reach is built on the back of YouTube (8.5 mn subscribers across 12 channels with 40 mn users/month), online radio partnership with Gaana (4-5 mn monthly listeners with average engagement of over 45 min), social media (18 mn followers combined) and the website (1.5 mn+ monthly 'organic' users).
Some of Mirchi's digital-first initiatives include Mirchi Play (Mirchi's online radio streamed in partnership with Gaana), Filmy Mirchi (Bollywood multimedia platform across YoutTube, Gaana and Social Media), Mirchi Indies (Multimedia Indies music platform on YouTube, Gaana) and Mirchi Scribbled (Spoken word platform on YouTube).
Similarly, BIG FM is focusing on the consumer journey too as it swings seamlessly between radio and digital. "We strive to engage with them wherever they are. We treat each medium for its worth and how it is utilised by consumers," says Sunil Kumaran, country head - product, marketing and Thwink BIG, BIG FM. BIG FM offers radio and digital opportunities – like basic static posts to long form videos, the formats on offer are varied and cover a wide spectrum of possible brand needs.
"We treat each medium for its worth and how it is utilised by consumers": Sunil Kumaran, country head - Product, Marketing and Thwink BIG, BIG FM. BIG FM
An example of the synergy between radio and digital is one of BIG FM's shows – 'Dhun Badal Ke Toh Dekho' with Vidya Balan. Beyond the actual radio programme, its digital leg featured a dance challenge, professionally produced videos, show clips, static posts, Facebook/Instagram Lives, contests, etc on social media.
"Our RJs are equally, if not more, active on their personal digital profiles. They carry over their radio personas and show ethos to their social media handles to engage followers," Kumaran adds.
MY FM, a key non-metro player on the Indian radio scene, boasts a combined digital reach of 10 million. The brand is fast catching up in the digital race and is busy building content properties for On Air which are extendable to the digital medium.
"Almost all our prime time RJs have huge following not just on air but also on social media. This fan base on social media has helped us monetise it well. The mediums help in amplifying each other. We have had examples of TV using Print, Print using Radio etc. So, we also look at digital as a way to amplify our unique content and increase MY FM’s reach. It does help in increasing our brand awareness and listenership as well, to an extent," opines Rahul Namjoshi, chief operating officer, MY FM.
"So we also look at digital as a way to amplify our unique content and increase MY FM’s reach. It does help in increasing our brand awareness and listenership as well, to an extent": Rahul Namjoshi, chief operating officer, MY FM
BIG FM boasts a hyperlocal presence across cities and towns and targets listeners via regional digital content that caters exclusively to specific demographics.
"Brands today are looking for integrated channels to amplify their marketing messages. Influencer marketing is a hot opportunity. With social approval driving stronger consumer actions, brands are actively looking for digital influencers who can drive their message and offer additional levels of credibility. As part of a radio station, our RJs are already hyperlocal influencers in their respective cities. Extending their persona on digital opens up a world of opportunity for brands to leverage," elaborates Kumaran.
BIG FM has a digital footprint of 5 mn+ across Facebook, Twitter an Instagram. Campaigns are deployed keeping a possible digital arm in mind. "In the future, we see this growing in volume, by specifically reaching out to more hyperlocal audiences in the Indian hinterland," Kumaran adds.
On the revenue share front, he says, "While radio continues to command a major contribution, the digital stream is growing. This is fuelled by the demand for 360 degree solutions and not just vanilla ad spots. BIG FM is well prepared to increase its shift towards more non-FCT offerings like branded content, social media communities, podcasts, etc."
Thirty per cent of Mirchi's revenue comes from non-radio sources. While at MY FM, the share of digital in overall revenue is marginal, the brand is looking at increasing the contribution to around five per cent of overall revenue in the next five years.