| 24 Feb 2024
20-TEN Year-ender: Shailesh Kapoor, CEO & Co-Founder - Ormax Media

* Lessons From 2010: Listen to the Listener!

Radio, or FM... as all listeners prefer to call it, is a dynamic industry, and a growing one. Every passing year solves some of the existing challenges, and throws up some new ones in return. Enough has been discussed about the Phase 3 licenses and its impact on the business. But not being from the radio business myself, I will write what I know best about – The Consumer Perspective. Lessons from 2010, for 2011.

It is popularly believed that FM Radio is an undifferentiated category. However, we have seen across our work that this is not true. There is a difference between being a low involvement category and an undifferentiated category. FM Radio is certainly not a high involvement category. Radio is almost always heard with something else, e.g. traveling, doing household chores, etc. There are only select time bands, like the night (after 11pm), when listening to FM Radio becomes a dedicated activity for some audiences.

However, there is reasonable engagement with the content, which includes music and RJs. The kind of music a station plays has direct bearing on its likability, as do the RJs. While music can create differentiation on account of a certain era, mood or simply the quality of music, RJs can create attitudinal differentiation. Let's talk about these two aspects.

Listeners like certain songs, and they don't like certain songs. By the very nature of it, a song will have a subjective opinion... about it. There are many stations that continue to run songs based on the personal tastes of the executives at the station. In a country as diverse as India, this is as close to committing hara-kiri as one can get. Over the last year and a half, we have conducted extensive music research for Radio City to understand song preferences at large, as well as that of specific songs. We feel proud to be small but significant part of Radio City's successful journey over this period.

Another factor that characterizes music tastes and preferences is their dynamic nature. Just to cite an example, two Anjaana Anjaani songs were in the top 5 on our syndicated countdown charts Heartbeats, around the time of the film's release – the title song and Hairat. Subsequently, both these songs have faded away, and Tujhe bhula diya has emerged as the new chartbuster. It entered the top 10 much after the film's release, and has held onto to its position even today, three months after the film has come and gone! Surely, every such trend can't be predicted by gut....

RJs are an underestimated lot. This notion is probably borne out of the fact that most RJs in India border on mediocrity, and hence, don't create any emotional connect with their listeners. Stations tend to misconstrue this as RJs not being an important parameter. However, a good RJ can make a difference, especially in the drive time bands, where listenership is fairly regular.

In the first edition of our syndicated research RJ Files, conducted in Mumbai and Delhi in 2010, we tried to understand, among other things, the factors that drive station preference. The table below gives the scores for the various factors studied in this research.

Factor-----------------------------Importance %

City issues and problems-------78

Good music-----------------------76

Information about the city-------72

Good RJs--------------------------50

Fun & Masti------------------------44

New music-------------------------44

Old music---------------------------43

Mood-based music----------------40

More music, less RJ talk----------34


Less ads----------------------------33

Innovative programs---------------22


Bollywood news & gossip--------18

Film star interviews-----------------14

As one can see in the table, city-related issues and information are at no. 1 and no. 3. This clearly indicates that FM Radio is a strong local... medium. Understanding the culture of the city, down to its finer nuances, becomes very important to create this connect. But who else will create this connect but the RJs? Hence, if I were to present this data differently, four out of the top five factors are RJ-led.

Listening to FM Radio from across the world on the Internet makes one feel rather sad at the quality of our RJs. Sure, we are a mass country. But at the mass level too, we lack sharp, witty and smart talent. Hence, the constant perceptions of bakbak... that we hear in all radio research (also in the table above at 34%). Maybe no one has attempted to unearth the talent hidden somewhere!

The other consistent concern with the radio industry has been measurement. RAM continues to be limited to four markets, and the data is now well understood to capture recall, than listenership, given the methodology and the category audience dynamics.

The solutions are not simple, and the industry may not be able to afford them either. But what we currently have is severely limiting. In fact, planners and advertisers are totally at sea when it comes to handling radio plans. Since RAM does not cover most markets, radio stations conducted listenership tracks with companies like us. But such data, by the virtue of not being third party, lacks credibility in the advertiser's mind. Hence, IRS remains the default the currency used for planning. But unlike television, program-level planning and post-evaluation is ruled out. In the end, we have an inefficient system, waiting to be revamped.

And that will be just the right cue for me to share my wish list of five things I would want to happen to the radio industry in 2011. Here go the five, mostly outside the legal purview:

1.Good RJs who connect with the masses, without alienating the urban elite (a community which includes all the advertisers).

2.Stations realizing that their real power lies in being a local medium, and it will be in their own interest if they don't compete for TV ad revenues and focus on extracting a good share of the print and BTL budgets.

3.An end to the tug-of-war between the various parties involved in granting music licenses, especially the music labels.

4.Opening up of specialized stations, focusing on one specific kind of music. My personal favorite will be a romantic melodies station.

5.A good measurement system – Something that tracks actual listenership than recall, and something that can be relied upon, without unexplained errors and trends.

And before I wind up, one last thing, ahead of a big season of cricket. FM or AIR, regulations or otherwise, can we have better cricket commentary on the radio please? The quality of cricket commentary remains frozen in time, just the way it was 25 years ago. Sehwag ke balle ka baahari kinaara liya aur slip mein khade Kallis ne cheete ki tarah catch lapak liya, aur Bharat ko pehla Jhatka!..  So much for being the richest cricket board in the world.