Radio remains as relevant as ever even in spite of an imminent threat from other mediums?

Photo: Niti Central

Even today, radio is used extensively for broadcasting educational programs and sharing information related to agriculture and industrial sector in rural areas.

Developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom might consider radio as an outdated device. However, developing nations like those in the African continent, China, Pakistan, and India still rely on the radio when it comes to spreading information and creating awareness.

The fact may sound weird; however, there are several villages in India’s rural areas that do not have access to even the simple 2G phone network. Such regions often face power shortage as well. For citizens living in such rural areas, the only source of entertainment is their radio set. FM channels run by private players as well as by All India Radio manage to reach small towns and far-flung, rural areas where even the basic 2G phone networks are unavailable.

All India Radio (AIR) or Akashvani operates 420 stations and programming in 23 different languages. These channels are broadcast on SW, MW and some on FM band as well.

Together, private as well as All India Radio channels reach 99.19 percent of India’s population.

Radio sets are available for as low as Rs. 100 and listeners do not have to pay any monthly subscription like in case of TV. Batteries required for the radio set last for six months.  Perhaps, this is the reason even Prime Minister Narendra Modi selected radio as a medium to directly reach people who do not have access to smartphones or TV set. Modi’s Mann Ki Baat show is broadcast in 18 different regional languages and has proved to be an excellent deal for AIR.

According to the statement made by Rajyavardhan Rathore in Lok Sabha during July this year, Air India Radio earned Rs 5.19 crore in revenue between 2016-17 by selling ad slots before and after PM Modi’s Mann Ki Baat.

Power cuts improving radio’s popularity in rural areas of Maharashtra

Due to lack of availability of coal at state’s thermal power plants, several rural areas in Maharashtra face load shedding of as many as six hours on a daily basis.

“Our village has to face as many as six hours of power cuts on a daily basis since the last few months. Thus, radio remains to be an important part of life. Even today, my family members prefer to listen to daily news on AIR at 7 PM every evening,” said author Akshay Bikkad who lives in Osmanabad’s Bahula village (Kalamb Tehsil) in Maharashtra.

Radio enjoys noticeable popularity in big cities as well. Motorists in urban areas love traffic updates offered by FM stations. People listen to the FM stations in their car while traveling every day for at least an hour. Radio is also popular when it comes to small restaurants, tea stalls, and even cigarette shops. Even most of the smart-phones are loaded with FM radio player.

Businesses in small towns can get better ROI with radio ads?

Local radio stations can be a perfect solution for small businesses that wish to connect to local communities.

Depending on the city and radio station that the advertiser selects and the number of towns, villages that the company wants to reach, radio companies charge anywhere between Rs. 200 to Rs. 2000 for a 10-second ad.

Radio advertising market in our country is of around Rs. 2, 000 crores and by 2019; its revenue is expected to touch Rs. 3,950 crores according to the TRAI. As per a report published by Livemint, the radio businesses of HT Media, Jagran Group, and Times Group showed impressive growth rates during the last financial year. Their profitability is improving. Even Sun Group’s numbers are impressive.

Now, one might wonder how radio advertising can compete not just with the TV but with social media adverting as well.

Not just advertising, but radio stations offer other services like Radio Jockey mentions, programme integrations, on-ground brand promotional campaigns and other events to increase consumer engagement. Private FM players deliver advertisers’ message as part of the entertainment content instead of a typical commercial or jingles these days.

To gauge audiences’ response to various shows and make sure that radio stations get the right price for advertisements as per their market share, Media Research Users’ Council (MRUC) and Association of Radio Operators of India (AROI) are working on developing a unique measurement system for the industry. New data obtained from such systems will help advertisers as they would be able to target their ads towards area specific audiences in a better way.

Expert Opinion

“Radio is one of the oldest mediums of communication, and as they rightly say “old is (sometimes) gold.” Contextually, in India, radio has immense scope only to evolve and not die down in the near future. The medium is popular even in the wake and scare of other online mediums and modern social media platforms and smartphones. Perhaps, popularity is because India is a highly diverse country. More than 65 percent people still reside in villages where digital and other mediums are not highly penetrated. In such cases, TV and radio are the best mediums to reach out and communicate. Even though radio has its own set of limitations, it has a lot of benefits. Like being highly penetrative, highly cost-effective, scope to customize and localize, communicate in regional languages, facilitate two-way communication between audiences and the channel through an RJ, etc. So, even if the scare of modern technology and newer mediums is an imminent threat and may come in, there is still some time for radio to evolve, modernize, and adapt. For now, it’s as relevant as ever. Just like e-papers only dented printed newspapers, the modern tech may only dent this big old medium. But before that, radio companies will evolve and adapt,” said Manas Danait, a communications professional who has worked on ad campaigns for renowned brands from around the world.