MediAvataar: Radio has become the new ‘comfort companion’ and a trusted source of information during the Covid-19 pandemic for its listeners. Your thoughts on this?
Abe: Radio has been reimagined in the minds of listeners, particularly in the last few months, as it has become the most trusted medium for audiences across the country. As we all grappled with the effects of the pandemic, radio helped listeners wade through the slew of unratified fake news and sensationalism that followed. Listeners were depending on the RJs to keep them informed, entertained, calm and motivated in these times thus becoming their ‘comfort companion’. As the strength of radio was re-established, advertisers too took note of the same. This has been reflected in the growing listenership and the corresponding rise in advertising.
As per the recent RAM report, women listenership both in reach and time spent has grown in the 4 metros, which has led to substantial growth in advertising volumes of cosmetics, hair products, detergents and appliances as corroborated by Adex. Male listenership too has increased significantly in the 4 metros resulting in consequent high growth in advertising targeted to men across various categories such as professional and financial services, retail auto, restaurants, etc. The recent TAM data also reveals a growth in advertising on radio due to increase in listenership in Sec A segment with categories like general insurance, anywhere banking, E-com auto rental services, cosmetic range and kitchen chimneys witnessing remarkable growth.
These resounding numbers reiterate how radio has grown exponentially and is the most reliable free-to-air medium, loved by the masses.
MediAvataar: How has the radio industry changed and adapted to the ‘new normal’?
Abe: Keeping the current situation and its challenges in mind, the entire radio industry is exploring various avenues and opportunities to reach out to its audience in ways they can best relate to. This has seen us curate offerings keeping in mind the renewed consumer expectations and their demands. The synergy of Radio and Digital is the new normal today. This has led leading radio networks to be more platform-agnostic as they curate content via various touch-points such as online concerts, Instagram gigs, RJ’s from different stations collaborating on content, and so on. There is already a lot of experiential content being rolled-out that will only get better with technological advancements. With fine margins deciding who leads and who follows, it is necessary to innovate and stay ahead of the game.
MediAvataar: COVID-19 has thrown major challenges. How are you re-attracting listeners to your radio station and finding new sources of revenue?
Abe: At BIG FM, we have always believed in curating content and properties that are innovative and thought-provoking. Keeping in line with our philosophy, we initiated various campaigns during the lockdown such as ‘Dilli Ke Dhaakad....Kehte Hai – Let’s Fight Corona Together’, ‘Dekh Kahin Yeh Fake Toh Nahi’ and V the Warriors amongst others to eliminate fear and spread positivity.
Since Radio plus digital is the future, our focus is on adding incremental reach through multiple touch points. So we are adding digital audio, podcasts and web radio to our offering. We have been creating a large volume of timeless non-music content which can be consumed as podcasts on audio streaming platforms, expanding the reach of our powerful content IP’s. With our property Big Café Online, listeners can enjoy a concert every day from the comforts of their homes just by tuning in to BIG FM. Through our initiative Big Small Shots, we are providing clients customized IPs that addresses a specific and immediate objective. We are also looking at taking a step further by making the concept of storytelling more hyper local and relevant to regional language market in order to convey various brand and product messages through weekly storytelling.
MediAvataar: BIG FM recently launched BuyadsonBIGFM.com. What was the idea behind the platform?
Abe: Our offering Buyadsonbigfm.com is a one stop destination for the long tail of advertisers to create solutions, create packages, buy spots and make payment at the mere click of a button. It features a dashboard for ad rates, invoices, broadcast certificates, etc. allowing advertisers to access a host of options instantly. With a host of challenges staring at us in the face, this is our way of staying ahead of the curve by adopting innovative solutions for operations to run seamlessly. By helping our advertisers to conveniently book ads, the platform plays a crucial role in fostering long-lasting alliances with them.
MediAvataar: How is Big FM tackling competition from online music streaming services?
Abe: We firmly believe that radio and the audio streaming platforms complement each other very well. Their rising popularity coupled with the trends in the growth of non-music content, makes this an attractive avenue for growing one’s listenership. With the world becoming more digitized and the disappearance of geographical barriers, the opportunities for distribution of audio content to global audiences are growing. We aim to leverage and globalize our IPs by making it accessible to a large group of new audiences. Being pioneers in the storytelling format of timeless shows like Suhana Safar with Annu Kapoor and Yaadon Ka Idiot Box with Neelesh Misra, makes us an attractive partner for platforms like Spotify to offer our content for their listeners.
MediAvataar: BIG FM collaborated with Spotify recently for content partnership? How is the strategy working?
Abe: Through this collaboration with Spotify, their users have access to more than 15,000 minutes of BIG FM’s content spread across 13 marquee shows and 1,240 episodes. This includes shows like Suhana Safar with Annu Kapoor, Yaadon Ka Idiot Box with Neelesh Misra, Actor Calling Actor and Once Upon A Time in Bollywood, that have had a loyal fan base for years and are now easily accessible to listeners, old as well as new at their fingertips. We wanted to explore the on-demand content medium for our marquee properties and are proud to have taken this step in our digital transformation journey with a major audio-streaming platform like Spotify that shares the same purpose and ethos as us.
MediAvataar: What are the major trends that will shape the future of the radio industry in India?
Abe: As digitization is the way forward, the big shift that we see is how radio is embracing digital to create multiple touch-points to engage its listeners. Understanding the importance of becoming a digital first organization, we at BIG FM recently forayed in the space of web radio with the launch of BRO - BIG Radio Online that serves as the perfect platform for the youth who seek content that is entertaining as well as thought-provoking. Through BRO, we wish to provide our listeners an immersive audio experience through podcast content coupled with music. Other formats like digital concerts are also gaining immense popularity and our property Big Café Online is a great example of it. Our very first digital concert, hosted in Gujarat, which featured seven artists over the course of seven days, went on to rake in 1 million + organic views, 1 million + reach and an engagement of over a lakh.
While embracing technology is the need of the hour, the radio industry needs to be attentive and adapt itself to the changing nature of choices that the consumers are making.
MediAvataar: A major issue for radio has been figuring out how to integrate digital and turn it into a revenue generator. Are stations still struggling with how to do it?
Abe: The ongoing pandemic has played the role of a catalyst towards making leading radio networks embark on a journey of digital transformation. At Big FM, we continue to be more agile and resilient by adopting digital led solutions. From creating multiple touch-points to reaching out to our audiences and communicating with them in a manner they relate to the best, to adopting remote work from home model across each of our 58 stations across the country, we are moulding ourselves with the changing times.
Through our initiative Big Partnerships, we have signed up more than 20 associations which include audio streaming apps, digital platforms, OTT platforms amongst others where clients can reach out to a potential audience of 15 crores. The recent launch of BRO and our association with Spotify are in line with our vision of bringing about a successful confluence of radio and digital.