Reliable radio continues to come of age

In a recently published Journal of Radio & Audio Media article, ‘“Dollars and Listeners”: Revisiting the Great New Zealand Radio Experiment of Market Deregulation’, Dr Matt Mollgaard and Dr Rufus McEwan look back on how the deregulation of the radio industry has resulted in significant listenership and advertising revenue for the medium to date.

The two researchers, who are part of Auckland University of Technology’s Sonic Cultures Research Group, unpacked this further in a discussion at The Radio Bureau’s “Power of Audio” conference in June. The two spoke to how the deregulation debate over 30 years ago sparked new strategies that commercial radio has continued to use to remain relevant to audiences and advertisers as they look to survive and thrive in the digital age.

During their discussion, Mollgaard and McEwan said that the overall trend for commercial radio listeners and advertising revenue has continued to grow since 2005. This in contrast to other media such as television and print. Further, they note that there is a divide between the potential audience and actual radio listeners, meaning that there is plenty more opportunity for growth.

Tapping into this growth potential, they say, is going to be key for media owners as they look to increase listenership and in turn commercial appeal.

Here, the two discuss in more detail some of the strategies commercial radio and its advertisers can employ so to reach more ears.

Commercial radio has seen a jump in listeners over the past five years, why is it still a popular medium?

Commercial radio is still about popular culture, curating and playing the music people love and talking about the things that people care about. The Covid crisis has reminded us how accurate, up-to-date and connective radio can be for communities when times are hard. Radio is still a key source of music, entertainment and information in cars during peak driving times, especially in our bigger cities. More people live in New Zealand than ever before and radio is tracking at about the same percentage of listeners, therefore the larger potential audience is translating to audience come growth.

How can media owners better reach these potential audiences?

Be smart online. What is it that your audience does online, with what devices and for how long? How can your station be part of that mix? How can your content be repurposed for different chunks of your audience in different parts of the day on different devices? Be smart about your brand – what is it about your brand that makes it an essential part of the way that your potential audience learns about the world, finds music they love, has a laugh and finds out what is going on that they care about.

Why is commercial radio a stable medium for advertisers?

Radio has adjusted extremely well to the challenges and opportunities of the digital age with websites, apps, podcasts and other touchpoints of interaction and extended use of their content. It has a relatively steady audience that use the medium across multiple platforms. Commercial radio has also invested in excellent audience research that helps them to create very strong brands that target specific consumer groups very accurately.

Is commercial radio doing enough to reach audiences at a more personal level? A trend we are seeing in advertising – a need for greater personalisation.

Radio is the original personal medium – it is at its best when it is about one-to-one communication. The most popular and highest rating announcers sound like they talking to you one-to-one, using personal pronouns such as ‘you’ ‘us’ ‘we’. The next challenge is to make that work across the potentials of the evolving technology – is a personalised traffic report a good idea for certain listeners etc. The combination of digital tools and live to air broadcasting needs further development – but it’s coming.  

How should advertisers be better leveraging radio’s growing audience?

Think carefully about your audio property – a classic example is ‘Show Us Your Crack’ – no one had heard of Novus before that jingle. The other one is the McDonald’s ditty and then there’s the Pizza Hut number (bet you know it!). Spend time thinking about what your sonic signature is and how it can work across different radio brands. Get creative to take it seriously, and be prepared to go for reach and frequency, as ever – radio will do the rest.

What are some of the biggest trends in audio that are going to dominate the next 5 years?

One potential concern is a new wave of cars that don’t have a traditional radio set in them to pick up FM or AM, but come with apps instead. NZ Radio is working with the auto industry right now to keep a presence in cars – especially in New Zealand, where we don’t have the cheap data and coverage of European countries. We need radio in cars for traffic, weather and emergencies – especially for Civil Defence, so I can see it being part of your car for a long time yet.

The other major stuff seems to be around integrating radio with data seamlessly, like the localised surf reports that are automatically generated for listeners dependant on where they are listening. The potential of location, lifestyle and product-specific integrated radio and data are compelling – especially at those peak listening times and as people are making buying decisions.

Find out more about the New Zealand commercial radio landscape at trb.co.nz

This story is part of a content partnership with The Radio Bureau.

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