In part 2 of the LEADERSPEAK special featuring Radio leader Nisha Narayanan, COO — Red FM, we bring you her views on why Radio is still languishing at the bottom of the ad revenue pile, on the inadequacies of RAM and IRS as measurement yardsticks, what Red FM uses to measure the impact of its content offerings, and the industry’s expectations going forward. Ultimately, however, Narayanan believes that even in the face of all the lacunae and apparent apathy, Radio, a truly resilient medium, will continue to survey and grow, just as it has always done.
Excerpts from the conversation.
Why is Radio still languishing at the bottom of the ad revenue pile?
I see a few fundamental reasons for this – private FM was the last entrant in the commercial media space in India. Although radio was always a popular medium in India and it had a very unique positioning, its commercial entry happened last, and by that time TV had made signification inroads. There is a lack of awareness on radio’s reach, owing to non-availability of a very authenticated listenership data (and ROI calculation). Hence, buyers and marketers find it difficult to use it as a primary medium.
Secondly, I feel that in spite of being one of the first amongst social media tools that gave the advertiser the power to create interactive dialogs with its listeners, due to radio’s requirement of an innovative approach all times, it requires far more efforts to create a nice ad on radio.
Being a very local medium, it requires much effort from our partners to create concepts and jingles, but as the price points at every city level are very low when compared to the traditional Print or TV, it fails to attract ROI for our partner agencies.
It is much easier to create a nice print ad with minimum investment; a radio ad will always require a talent pool of VO artists, copy writer, jingle producer, etcetera. In a similar setup, one feels one can create an AV and that takes away all the attention and investment – making TVC a natural choice.
Lastly Radio is perhaps the only medium which requires a unique approach for each campaign, regionally and linguistically, and hence demands much more effort against lesser returns.
Does the measurement of Radio listenership actually reflect it correctly?
Where is radio listenership measurement in India? We at RED FM have always raised questions on the way radio listenership is gauged in our country. RAM’s anomalies are known to all and not just us alone, and almost all players have felt that there is issue in its age-old diary method, sample size and with those who fill the diaries. As for IRS – it is primarily a readership survey. How do you measure radio listenership with a readership survey? We do appreciate their efforts in trying to suggest some indicators, but it is basically a misfit methodology to understand radio listeners’ behaviour.
While everyone says that too many advertisements deter listeners from consuming radio, most of the high share holders play maximum ads in an hour, yet the ratings reflect them as receiving high audience share. This phenomenon baffles us and has taken away our confidence in the methodology and results. Then there were instances where we caught people playing with the methodology. So we decided to move out of RAM.
IRS has not been able to give us a weekly update or to fine tune the survey for the requirement of radio players, hence we have not subscribed to it.
And what does the industry think?
At the end of the day, the industry agrees that to grow the share of radio, it is important to have a strong currency. Towards this end, TRAI has initiated action on a single currency and asked for the views of all the industry players. We welcome this initiative but we would like an industry body be involved in it totally and take it forward. The Media planning and buying fraternity, on the other hand, think that Radio is just a 4-5% medium so it questions whether it is worth their money to invest on radio listenership research.
What should be done to correct this?
Well, take the insights available from some of developed countries and develop a better and more robust system.
What are those best practices that the other international measurement systems are employing that should be used in India, according to you?
TRAI consultation has already highlighted some of the practices that are being followed in developed and developing countries. US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Malaysia or South Africa all countries use mix of Diary and People Meters. Most significant is that they employ a sizeable sample size. The agency that surveys represent both broadcasters and industry. Sample size also starts from 10 year old onwards looking at the media consuming habit in those countries. Some of the countries survey as many as 1.60 lac people to gauge listenership behavior. Various methods used are Diary Method, People Meters, Computer Aided Telephonic Interview and face to face direct interviews.
So you don’t subscribe to RAM. How then do you measure the frequency-reach-effectiveness of Red FM? And what do you use to measure it in comparison with the competition?
The best judge of efficacy and media’s reach is its ability to deliver response and ability to command a desired — and the highest — price. We have proved it time and again. For internal reference we rely on our own Digital Music Testing (DMT), and we gauge various aspects of listeners’ behaviour with it.
For this, we have been hiring internationally acclaimed researchers and this we have been doing for almost a decade now. They have helped us not only to understand our listeners’ behaviour but also have suggested us internationally acceptable best practices
What aspects of listeners’ behaviour do you test here and why are those aspects important for your content and sales teams and for the media buyers outside?
The Digital Music Testing does not measure the listenership. What it doe do however is measure as to what aspects of the programming do the listeners like and appreciate and what is not working, which RJ’s are popular and which RJ’s and shows we need to work upon. We also test our superhit music to tell us as to which songs are popular and which can be removed from our playlist. This is extremely important to us to fine- tune our product. We have a good product, automatically we will gain in listenership.
That helps us to keep a Super Hit product which delivers results. Advertisers want ROI through response and our DMTs try to fix the best product in terms of content and entertainment mix. Then we also do brand tracks and continuously get into FGD to understand listeners requirements.
How does your internal research overcome the shortcomings of the RAM data?
Well we present our case in terms of content, and adaptability to innovate and deliver reach. As such RAM represents only 4 markets – which may be 60% of market, but a lot of India is beyond these four metros and steadily growing. We are a network of stations which has a presence far bigger than and well beyond the 4 metros of RAM. With strong content, team and delivery of good results, we have always been overcoming the shortcoming of RAM and shall continue to do so.
How easy or difficult is it to sell Red FM basis own research? The industry normally prefers data from a neutral monitoring agency…
So far we have been doing it successfully and going forward too, hope to continue the same.
Now, please share all the insights on his Red FM has increased its TSL… What works, any specific initiatives, and how it worked…
We have always been doing listener-led initiatives – be it our RED LIVE events, city specific initiatives and CSR-led Bajaao for a Cause, all have helped us to connect with our listeners.
What is the TSL on Red FM, as shown by your research?
Our research does not measure TSL per se. However, the research does tell us if the initiatives that we are taking are working for us or not. We then fine tune accordingly
So do I take it then, with existing listenership-audit footprint limitations and other ‘shortcomings’ of radio audience measurements, that Private FM Radio sells (a) purely on perception in other markets, and (b) largely on perception in the four RAM metro markets?
Radio largely sells on perception. Whether big or small markets, what works for radio is the conviction of the advertiser that his ad has given him the response that he desired at a given cost. I think in this regard, Red FM has been delivering which is seen from the repeat advertising, consistent market shares and the continuous pressure on the inventory demand.
That makes your own research a very important part of not just your content creation but also your station selling abilities. What part of your marketing budget, at least in terms of percentage, do you invest in your research?
Consistently – 10%-12% is spent by us on research. Additionally we may commission research on a specific project or market. As mentioned earlier, it does help us fine tune our content on all matters
Radio is a local medium for tactical initiatives, and also, equally, for a big-network a strategic medium for national or multiple-market campaigns. How do you conduct and collate your research to sell to strategic national-campaign advertisers?
In a time when national is going local, it’s not very difficult, especially when you have a strong network presence across the country which is complemented by equally strong sales team at both, the local and national levels. Our best brand ambassadors are our advertisers who on the basis of their satisfactory result at local levels recommend us for their requirements. And with a very creative client solutions team, we offer unique advertising solutions with local adaptation requirements also being fulfilled. We have also built IP’s such as RED Live , Red Activ, Thappa, Tashanbaazand Red Bandstand. concerts, RED ka Thappa, College Ke Tashanbaaz, RED Bandstand for grooming music talent. Also, lastly, but very strongly, our Cricket-led city-wise connect – Principal sponsor of Sunrisers Hyderabad, KKR ka Control Room and Rising Pune Giants, Pro Kabbadi Jaipur Pink Panthers tie up. . All these help us connect to a city locally and get the mileage for advertisers who look forward to such initiatives.
How has Red FM grown over the years as a viable and preferred medium for advertisers and brands?
We have come a long way in expanding our reach and connect with advertisers. Today we have a market share of over 25% amongst all radio players and it has been growing YoY. We offer a variety and diversity which is unmatchable. RED and Suryan today cover 75% of India’s FM reach through strong presence in the East, West, North and South. Thus whenever a local or national advertiser thinks of radio advertising, RED becomes a natural choice. We have stations in 90% of key markets except maybe four… Surat, Chandigarh, Patna and Jodhpur. And we are very hopeful that these cities will be also covered in our Phase 3 plans.
Going forward, what do you expect from the government?
We hope that now that we are getting into the next phase of another 15 years of licensing, the Radio Industry would get some of our long pending expectations fulfilled, like permitting news and current affairs and sports, and rationalization of One-Time Entry Fees (OTEF) and reduction of license fee; we are the only medium which has to pay both OTEF and Annual Licence… there is nothing like this for TV, Print, Digital or OOH. The government should help us in revising our DAVP rates which have remained the same for the past decade — compare that with TV and print, which don’t have to pay any license fee and get a revision of rates once every three to five years.
Sadly, one gets a feeling of deja-vu here – these demands have been pending for very long now, and each is extremely justified if Radio has to grow as a medium. Why has the industry not been able to get any headway on these in the regulatory corridors? What’s lacking? Are you aware if the private FM Radio industry, united under AROI, has set any timelines for itself to get these demands met?
The AROI is trying its best to get some of these issues addressed. However no timelines have been set by the body since its totally dependent on the Government for their redressal.
The scale of the industry since it is just 4% of the overall media pie. As a result of which, it gets lesser media attention.
So just as in area of listenership measurement, will the poor FM Radio industry will be forced to continue to fend for itself, working around content lacunae and unfair licensing and entry fees, unfair playing field on DAVP ad rates when compared to television…?
The radio industry has shown great resilience and I am sure that despite the existing lacunae, we will continue to grow.