Thursday, 10 May 2012

Growing the Pizzazz

by Paul Chantler

The privately-owned radio industry in India has grown enormously in a very short time. In the UK, commercial radio started nearly 40 years ago. In India, the same kind of growth has been compressed into a quarter of that time.
I congratulate the Indian government on its efficiency and enterprise in licensing so many new radio stations so quickly. I know there are hundreds more to come. And of course there is much more to do, both creatively and commercially, in order to exploit radio to its fullest potential.
Traditional radio remains relevant, even in a high-tech digital world full of increasing media choice. As UK newspaper The Guardian wrote recently, “The technology that is fragmenting other audiences and leaving some sectors in the doldrums is also making it easier and more pleasurable to listen to the radio.”
There are many issues that need to be addressed in the shaping of Indian radio in the future – music royalties, cost management, advertiser confidence, multiple formats and the prospect of digital radio. However there is one major issue that sometimes tends to get forgotten in the complexity and confusion of growth: the importance of CONTENT.
It seems to me Indian radio has done a fantastic job over the last few years raising standards and becoming highly professional. The biggest danger is when radio simply becomes a commodity; listeners just push a button and tune to another station when a song they dislike comes on. If radio is to reach a level where listeners are actually loyal to one station instead of flicking between three or four, RJs have to become larger-than-life personalities. In short, they have to become radio stars.
For this, they need tools, techniques and tips which by themselves mean little and seem like small details but when added together take a radio station from one level to the next and a run-of-the-mill RJ from being good to being a star.
Being entertaining and producing great personality content doesn’t just happen by magic. You can’t just let someone get on with it. Sure, you need to identify talent – but you have to put hard work, energy and inspiration into growing that talent.
I always say it takes three years to become an overnight success!
The problem of growing talent is one faced by radio stations all over the world including in developed markets like the UK, US and Australia. Programmers quickly discovered that what goes on between the music is just as important – if not more so – than the music itself. As a consultant, my job is to teach and coach talent. And it’s a vital job that is often overlooked in the rush to grow.
Apart  from star RJs, there’s also another aspect of content that is important to cement listener loyalty to your station: creative and imaginative ideas.
Advertisers just love new ideas. If sales professionals can bring their client fun, fresh and exciting ideas for promotions, they’re more likely to win the business. In the UK and US, the selling of sponsorship and promotions linked to contests and features are one of the biggest growing parts of radio sales. Increasingly, advertisers are looking for more than just a 30-second commercial.
My company Radio Ideas Bank specialises in helping radio stations find tried-and-tested contest and promotion ideas for use on and off air which can generate revenue by being sold to advertisers. We have a searchable database of hundreds of ideas for competitions and stunts that can be used not only on air but also online to enhance radio station websites.
So, content is the lifeblood of radio and the secret to its longevity. Listening to stations in many parts of the world, it seems to me that some have lost their creative spark. Don’t let that happen in India. Radio should never become a commodity. Listener loyalty needs to be earned for true long-term growth. Build stations that ‘sparkle’ and that create talkability from star RJs and drive revenue from fun, imaginative promotions.
In short, grow the pizzazz!
Paul Chantler is a radio programming consultant working in the UK, Europe and India with 30 years experience. He is also the founder of Radio Ideas Bank which has registered users and subscribers in more than 30 countries.

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