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Sunil Kumaran, Country Head, Product, Marketing and Thwink Big, Big FM, writes how radio withstood the test of time and will continue to do so

Sunil Kumaran

Being a radio professional I am often asked, will radio survive this age of digital or at a broader level, will mass media survive digital? Often my response to that question has been another question – who is fighting this battle of survival?

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Radio has been around for over 100 years and in many markets around the world it not just continues to ‘exist’ but ‘thrive’ in more ways than one. Time for some reflection?

Foremost, radio engages with the listeners in a unique manner.  It is a companion who brings the world into my life every day, someone I can talk to without being judged, someone I can hang out with while going about doing my daily chores. The resultant attributes coming out of these are that of ‘companionship’ and ‘trust’. These uniquely intrinsic attributes offer a preeminent role for radio in the lives of the listeners. 

A quick look at how the medium fared during the pandemic further underscores the point. At a time when the mind was distraught and gloom was an over-riding feeling, the listeners thronged to the medium. As per a recent study conducted by AROI, 82% of the population tuned into radio during the lockdown and the average daily time spent listening to radio increased by 23%.

This has a strong positive correlation to the effectiveness of radio as a medium for advertising. If we go back to the famous theory of Marshall McLuhan wherein he professed that “the medium is the message”, it all adds up. The medium on which your content is placed has a significant role to play on the overall effectiveness of the message. With attributes like current, unbiased, empathetic and trustworthy being the values of the medium, the impact these have on the advertising message is significant. The good news is that many brand managers have understood this and are leveraging these unique strengths of the medium. According to RAM, women listenership during the lockdown both in reach and time spent has grown in the four metros, which has led to substantial growth in advertising volumes of cosmetics, hair products, detergents and appliances as corroborated by advertising expenditure data.

Now if we come back to the question if digital is a threat to mass broadcast medium like radio, the answer is no longer a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  A growing trend with media planners is to look at all media and the role that they play from the uni-dimensional lenses of “can the medium help me drive my final outcome for the brand”. If the outcomes are purely defined as ‘leads’ or ‘sales’ for the brand, then one runs the deep risk of negating the impact that different media will play on the consumer. Digital can definitely drive better leads and take the consumer to the ‘point of sale’. But like they say, “you can take the horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink”. For the outcome of buying to take place, the journey of taking the consumer to the point of sale has a much larger role to play. This is where platforms like radio with their ability to build confidence and trust plays a vital role.

Also, looking at digital as just another medium is taking a very limited view of the power of digital.  Digital is a way of doing things.  Most media, be it television, print or radio, should understand that their inherent strengths are intrinsic but the way to reach out or engage with audiences has altered significantly with digital.  This shift in approach will allow most media to leverage the power of digital to their advantage.   A great example of this is online radio like the ‘Big Radio Online’. It is radio with all its attributes but made available anytime, anywhere through digital. 

So now if we reflect on the question ‘Will Radio survive digital?’, the answer is ‘no’. Radio will ride digital to ‘Thrive’.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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