media update’s Taylor Goodman investigates exactly why radio has proven itself as an invaluable medium.

Seeing that radio provides its listeners with round-the-clock entertainment and information, it adds up that stations have experienced significant boom during recent world events. 

In South Africa, the National Association of Broadcasters conducted a survey on audience listening behaviour. They found that 36% of respondents claim to be listening to more radio during the national lockdown. Additionally, local radio stations like UkhoziFM have seen a 30% increase in call-ins.

Now without further ado, let’s take a deeper look into why radio has such a loyal following:

In radio we trust  

Think about it: Radio is a distanced form of entertainment and it is also deeply personal in the way a show’s host communicates with its listeners. This brings us to the crux of this story, radio being a relationship medium. 

Since its birth, radio has been a place where listeners can go to for everyday entertainment or where they have easy, free access to breaking news. In an African context, radio plays a special role; it is accessible, informative, cheap to produce, and above all, trusted by its listeners. 

As reflected in the statistics above, radio listeners have remained loyal to the media throughout this year. Listeners are loyal to the medium because they trust it. This trust comes from radio helping them to feel less isolated and more connected to their community

In addition to this, audiences view this medium as reliable and credible. These days, fake news is apleantly on social media, an issue you will rarely be met with when listening to your five o’clock news broadcast. Listeners view the news given on air as credible as they believe it is fact-checked and backed up by legitimate sources. 

This increases the trust they have in the radio station, but also with the presenters, with audiences often referring to the voices they hear on the radio as their ‘friends’

Local radio producers are also prevalent influencers in their communities and tend to have loyal followings. This is because they have built a long-term relationship with their listeners as a trusted source of information and a companion through difficult times. 

Outside of the comfort found in the reliability of a radio presenter, they are also a source of entertainment. This offers people an escape from their day-to-day lives, where they can just enjoy a light-hearted conversation and have a laugh. 

The downside

As amazing radio is at informing the masses and connecting communities, it is not immune to the effects of these unprecedented times.

Despite the SABC 2018/2019 report claiming that revenue growth is linked to audience growth, local stations have seen the opposite occur. There has been a spike in their audience but ad spend has plummeted. 

Why? Well, advertisers have shifted to spending their money elsewhere. During the lockdown period, advertisers shifted towards advertising on more stay-home friendly services like social media, streaming services or mobile gaming. This led to a significant decrease in ad spend on the media. 

The future of radio seems uncertain, as do most things when we try and look at the ‘new normal’. Popular radio stations like iHeartRadio in the USA have announced pay cuts in their executive tiers to help alleviate the economic fallout of the pandemic, which may be a pattern we see in the industry going forward. 

Whether radio chooses to adapt its structure in the future to stay relevant, or not, it is key that the industry maintains the authenticity that has gotten it such a loyal following to begin with. 

Do you enjoy listening to the radio? Why or why not? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to learn more about How radio has been impacted by the 'new normal'?. Then check out our article for all the latest deets!
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy