media update’s Nakedi Phala takes a look at the evolution of radio and where it’s headed.

Did you know that South Africa has more than 295 radio stations? That’s a lot, right? Talk about variety. And from these, Ukhozi FM comes out top with an audience exceeding 7.4 million per week. Just imagine going on-air with roughly a million people tuning in. This means more audiences who are hearing adverts — something all advertisers should be smiling about. 

Let’s tune into the rise of radio. 

More platforms to broadcast from

With so many platforms available — such as  AM/FM, terrestrial, online streaming and satellite — there’s more healthy competition and more content for listeners to choose from. 

What began as traditional AM/FM frequencies has grown to include online streaming options. With these, commercial radio stations have expanded to use almost all platforms, while smaller and community stations have seen new opportunities to reach and influence audiences without breaking the bank.

According to a report published in a Wits University research paper, the number of community-based radio stations on either of these platforms has spiked, and some of the stations enjoy the reach of bigger audiences versus that of commercial radio stations. Interesting … 

Mobile radio apps also offer more user and brand experience; not only does the listener enjoy clear sound, but more brand engagement while listening to the radio on the app. The listener can also stream through content ranging from upcoming playlists, station blog and adverts in visual form. 

Shared love between radio and DJs

Audiences are loyal to radio stations that have great DJs who execute their content with passion in a way that resonates with audiences. 

Let’s take some time to rewind to when the popular DJ Sbu Leope left SABC’s Metro FM, making a swift move from terrestrial radio to digital. Audiences were left at a crossroad, with some choosing to stick to  Metro FM while others followed DJ Sbu’s MassivMetro online radio station. 

This influenced the likes of Tbo Touch to move from mainstream radio to go solo; again, this encouraged some of their loyal listeners to move with them to their new ventures. This proves that some audiences love radio personalities more than the radio station; hence, where the DJ goes, the listeners will  follow. 

The relationship between radio and social media 

Nowadays, social media is great for both social and business. This is proven in a Business Day article, which discusses the power shift from hiring a mere radio presenter in comparison to a well-established personality who has great public engagement and social media presence.

Take, for example, Kaya FM, which has close to 60 000 followers on Instagram while one of its presenters, Unathi, has close to 900 000 on the same platform — she has more followers than her own employer. 

Example I 

Example II 

The role of radio in a crisis 

It’s no surprise that radio in South Africa has been one of the most important mediums for sharing information during Covid-19. It's easily accessible on smartphones, in cars and through home entertainment systems. It's everywhere. 

Last year, Kagiso Media released its analytics and data, which showed that audiences relied more on radio to deliver news, information as well as reliable tips to help deal with the coronavirus and its outcomes.  

So, what does this mean for the future of radio in South Africa? There could be an increase in the number of listeners as accessibility improves. 

This is a clear indication that South Africans are hungry for news and information, especially news related to their own situation. For brands, this will likely mean an increase in their investments in radio advertising. 

Radio can now be watched

Who knew watching radio broadcasters working in the studio could be a thing? Well, it is. And, it doesn't seem to have disrupted the status quo. 

Social media offers such convenient features that give creatives the power to have fun! Some radio stations, such as Kaya FM, have even established Kaya TV, where audiences are able to watch their favourite presenters conducting their radio work. They do this by using platforms and features such as YouTube Live streaming features. 

Radio ages like wine, it only gets better with time! 

Radio has, over the years, proven to be a powerful medium. With that being said, what are your thoughts on the future of radio? Let us know in the comments section below.  

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Want to learn what happens when television meets radio? Then check out The brewing relationship between radio and TV.