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Radio Reporting in India: A critical approach.

The Indian media scape is ever evolving by being flooded with multiple media options and with new media alternatives, that which are highly interactive and measurable. In such a scenario, media professionals - be it analysts, buyers, planners or even media owners tend to relegate radio to the realm of being a "second cousin" or a "support medium" to the so - called conventional media and thereby fail to leverage the innumerable innovative opportunities that could enhance the radio's relevance to the new age listener. Much of this could be owed to the way radio is reported in our country.

The implications of which are felt in the way radio is seen, employed and perceived by its broad based stakeholders- the advertiser, the media planner, the owner, and the regulator. Operating in a post television, post Internet era, or this "visually obsessed" media, where the major portion of news is centered around Television, the news about radio usually goes unnoticed. In India, the news, facts, the figures concerning the industry, if any, are available only at a few portals. It rarely finds any kind of coverage in the mainstream media. Reporting about radio in India has become merely limited to the news about a radio station, but what we need is: news, insights and perspectives on the radio industry on the whole, lest it will continue to be so PR- driven.

It requires a re-orientation from a silo perspective of stacking and storing news about a radio station towards a convergent perspective which positions radio as an industry. And also, radio as a medium, which extends its salience beyond the limited two hours every morning by surrounding the listener through multiple connect nodes.

Radio as an industry, which despite being a relatively small one, performs a valuable economic growth in stimulating small business growth through local advertising. Radio as an important part of media mix, whose share of ad-spend has been on the rise in India, despite of it declining globally.

The idea is not to give a biased coverage to radio or reporting it in a good light, but of one, which provides it with a fair and credible coverage, not only in terms of quantity but also quality. There is a need for initiatives, which aim at bringing radio closer to the media professionals, and understand its needs, strengths, and limitations, both as an industry and as a medium. To create content, which generates feedback, perspectives and insights, which can then be aggregated, analysed on a regular basis and used by all the stake holders of this medium to arrive at an enhanced, all- round and alternative perspective. To achieve this, it is imperative to repurpose the content from "Which station did what?" or "My station is good" to "What Now?" and "What next?"

The intent should not be to inform of the event but to upgrade the readers to leverage the implication arising from it, thereby empowering the readers to face the impact of events better. On the other hand, Community radio, which hardly exists in India, succeeds quietly in finding a fair and credible coverage in media.

The attitude of those in the radio industry also calls for a re- orientation and seriousness about this issue so as to create enough quantitative and qualitative space in the media for our radio.


The need for content differentiation in the Indian radio Industry:

Operating in a post television, post Internet, postmodern era, every media is redefining its competitive landscape to embrace the hyper- competitive leisure and entertainment space. Everything from media brands, to media products to media themselves redefine and carve out relevance in this environment and compete for the sixteen waking hours of the audience. Hence "Everything becomes competition", and "Everything is media". In such a dynamic media space, the only route to long-term sustainability is to enhance the relevance of my media through multiple connect nodes with the audience. Increasing relevance is not enough, it has to be different and innovative from the other, or else it will lead to the fatigue of the one consuming it. And this is exactly, what is happening to our radio industry.

Radio being closely associated with the 'spoken word', inherently has the higher pervasiveness quotient but it is important that we leverage this to the maximum especially in this over -communicated society. While there can never be any recipe for creating listener focused magnets for the station, content differentiation seems to be the next possible solution. This entire "me- too" radio phenomenon is stagnating the India radio industry. It is only through differentiated content that the engaging stations will be distinguished from the mundane, the talked about from the easily forgotten.

One radio station cannot be all things to all people. A station has to be different from another in its appeal, its relationship with listeners, and its personality, which are its unique point. But considering the constraints as news and current affairs being not allowed in the Indian radio, a very little is left by way of content differentiation. But an excellent example of content differentiation, in terms of catering to music only, is World Space Radio. A place, where I know where to go for what kind of music. Music lovers find a dearth of variety in the Indian radio space.

Listener fatigue is inevitable and the only way to beat it is constant innovation. The trick is to personalize our listener's entertainment experience to whatever situation or mood they are in, through music, its genres, and immense variety, which it offers. The very focus of the content aired on the station should differentiate them. If the stations draw themselves to this sea of uniformity, it will not serve any purpose but only stagnate our radio industry.

Fragmentation is a reality of life and so is creating sticky content, and the sooner we realize it, the better for the survival of our radio industry in this dynamic media space.



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