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The author is an award-winning youth advocate. He is the co-founder of a number of community initiatives including the Youth Congress, a premier youth-led organization in Kenya.
Radio programmers and marketers are having difficulty reaching out to and growing their young adult audiences, many whom have adopted the use of new digital media technologies. To remain strong in the digital era and in the face of competition from new media technologies, the old terrestrial broadcasters need to be innovative and use new media tools to market to young adult listeners. Digital media is key in aiding the radio medium to reach large audience and be more impactful.
While radio still dominates and is certainly Africa’s most accessible source of news, particularly for those living in remote areas, digital media is attracting new users. A number of studies confirm an increase in use in Africa, and around the world, of digital platforms that include Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Additionally, these studies show that a significant number of young adults have shown a lack of interest in traditional media, including radio.
With such technological changes worldwide, radio has experienced dramatical changes, more recently in Africa. It is increasingly clear and increasingly inevitable that radio has to rapidly move to a multi-platform, digital world.
According to Robi Koki Ochieng, a lecturer of media and communication at the United States International University Africa (USIU), digital solutions offer radio new opportunities and chance to accelerate growth and attract more listeners.
“Audiences today are niche and they choose the content that they wish to listen to, so the digital space gives audiences a choice in selecting what they want to watch and listen to,” says Ochieng. “That is why audio-visual content as posted of YouTube, TikTok and Instagram are gaining traction based on how interesting and captivating the content is to the audiences.”
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Martin Fanie, a multi-award winning radio host in Botswana’s Yarona FM, agrees that digital platforms can help radio reach larger audiences.
“Social media has improved my listenership and following on radio because whatever I post for my followers attention, especially about my program, [it] reaches a lot of people from all corners of the country” says Fanie, “I engage listeners via Facebook Live and that has proven to be more powerful than ever because I allow them to put the face on the voice they always hear on radio, and it seems to be more exciting for them.”
Radio presenters like Fanie use digital platforms to build their brand, attract and enlarge their audience and evaluate performance.
“I always post my show prep on social media, which consists of topics that will be discussed on the show in order to attract listenership and constantly remind my audience to tune in and be part of the show” says Fanie.
“It is always important to alert people on what you are going to discuss on the show as most of my target audience is on social media. I often create a voting poll for a particular topic so people vote on social media as they find it more accessible,” adds Fanie.
Seemingly, being active on other platforms, especially social media, brings the radio presenters closer to their audience and helps promote products and programs online.
For example, Jacky Vike, a content creator, actress and influencer with a significantly large following on digital platforms, uses social media to boost listenership and drive sales for different products and programs.
According to Gavin Meiring, a South African broadcaster, Africa as part of the global digital world, can’t ignore changes affecting media consumption worldwide.
Increasingly across Africa, many producers are using digital as a means to create radio or broadcast content as this allows for a multi-platform delivery of content.
No doubt, radio need to adapt to the digital era and embrace the medium causing so much change in the world: the internet. As Ms. Ochieng says, it’s important for media organizations to be agile and “quick to adapt to digital trends, audience needs, embrace innovative yet relatable storytelling and to develop revenue streams to sustain their administration and operational expenses.”