Picture: 123RF/TZIDO
Picture: 123RF/TZIDO

The art and science of building and understanding audiences is critical to ensuring a radio station’s success. This was one of the topics discussed at the recent annual Liberty Radio Conference in Sandton, which bought together an array of radio experts to share their opinions and experiences.

One of those to share its success in building its radio audience and revenue was Cape-based Heart FM, which has grown significantly since it launched five years ago. Head of programming Denver Apollus said a key reason for the station’s success is that it behaves like a number-one station, being part of the conversation and making the station sound like Cape Town. “You won’t see big brag billboards from us because that’s not our value system,” he said. “Instead, we broadcast with heart and humility.”

Thirty-two-year-old Algoa FM continues to be one of the most popular stations in the country. The secret to its success, said operations director Alfie Jay, is that the station considers itself to be in the business of people rather than radio. “Operating in the eastern and southern Cape, serving both the Buffalo City and George metros, we’ve had to make the fact that we’re in a secondary market work for us. This entails understanding the people we service. Research has therefore been key.”

The big take-out

Understanding the audience you serve is critical to growing audiences – and revenue – in the radio industry.

Gauteng-based Hot 91.9fm, a station that is now almost four years old, looks for consistency in its programming. The station’s own research puts its listenership at a much higher figure than that of the Radio Audience Measurement Survey. “We don’t believe in being everything to everybody,” says station founder and MD Lloyd Madurai, adding that Hot 91.9fm’s research shows that the station’s audience is very engaged with it.

The panel agreed that good media planners ask less about numbers and more about who listens to the station. They also concurred that the events that stations participate in need to align with their core values.

Jay said it is essential for stations to do their homework before participating in events. “Staging events is not rocket science,” he said, “but you need to manage the build-up carefully, partner with the right people and do it properly.”

Madurai said it is critical that stations don’t allow outside parties to control their brands when it comes to events. “Know where your brand is going to be placed and how well the event is organised. Hosting events is expensive but, if done correctly, they can result in increased brand recognition and [create] brand ambassadors,” he said.