When Radio is an interruption and when its not

Radio is back with a bang and it must thank, I guess, the terrible traffic, because I bet most of the listening is done while in transit, which stretches pretty much to eternity, at least on Bangalore roads.

Jayant Bhokkare of Radio indigo has this to say about FM Radio's future in India, “Out-of-home radio consumption has huge potential. With cities getting de-clogged and the formation of new business districts and residential townships, people are bound to spend much more time out of home. We should definitely see listenership growing in ambient areas. Marketers have enormous potential. Given that high traffic density is a favourable factor, listeners today experience a lot of compulsive listening.”

He is right to the extent that listeners do experience 'compulsive listening'. Is that good enough to have marketers climbing on the FM radio bandwagon. For the moment, it seems they are. But then compulsive listening that people are exposed to, while on the move is at times wasted on them. Thus the marketing message that comes along is ignored. This may happen, lets say while a listener browses through stores at a mall; remember the assumption here is that his movement is purposeful. But the scenario changes drastically if the listener is stationery; or on the move, aimless, without a specific purpose. Lets say he is either in a moving vehicle (remember he himself is not on the move, technically) or maybe he's at a bar nursing a drink; at such a time he may be all ears; maybe even just walking down the road (FM playing on a mobile device). This distinction is important.

When consumers are purposeful, most media interventions are treated as interruptions, therefore ignored. When the same consumer is aimless, media interventions are sometimes even welcome.

Radio listenership, thanks to FM is on the rise in India. As long as the format does not come at a price, consumers are willing listeners. When charged, I am not sure if consumers would be as accepting. Take the case of WorldSpace. Business hasn't been too good for them. Consumers are just not willing to pay for something they listen to.


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