The new year is in full swing, and the audio revolution is showing no signs of slowing down. Audio creation and consumption have both gone through major shifts over the last two years, as the world continues to grapple with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The face of audio is set to continue changing in 2022. Perhaps even faster than we might think.
From the rise of unconventional new competitors, all the way to opportunities to listen to, repurpose and distribute an abundance of premium content from all over the world, there’s quite a bit going on. Mindful of this, it’s worth taking a look at the potential impact of these changes within the evolving audio landscape over the next twelve months.
Radio’s essential role during the pandemic
Although it might feel like the first lockdown in 2020 was a long time ago, in the grander scheme of things the pandemic has only been a part of daily life for a relatively short period. Radio has been one of the mediums that really stepped it up since then, diving in head first and keeping people entertained and informed in a period of high uncertainty, and with the threat of fake news around every corner.
This has contributed to the now booming face of audio — which has long been on the radar of tech companies and Silicon Valley startups — but is only just beginning to gain a lot of mainstream momentum. The widespread adoption of voice notes have played an important part in this too. Radio is the master of reinvention, but as powerful as it is, it is going to come under more pressure from a variety of new sources this year. This is especially true considering the revenue growth numbers many commercial radio stations are posting in what is a very delicate global economic climate.
The revised face of audio?
The changing face of audio might be better described as a revised face of audio. Media consumption habits are going through major shifts all over the world. In the US, the average adult consumes about 11 hours of media every day; 20.2% more than a decade ago. Mobile consumption is up to an average of a rather staggering 252 minutes a day.
Audio content creators and distributors are having to think out of the box to meet the changing needs of their audiences, in order to get a slice of the (attention) pie. These all have to be mindful that consumption habits are generation-specific too. Baby boomers still prefer traditional media, whereas GenZ’s are quite predictably glued to their mobile devices. Knowing who you’re speaking to matters, but it’s about more than just high quality content these days. How it gets delivered and how that slots into the life of the consumer can mean the difference between good engagement, or simply being passed over for something else.
New competition from non-traditional establishments
Not being passed over means keeping an eye on all the new competition popping up. These are increasingly coming from non-traditional establishments that spot the opportunity of poaching a traditional radio audience. A prime example of this is the Los Angeles Times; formerly a written publication that has had to pivot over the last decade to counter dwindling revenues in print media.
By creating The Times — a popular daily podcast that has great monetisation potential — they have successfully navigated some very murky waters. They haven’t changed what they have always done best: high-quality journalism. The difference now is that these in-studio interviews, detailed reports and more are all going to live online forever, with the potential to repurpose the content elsewhere at a later stage too. Other podcasts are knocking on the doors of the attention spans of traditional radio audiences too.
Wonder(y) and podcasting power
That’s not to say that radio isn’t ready to put up a good fight. In a bid to get ahead of the curve, African Media Entertainment recently signed a deal to partner with Wondery, the biggest independent podcast distributor in the world. The collaboration means that AME has the rights to promote some of the countless Wondery podcasts through subsidiaries, like Algoa FM and OFM.
The latest PWC Media Outlook estimates 19 million monthly podcast users in South Africa by 2024. By working together, both radio and podcasts have the ability to transform the audio landscape even further. I have a particular love for podcasting, and thoroughly enjoy being a guest on insightful shows like The DOC and the GURU. From a content creators perspective, podcasting is fun, engaging and relatively uncomplicated to get going with. Done well, it can be alluring to listeners in the same way radio has always been. It will also be big business in the future.
A view towards the year ahead
It’s safe to say that 2022 will see more players entering an already competitive audio landscape. On top of new apps entering the market, streaming platforms like Spotify are gunning for radio listeners in a big way. The Swedish powerhouse has already launched its own morning show that is free to listen anytime from 7am on weekdays. It differentiates itself from traditional radio by (1) letting the listener consume the content on their own time, (2) by allowing them to skip stories they aren’t interested in, and (3) by playing music specifically curated to the individual.
Online audio is only going to continue to explode during the course of this year. More people are going to open their own stations, dabble with podcasting and explore new ways of finding niche audiences. Radio has got to do what it can to get ahead of it, or to collaborate with the platforms in a mutually beneficial way.
By having the training, skill and expertise to create better products than the average teenager in their bedroom, the industry does have a leg up in many ways. How it uses that to satisfy the ever changing habits and needs of audiences begs to be seen this year.
Who else is ready to give it their best shot?
Dave Tiltmann is group chief executive officer of African Media Entertainment.
Radio personality and Algoa FM Presenter, Brian Ndevu, is using his afternoon drive show to highlight women of the Eastern Cape and South Africa.
He has introduced “Wonder Women Wednesday,” which seeks to inspire women from all walks of life to look beyond the gender-based violence against women around them and reach for greatness.
“The feature was born out of my anger regarding violence towards women,” says Ndevu.
“I thought if I could dedicate a day each week to celebrate women, it wouldn’t only inspire older women to be great, but young girls as well,” he says.
“I have girl children and I want them to have other women to look up to who are doing great things in the world,” he says.
Ndevu selects the women he features by looking at what is currently happening in the country.
“I’ve celebrated young women in South Africa who have changed career paths as a result of Covid (from microbiology to farming), celebrated a woman from Queenstown who beat cancer and the Prime Minister of New Zealand for her approach to Covid-19.
“We also featured our Border Rugby Women’s Team who won the national league,” he says.
“The response has been good. Listeners tell me they look forward to the feature. The great thing about it is that there are plenty of things that women are doing that are worth celebrating,” says Ndevu.
This month, Ndevu highlights that he will be speaking to a Walter Sisulu University student who recently won a continental competition.
The future shines bright for Wonder Women Wednesdays, Ndevu says, “I’d love to have the feature sponsored or get to a point where we have an event celebrating women every year. I’d love to have seminars and talks at schools for women, by women”.
“In women’s month, we generally hear more about women supporting women, but Brian has grown this feature beyond just women’s month.
“It’s an empowering feature for all ages and through sharing positive stories, we are hoping to inspire others through radio,” says Algo FM marketing manager Lesley Geyer.
“Leadership is all about the people. It’s not about organisations. Its not about plans. Its not about strategies. Its all about people – motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centred” – Colin Powell.
Mental health management has become a very important factor in all our lives. And for those in leadership roles, you not only have to be on top of your mental health, but that of your team members as well.
If we are to overcome the obstacles this pandemic has brought, our focus should be on our most valued asset, what we at Algoa FM call our “champions” – our people.
Coping with mental health challenges (our own and those of our staff) has always been part of our lives, but it has been kept a well-hidden secret, like something that we are embarrassed to share.
And as leaders, we were thrown in the deep end when Covid placed a spotlight on mental health and forced us to deal with the elephant in the room.
While mental illness has always been with us, international research collated by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has found that the prevalence of anxiety and depression has doubled in many countries around the world.
One of the first misconceptions that we need to overcome is that mental illness is a sign of some sort of weakness. It is an illness, much like any other, and we need to educate ourselves about it and understand it.
Here are some of my thoughts…
- Educate yourself about mental health through reading articles and attending webinars Share your insights with your team – knowledge is power.
- Have an open-door policy and listen when staff come to you with challenges
- When team members reach out, it is important to listen and then act
- Be aware that team members will almost certainly have a member of their immediate family or social circle suffering from mental challenges – this will have a knock-on effect
Many will try to keep their challenges to themselves. Here are some signs too look out for:
- Fatigue, changes in behaviour, being more aggressive in responses, poor work performance or throwing oneself completely into workday beyond 8-5, changes in appearances, changes in mood.
- Warning bells should ring if you cannot get hold of staff working remotely. Many times, if you are not in a good space answering a phone or responding to a message or an email can be too much.
- Reach out to staff. Have open, non-threatening conversations with your staff and allow them to express themselves
- Reach out to your HR Department for guidance and assistance.
I find that sharing my personal experience with mental health and the challenges I am facing through this pandemic helps.
And I always find that it helps when people understand that they are not alone, and that others are also facing similar challenges. You may be surprised how much support and hope an open conversation can give your staff members.
One must never forget that leaders are under at least as much strain as their team members – and often more. We need to care for our own mental health.
Looking after yourself mentally is as important as the skills and knowledge that have seen you move into a leadership role.
Leaders set the example, and your team will cope better with the mental challenges of a Covid world if you show the way.
Few of us can do it alone – as part of the leadership team, we need to be there for each other.
Know that there will be times when you feel despondent and feel like you can’t cope any more.
During these times we need to be able to support and lean on each other.
Be patient and understanding, when someone in a meeting has a reaction that was maybe out of the norm, step back… don’t take it personally and hear the person out.
Tomorrow, it could be you who is struggling to control stress.
These are challenging times for all of us.
About the author: Celeste Thomas – Algoa FM Human Resources Manager
Celeste joined Algoa FM in 2013. Under her guidance the Human Resources department has established itself as a strategic arm of the business, which is integrated into all the media house’s operations.
She also sits on the Board of Propella, a Gqebera-based business incubator geared to advance IT and manufacturing businesses.
“The world we live in is ever changing and as such I am always learning new things. My knowledge of the media industry has grown so much, and I am loving every minute of it. If you are innovative, creative, forward thinking and have the ability to adapt to different situations and still have a lot of fun while doing it…… then media is the industry for you,” says Celeste.
If one could sum up the job of a journalist, it mostly comes down to telling stories. Not our own, but those of other people. This might sound simple, but the work that goes into writing and broadcasting or publishing a story can take days.
Journalists are thus considered people who have a wealth of information on the widest variety of topics. Now, taking this into consideration, who would ever think we would live in times where we would have to report on something unknown, invisible, so foreign, never experienced in modern times, and only learning the (mutating) facts as we write?
That’s Covid-19 for you. It can certainly be considered a watershed moment in the media industry globally. One day the OFM News team was chasing a story about a church gathering with international guests in Bloemfontein with possible Covid-19 positive cases, the next the whole country had been shut down – lock, stock and barrel – cut-off from the rest of the world. I remember telling a colleague, who responded very calmly, “Not to worry, so is the rest of the world”.
The newsroom was abuzz with more questions than answers. Information overload was the order of the day. The team was in daily brainstorming sessions to figure out ways to tell the story differently. We had to make sure we were double-checking and questioning ourselves all the time. Are we giving enough information? Should we give more? Are we maintaining the correct balance of warning without causing panic? What should we do differently?
But still, the ink from our pens could not dry. We had to learn and inform. And then learn more and inform more. We epitomised the Confucius quote: “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life”.
It was clear that it did not matter what happened, the basic test of journalism – whether a story is considered news or not – still applied. If you do not know the answer to a question, chances are about ten of your friends or family members do not know it either and that is enough people who will be interested in the story.
Another foolproof strategy in journalism – especially when you run out of angles for news articles – is to tell the story through someone’s eyes. To try and make it more human and to tell the story using someone else’s words. But as time went on, we realised that hundreds and thousands of people were testing positive and a frightening number of them were succumbing to the pandemic.
As is the case with any news department worth its salt, the OFM News team sets the news agenda for listeners and readers in Central South Africa. Our ability to keep people informed has been tested in so many ways with the coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although listeners and readers were glued to their radios and screens during hard lockdown, they became overwhelmed within a few months, and news and pandemic fatigue set in. I do, however, believe that never before have the South African public and the government understood the importance of the news industry as well as they do now.
The OFM News team strives to keep listeners in Central South Africa informed and up to date. More than a year later and the country is now experiencing the third wave. At provincial level, the vaccination programme is in full swing. As the pandemic continues to change our lives in a million different ways, we, the news writers, will continue to learn along with our listeners and readers, and, most importantly, report on it.
For more info, please contact Lindiwe Mtwentula on 051 5050 900, 082 416 1665, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Covid-19 activated resurgence in radio listenership in the Eastern Cape has continued into 2021, according to Algoa FM marketing manager Lesley Geyer.
“Independent audience research by Colony has found that over 70% of Algoa FM’s listeners are spending more time tuned into the station than they were before the pandemic,” she says.
The technology being used to access the radio station is also changing, with 18% of the audience surveyed, reporting that they are streaming Algoa FM.
“Listeners are tuning in for both entertainment and information. The Colony research survey has established that the trust factor in respect of the news reports broadcast on air and published on the Algoa FM Facebook page has also increased during the pandemic.
“Listeners are checking the ‘facts’ shared via other social media pages against our curated news.
“This trust in Algoa FM news content extends to the rest of our experiential offering, which includes our digital products and the credibility of our news team as well as our on-air personalities, and our advertisers benefit by being closely associated with a trusted brand,” she says.
Geyer says the research indicates that more people are listening to Algoa FM because they have found how easy it is to tune in.
“The wide variety of Algoa FM platforms provides easy access for listeners.
“Not only do they listen via traditional radio sets, they are also tuning in via their mobile phones, audio streaming, station apps and satellite”.
According to the Algoa FM listeners surveyed, they are kept entertained and informed by the presenters, regular competitions and the music the station plays.
“Around 60% of listeners say they are attracted to the competitions and retail specials they learn about when tuned in.
“The research also confirms that listeners are more interested in saving money due to the financial pressures brought about by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is evident in the research finding that retail shopping ads have one of the highest recall rates among listeners – they hear and remember the specials.
“This does not mean they will be going to the shops physically – around two thirds of the Algoa FM listeners surveyed, report shopping online, and 40% purchase online at least once a month.
“The good news is that they can afford to shop.
“Some 66% of listeners are back at work full time – compared to 54% in 2020.
“Around 14% are working part-time.
“Covid-19 has also not halted Algoa FM’s listeners from planning for the future, with 20% of respondents saying they would like to buy a car during 2021 and 14% planning to buy a house.
“When asked what else they intend doing during 2021; 40% said they wanted to lose weight or get fit, and 20% planned to study further or start a new hobby.
“All of this points to a vibrant consumer market throughout our footprint, from the Garden Route to the Wild Coast and through the Karoo,” says Geyer.