Tuning in to a new frequency

Of all media platforms, digital has been taking centre stage, especially as a medium for marketing.

But does this mean traditional forms are no longer relevant? Or can they work hand-in-hand with digital?

Malek Ali, founder and CEO of BFM89.9, envisioned taking the traditional media form into the digital space even before he started BFM.

Having come from a background in digital, specifically Yahoo and Jobstreet, his decision to go back to one of the most traditional forms of media raised a few eyebrows. But his background gave him the foresight that is crucial is maintaining a thriving radio business.

"Sooner rather than later, we will have internet access in cars allowing us to access any internet radio station or internet station in the world. The world will become more crowded with people with a specific interest who will form their own ‘tribes'.

"You will then have plenty of these 'tribes' who will follow you on all platforms if you do it right," he added.

Ali went on to place great emphasis on its podcasts, which are downloaded 150,000 to 200,000 times a month, equating to about 6,000 downloads a day.

"The whole idea of podcasts is so that you don't have to listen to something live, but in your own time," said Ali.

Ali likens it to a marketing tool that can help spread the word when it gets passed around, especially when interviewees encourage friends to listen to it.

"We'd like to see digital ad dollars spent on making ourselves heard in podcasts and websites," he added.

Teoh Jui Hong, managing director of Brandthink Malaysia, believes that the ability for people to catch missed radio segments is definitely the way to go.

"There is more room and a lot of ideas they can pursue," said Teoh, referring to radio stations doing more in the digital space.

"Radio stations have more personality today thanks to digital and online platforms. It has its own Twitter and Facebook pages and adding to that, the radio personalities have their own pages as well where they share information and have conversations with listeners and the public.

"In fact, digital is something that works with all traditional mediums, be it print, on-ground activations or TV. It gives a multi-sensory approach to the public, allowing them to know and understand the people behind the voices," said Teoh.

He believes that this in turn gives radio the ability to gather more audiences and the combination of platforms will provide higher listenership.

The future of radio, as Teoh sees it, is definitely within the digital space.

"Radio, as a way to get music, will change and it will become a curator for content.

"We will be able to share live moments, and find details of that song we've just heard with the tap of an app. There is a lot more innovation to come," he said.

Astro Radio is one that prides itself in innovating and successfully building format radio communities across multiple platforms.

According to Astro Radio general manager of engineering and technology Bala Murali Subramaney, hitz FM was the first radio station in the country to operate on the internet and in 2011, Astro Radio's websites had a combined reach of 111 million page views, equivalent to 16 million unique visitors.

Today, Astro Radio's broadcasts can be received via the websites, smart phone apps and tablets.

But Subramaney says defining the future of radio may not be so clear cut.

"This is more so at a time when the range of platforms for distribution of radio content is increasing, and media and telecommunications are converging across the board.

"These changes have created challenges as well as opportunities and a sense that this is an exciting period in the development of what's to come," he added.

BFM also has plans to move to more distribution platforms including an iPad app allowing users to view graphics in addition to audio.

Ali says eventually, he would like to give advertisers the opportunity to advertise on such digital platforms too.