By Labanya Datta
Once upon a time, it used to be the most popular mass media. After decades of dominance in the segment, the radio started losing its popularity to other mass media verticals. However, the charm of the radio is still there.
When was the last time you listened to the radio? And no, tuning in on Mahalaya just to listen to Mahishasurmardini doesn’t count. Who is the latest radio jockey you remember whom you have only heard? Do you remember the names of the shows? Or the signature tunes of the stations? Do you know the frequencies? While you and I both try to come up with answers to those questions, we kind of gets an idea as to how radio no longer occupies the same place in our lives.
While that might be heartbreaking for a lot of people, the truth is, we’ve moved on. We’ve moved on to streaming. We stream everything nowadays, and there’s a good reason for it. The greatest of them is, there is no need for appointment listening. Did I lose you with the phrase appointment listening? It is basically the thing that has happened with the entry of the OTT platforms.
Well, it means you no longer have to drop everything, forego going to the toilet, just to watch your favourite show. You don’t have to make an appointment with it. You can now, do what you have to, and then come back to your show. People who religiously listened to radio shows have now shifted to podcasts for this one, precise ease. Unlike their favourite radio shows, they can listen to them for 10 minutes, pause and go about with their days, and then come back to them in the evening or at night. It is the modern working person’s dream, a lot like reading a book.
The same change had slowly started and now is more pronounced in the scenario of music streaming. The streaming apps allow you to create your own playlist, you are your own DJ or RJ, and you can shuffle play it whenever you want to. Special playlists are created based on the kind of music you like. You are notified about new releases from both your favourite artists and others.
The other aspect of commercial radio that we, as listeners, always complained about were the ads. We tend to forget that just listening to our favourite radio station won’t keep it running. The station needs to have rock-solid statistics of how popular it is, among whom, and then take it out in the markets, so that businesses place advertisements on their air-time and encroach on our listening time. It is a fair business and required to keep the radio station running. However, ads outnumber songs during some special seasons. Especially, during festivals of any kind or during an in-house mega-event that has a lot of sponsors.
A lot like animals, radio has gone through several evolutions to reach where it is today.
Streaming gives you an option in this case – you can pay for a subscription by which you can get rid of the advertisements. The subscription also, often, offers you better quality audio. All this is pretty cheap. However, if you choose not to pay for a subscription you have to endure a few advertisements, but they never become too many, and you totally bypass the radio jockey. Also, unlike streaming videos, it doesn’t deplete your data as much. It is a total win-win.
However, does that mean the radio is dead? Of course not! Public service radio is pretty alive, and so is commercial radio. There are community radio stations that are being formed and HAM radios being used. Radio is not extinct; it can probably be called endangered. Also, if we look into the history of radio, we’ll see time and again radio has re-invented itself to prevent itself from going extinct. Radio is a tough animal. A lot like animals, radio has gone through several evolutions to reach where it is today. The radio–lover in me says, this is not the end of it, this is another phase, out of which radio will eventually come shining out.
(Labanya Datta is a former Radio Jockey with Radio Mirchi and a voice artist.)
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