By Abongile Zizi
Immediate, live and area specific, these are some of the aspects of radio that have been drastically changed by the growth of radio podcasts, cell phones and PVRs. Internet access in South Africa has grown rapidly with the growing use of smart phones and the influence this growth has had on media consumption and production is unmistakable.
Researchers put the numbers of South Africans with access to the internet at roughly 39% of the urban population and 27% of the rural bearing in mind that these figures are growing daily. With the integral relationship being formed by radio stations with their audiences through social media, the ability to reach segments of these audiences who are outside the immediate broadcast area speaks directly to the rise of radio consumption because the location barrier is broken. Cellphones and PVR are a driving force in the breaking of the broadcast location barrier. Growing internet access and the creation of cellphone applications allows us to listen to audio streams of our favourite radio channels on the go and from anywhere in the country. PVR has introduced a dynamic to media production that allows for audiences to record their favorite television programs and watch them at their own leisure; this creates an opportunity for them to catch live radio broadcasts while recording television content for later viewing.
Podcasting has introduced another dimension to the consumption of radio. Traditionally radio broadcasts were live, thus making them immediate and limiting the impact of content to the people listening to the radio at that specific time. The ability to access segments of broadcast material long after the fact and at audiences’ own leisure has increased the “shelf life” of radio content. Content is easily accessible for download and reaches a wider audience and thus has the potential for greater impact. Youtube has also revolutionized content consumption and content shelf life. Earlier this year, 702’s Redi Thlabi had an interview with President Jacob Zuma that was simulcast on air and youtube, the interview was then podcast and was available on a myriad of platforms after it aired live. This is just one example of how these mediums can be used to further influence the consumption of radio content.
The evolution of radio consumption has run parallel with the growing accessibility to the internet and modern technologies. The incorporation of online media into traditional ways of broadcasting is an evolution on its own when considering its implications on content production, branding and advertising. Accessibility plays a major role in the steady rise of radio consumers in the country at all levels and this has been demonstrated by the SAARF RAMS released in August 2012. These show a steady climb in radio consumption. They also showed that the percentage of people listening to radio through other devices had increased by 24.7% for cellphones and 3.7% through the internet. Content production trends are evolving rapidly to cater to the changing radio landscape and the shifting consumption patterns. It looks like radio is evolving and the transformation is a site to behold.