Catching the next wave

Sravanthi Challapalli | Updated on May 17, 2018

Needed: A better measurement   -  milindri

VTION has come up with a solution to measure radio listenership on mobile phones


Just like the calculator, watch and the torch, the radio has disappeared into the phone, observes Manoj Dawane, founder of VTION, a startup that has devised software to measure and analyse audience for radio and audio on smartphones. “From collective listening – when a radio was heard by more than one person at home, normally from a ‘transistor’ as we knew it – it’s turned individual because of the smartphone and the headset that makes the antenna,” and there has been no passive way to measure the Indian market since then, other than recall-based diary methods.

Not in sync

The need for a wider and more accurate analysis of radio audience has been a matter of concern. Smartphone penetration has risen by leaps and bounds. By 2022, with the frequencies won in Phase III of licensing, several cities and towns big and small will have over 1,000 FM radio stations, says Dawane, quoting a 2017 report by Motilal Oswal. This will create much more opportunity for advertising, which will underscore the importance of data on listenership as ad spend will depend on it. Ad spot rates and duration depend on the number and profile of listeners. Also, data is necessary to gauge the popularity of a channel/programme for the advertisers, as well as help the channels devise and schedule programming. Currently, there are 245 stations across 85 cities. Radio’s main appeal is that it caters to the local market, allowing advertisers to reach very specific audiences and avoid a spillover, as on TV.

However, audience measurement has not kept in step with the growth. There is little independent and credible research. TAM Media Research, through Radio Audience Measurement, provides data for FM channels only in the top four radio markets: Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has made some recommendations for radio audience measurement after consultations with the industry in September 2016.

A study by AZ Research Partners released last year says that 76 per cent of people now listen to FM radio on the mobile. Dawane quotes a FICCI Frames study to say that radio advertising will grow at a CAGR of 16 per cent over the next five years, from ₹2,640 crore to ₹4,780 crore. In India, it accounts for 4-5 per cent of the ad spend, he adds. Dawane, who has filed for provisional and final patents for his technology last year, says it involves a software development kit for broadcast FM radio, audio streaming and podcasts measurement. It involves getting users to download the app from the Google Play Store (or any other direct source) and register by giving their age and gender.

“The whole back end in radio is already digital, should we not be able to automate inventory as well, and make decisions in real time?” says Dawane, whose 25-year career has been spent in marketing and technology roles, in companies such as Vodafone, Bharti, Mauj and Ericsson.

Time to modernise

In real time, radio stations can take action to change programming, and advertisers too can decide on whether and what to advertise and for how long. Current radio measurement in India is fraught with uncertainty – respondents may or may not keep a diary, and then, it’s based on recall, which could be fuzzy.

VTION will supply its technology to research agencies which already have their own panels. It will also work with brands which want data on listenership. Currently, a major research agency is testing its technology. The startup did a pilot last November in Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. It expects to start commercial operations this quarter. Dawane adds that VTION technology could be a meaningful part of a solution to the holistic measurement system that the radio industry needs to have. It has also identified 10 other markets, besides India, which it hopes to enter in the next 12-18 months, which are countries with large radio and audio streaming consumers.

Published on May 17, 2018

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