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Digital means radio is no longer a static box: Astro Radio interview

AvantiKumar | June 25, 2014
Digital technologies have impacted radio in tandem with all media processes in the last 10 years, said Astro Radio's Head of Digital media Jayaram Gopinath Nagaraj.

What is Astro's place in the Malaysia media scene?

I feel that the Malaysian media landscape has always been fun and dynamic - we adopt new things quickly and are always willing to try new things. This is due in part to agencies and clients that put innovation in audience engagement forward. Having one of the most active social media audiences in the world certainly helped with that too. At Astro - we aim to grow consumption by introducing innovative products under a framework of sorts - the Watch, Read, Listen and Play initiative. In my opinion - brands now are fighting not just against competitors but also for "time" with the users - this is where we stand too.

Could you explain more on the role of being a "digital specialist" within the industry?

A digital specialist in my opinion is less about actually knowledge and more about the attitude. Let me explain - the only way to be a specialist in this field is to understand the foundation of the internet and how you can engage an audience, everything else, is learnt along the way with new technologies. This is because things are changing so rapidly in this space, especially in this market. A good example is that Facebook has just made a major change on how it describes engagement (PTAT, People Talking about this) - anyone may see this change but a specialist will start working on new ways of measuring engagement. This role is not just what you do - its about who you are and how you think.

What is Astro doing to nurture the radio business in the country - also how the business is adopting digital optimisation and engagement tools?

The focus for Astro has never changed since the day we turned on our transmitters - create the best compelling content for the audience that we serve. This simple - yet challenging ethos, has ensured that we have dominated in this market. The radio business is a competitive one with other players bringing their own unique selling points to the table. By setting the bar high - we indirectly ensure that all the players in the business run at the same pace. Being in the digital space is also something that isn't new to Astro Radio. We have been operating websites since the year 2000, mobile apps since the year 2009 and social properties since they were made available to brands. Its a natural progression for an exciting radio business to be available where our listeners are - if that means mobile and social media, we are going to ensure that content we create is available to them where they are comfortable consuming it.

What is Astro's strategy regarding digital communications in the coming 12-24 months?

Our strategy in the space has always been to focus on the three areas that are only going to be more important as time goes by - Social, Local and Mobile. As mentioned earlier - we always ensure the presence of our brands and content on the platforms but it doesn't just stop there. We look at our content from many lenses now - does a news report need to be delivered in 1.30 Seconds?

Is a listener a person that "listens" to the radio or that "likes" or "shares" a post? These questions are constantly asked and it forms our digital communications strategy. Astro Radio has strong social media platforms because we understand that the people on social media are our listeners. It can not be denied anymore that mobile is the gateway to our consumers.

With over 3.5 million downloads of our mobile applications - we make sure that we are an option to our users amongst the hundreds of apps they may have already downloaded. Local is relatively new - but our stations in East Malaysia have a responsibility of creating content specific to those markets. Social Local and mobile is a mantra here because it forms not just our content and communications strategy but also is the mould we use to make sure we leave no listener behind.

How is information technology (including data analytics) helping you to align your entertainment mix to your audience?

We have always been told that we are a research company before we are a radio company. We spend a substantial amount of money on testing everything - music, websites, client engagement and social media. The qualitative and quantitative data derived from such exercises guide us a great deal in determining content and platforms strategies for Astro Radio.

A good example would be our digital listening data - we have more than 3 million people listening to us on our digital platforms monthly with 1 million of those listeners, streaming us on their mobile devices. The data we have managed to derive from this allows us to plot a better listener journey. It was always though that radio was a medium that was exclusively listened to in the car but with digital data we have found that as soon as people get into the office, we start to see a surge of listeners picking up where they left off in the car. This really helped us understand the behaviour of our listeners and gave us perspective in planning of content.

What kind of technology adoptions are you planning in the coming year or so to drive business?

We have some really exciting products to be rolled out this year in line with our Watch, Listen, Read and Play initiatives. Some of the things are ground breaking and some are a huge upgrade to what we currently have in the market. We just launched a digital only Sports Radio station, Arena Radio (available at arena dotmy). Our innovations would always be tied to our content and we are planning a launch very soon on a music service too. Like I mentioned earlier - our aim is to drive consumption of our content and that in turn - we believe - will drive the business forward.

What most excites you about your role as you move the business forward?

What really excites me about my role here is the pressure of innovation that comes with the job. We cannot achieve different results in the digital space if we do not do things differently. The iPad was released only four years ago and yet today we wouldn't be able to do anything without a solid tablet strategy. What will come in time excites even more and I am really happy to be apart of an organisation that stresses the importance of working towards the future.


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