Sanjeev Kotnala: Radio Innovation – Appointed hour listening

27 Feb,2019

By Sanjeev Kotnala


I was speaking with someone in brand-marketing consultancy and was not surprised at how myopically media can operate. She was excited when she shared the idea with me last month. It was a smart radio innovation. I told her, why it will not work. But she wouldn’t accept the reality. We ended up with a simple bet.

She took the challenge and yesterday, she paid up.

I feel bad winning the bet. A spark has died.

Another smart thinker has learnt her lesson. Innovations are tricky business.

The Insight.

The idea sure was wacky. It was not new. It took its inspiration from sporadic rare events when the channels have come together on a CSR cause. However, to my knowledge, in its current format, it has never been tried before.

The initial resistance and excuses from the channel stakeholder made her that more determined to push. The more the opposition, the more potential she saw in it.

It was based on the insight that the medium owners accept. Radio is predominantly an impulse listenership medium. It is at best a background medium. The listeners rarely say, ‘it’s 9 PM, switch on the Radio. I desperately want to listen to Malishka, DaDa or Priyanka.’

They change the channel the moment the song or what the RJ is speaking is not of their interest.

Radio Innovation Idea.

What if on changing the channel, they were treated to the same feed. Find no difference other than the channel frequency reference.

So, in a non-metro city, she shared the idea with a client who saw merit in it.  To reach to all the radio listeners in the city at one go. Not by creating roadblocks across all the frequencies in the city, but by getting Appointment Listening?

The brand wanted to push a campaign targeted to generate curiosity among the target audience. Pull them for the appointed time listenership. The brand was considering deploying additional funds on OOH, Radio and Digital to push appointment listenership.

From the radio stations, it requires acceptance and willingness to co-create in the era of co-optition or cooperative competition. It required the channels to run the same feed. So, if and when a listener changed the channel, he/she would end up catching the same feed across frequencies.

The brand would virtually be guaranteed maximum possible reach by the medium. The channels get an innovative solution, a brilliant case study.


What Holds The Radio Innovation From Being A Reality?  

Running the same feed sounds easy. Yes, there are practical issues but nothing that cannot be resolved with an open mind.  It needed the acceptance of possibilities under Cooperative competition.

Every channel has a frequency ID that it wants to promote. This is easily tackled in the feed.

The channels have positioning and addressing the audience. This is a slightly tougher one. However, if the appointment listening hour is positioning agnostic and does not promote a particular attitude, it could be fine.

Allotting equal time to every channel in this initiative may not work. It amounts to one channel promoting the other channel on their frequency. Maybe that is a solution worth considering, as every channel gets supported on every other channel. A zero-sum game.  Everyone is a winner. Though it may lead to confusion among the listeners.

All the channels are Bollywood-based. The similarity ends here. They have their own commitments and list of songs they want to promote or play. In a curated programme, the song list could be sorted out to everyone’s requirement.

More importantly, the self-imposed guidelines, myopic reading of the situation and professional ego come in the way. These are the toughest one to crack. I wonder if a collective meeting of the channels could have resolved it.


Twist To The Radio Innovation Idea.

Forget the RJs and the channel restrictions. What if the characters of the radio stations were to host this hour? The Mawali, Babua or Damodars of the channels hosting the shared feed.

The well-known characters of the channel, like the character that dials the wrong number or makes a Murga, this time gets the taste their medicine. They get the wrong number call and someone pakao them. The Murga maker is made Murga of the day. The Babua gets someone to talk and give his kind of suggestions to life.


Radio Just Lost A Chance To Bring The City To Standstill.

The ambition was not too high. The results could have been surprising. Maybe the town could have come to a standstill. Curious listeners tuning to their preferred channel. All getting the same feed even on changing the frequency. It would have been a buzz creating moment for the brand and channels. And, if it won an award, for the first time in history, competitive media would have walked together to receive it.


Radio Innovation. You Could Use The Idea.

I present the idea here. I have won the bet but here I present the idea. Anyone can use it. And if someone really brings it to life, I will be most happy to give money back to the original idea propagator.



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