Licensed radio companies seem to be embracing the online media wholeheartedly. Why not, after all the music-hungry audience here is swelling by the day.
Given the cut-throat competition in the FM radio space, radio companies are always on the look out for newer, untapped areas. And perhaps that is the reason why major radio stations such as Big FM, RadioCity and Fever FM have descended on the World Wide Web as well as the mobile platform.
These radio stations are of the view that millions of youth worldwide are always online at any given point of time and that they can be tapped as the internet radio and audio broadcasting via the Net are not enough to quench their thirst for music.
Online music, games and infotainment not only create a connection between radio stations and consumers, but also provide an additional source of income for radio companies in the form of online advertisements.
Apurva Purohit, the chief executive officer of RadioCity, says: "We are in the process of creating an online encyclopaedia of music on http://www.planetradiocity.com with information on musicians, singers, bands, music directors and composers.
There would also be a 'music history' section where one can get news about movements in various music and their origins. The section would also have lots of fun trivia as well as information on different genres of music. Users would also be able to create their own music station."
Musicopedia, due for launch on planetradiocity.com in early August, would compile the best of music from the portal and allow users to create and share their own playlists, or hum with one of the many themed playlists uploaded by the online music.
Users would also be able to choose from a series of contextual playlists such as Monsoon Magic, R D Burman's Birthday, Michael Jackson Tribute, Retro Vamp Numbers and many more. In addition, Facebook users would be able to enjoy the best of music from planetradiocity.com by adding a related widget to their Facebook profiles and listening to themed playlists uploaded on a daily basis.
Facebook users can also save their own favourite numbers and play them from their own profiles.
But, what about investments? "We would be spending around Rs 3-4 crore (Rs 30-40 million) every year on adding new features to our website. Already we are seeing 3.1 million hits per day," says Purohit.
Online radio is not just about music, games or infotainment. It also does talent-hunting. For instance, RadioCity has launched a contest called 'King of Lyrics'. This is, in fact, a platform for aspiring lyricists to showcase their talent.
Every month, a new theme is set and users are asked to send in their lyrics.
As of now, there are more than 1,000 original lyrics submitted to the site with more being added on a daily basis.
Likewise, Big FM is also revamping its website and is looking at online advertising revenues as an additional source of income.
According to Anand Chakravarthy, marketing head of Big FM, the intention was to get out of the radio station, go to individual consumers and convert them into your listeners or loyalists beyond the radio.
"We are investing in revamping our website to have more members to write blogs on specific radio jockeys. We will also add social networking space to our site. We will introduce a section where our listeners can write movie and music reviews, and we can take a cue from these opinions while deciding our next set of programmes," says Chakravarthy.
Big FM's marketing budget for this year is around Rs 15 crore (Rs 150 million), a part of which would also go into building online properties.
As part of an innovative strategy, Big FM is going to select offices and commercial complexes where its RJs would host shows, play games with the employees there and convert them into RJs in an attempt to involve them with the radio station.
"Close to 50 per cent of our budget is spent on street-level marketing. We have a listener base of 20 million across 45 stations," he informs.
Even Fever FM has a similar story to tell. Says Pralay Bakshi, station head of Fever FM, "We are looking at upgrading our website to include information on all our marketing activities as well as create pages for users.
"As of now, we just have schedules of different programmes on our website. We have already tied up with Facebook and Orkut, where we have a dedicated Fever FM page. We have about 3,000 members from Facebook and Orkut. We depend heavily on SMSes.
"So, we send activities and contest details regularly through text messages.
Fever FM has specific merchandising plans. "We have observed that winners of contests in Delhi want cash. However, in a city like Kolkata, they want momentoes that they can show off. So, we will keep renewing our range of merchandising options such as mugs, books, bags et cetera," says Bakshi.