Online radio alive and kicking in SA

Despite the recent news that the claimed listenership of prominent local online radio stations was heavily inflated, the online radio environment has a bright future ahead in South Africa. This is according to 2oceansvibe Media CEO Seth Rotherham and Ballz Visual Radio’s Darren Scott.

The investigation into online radio listenership statistics revealed that 2oceansvibe Radio and Ballz Visual Radio typically have between 200 and 300 simultaneous listeners – a far cry from the claimed listenership of 60,000 per hour.

These statistics came from their streaming service provider NetDynamix, which said that they mistakenly provided the two radio stations with session data which was packaged as listenership figures.

According to Ballz Visual Radio founder Darren Scott, he trusted NetDynamix to supply them with accurate listenership statistics, and that the new information which emerged was so surprising that he thought of “packing it in”.

Both radio stations have announced that they are severing their ties with NetDynamix, and that they will look for a partner which will be able to provide them with accurate listenership numbers in future.

Bright future for online radio

Sasha Marteningo and Daren Scott
Sasha Marteningo and Daren Scott

The quoted figures of 60,000 hourly listeners may have created unrealistic expectations from the local online radio industry, taking away from the progress that has been made by 2oceansvibe Radio and Ballz Visual Radio.

The Shoutcast log files provided by NetDynamix revealed that 2oceansvibe Radio typically attracted 2,000 unique daily listeners in May, peaking at over 4,000 unique daily listeners.

2oceansvibe further penned a deal with the largest website in South Africa, News24, which sees the company’s online radio link appear on the News24 home page.  This should significantly boost the stations listenership.

The Ballz Visual Radio Shoutcast log files show that the station has grown its unique listeners to around 700 to 900 per day, peaking at over 1,300 unique listeners.

The Ballz Visual Radio website statistics further showed that the company attracted in excess of 10,000 readers over the last two weeks, giving an indication that the radio station is building a strong following.

Scott further highlighted that many well known people are joining online radio, including Ian F, Bob Skinstad, Kevin Savage and Jeremy Mansfield. “These are high profile people that normal radio would wish to have somewhere on their platform again,” said Scott.

Interview with Seth Rotherham

Seth Rotherham
Seth Rotherham

MyBroadband asked Rotherham about the recent findings and the future for online radio. Here is what he said.

Can you please comment on the new information about your listenership which was released recently?

Obviously this initially came as a massive shock to us. But now, with added perspective – and audited figures showing up to 572 in one hour – there is absolute proof that internet radio is alive and well and growing in South Africa. To that end we are very excited – 572 upwardly mobile opinion leaders is worth a lot to a lot of brands out there. Certainly, these figures only look bad when compared to the incorrect stats that we were given by Netdynamix.

Are you considering getting a more widely accepted measurement (and company to provide this info) to report your listenership?

We have just partnered with Media24 and our radio button is on the front page of News24. With that in mind, we want to be able to provide the best service and best stats accuracy available. We will be parting ways with Netdynamix and are in final stages of discussions with Triton, who are the world leaders and were introduced to us by the DMMA.

Will this new information [regarding online listenership in SA] influence your plans regarding streaming radio in any way?

Absolutely! This latest debacle has pushed the medium into the mainstream in terms of awareness – something we have been at pains to do for the last 24-months. This has always been a 5 year plan for us and now with accurate stats we can set clearer objectives and reporting for clients. Financially and from a business/client standpoint, our prices have never changed since before we even had listenership figures. For example, the bundle price for a 30 second ad has always been R500.

Can you please give your views on the future of streaming radio in South Africa? 

I think the growth is and will be bigger than the rest of the world, as we lack (and are seriously desperate for) variety when it comes to radio entertainment. This high-end upwardly-mobile niche demographic is as valuable as it gets and they are tired of being restricted to two or three FM stations in the car and they certainly don’t have physical FM radio at the office or home. 2oceansvibe Radio is broadcasting to people at their desks and they are choosing to listen.

I drive a Mini with built-in internet radio (there is a SIM card in the car) and it only eats 20mb/hour of data. I can listen to any station in the world. I jump from 2oceansvibe Radio to UCT radio, to Capital FM london, WNYC in New York and Nostalgie radio in France. That is is surely where we should be in this day and age? This situation of having no choice in your car and being forced to listen to 1 of 3 stations is beyond archaic.

Other car brands like BMW and Audi and Chevrolet have built-in internet radio options and Parrot even have a car radio you can install into your own car. Even your basic KIA has bluetooth and you can play 2ov.fm through our app (get it at www.2ov.fm) into the car sound system. Countless 2oceansvibe listeners play us through their home system via pure internet radios (search for Tivoli internet radio or Logitech squeezebox) or with their iPhones/BlackBerry’s plugged into their home sound system/docking station.

Considering that you have a multi-channel online approach (web, podcasts, videos etc), do you think the full value proposition is still compelling to advertisers?

Yes, as said earlier, our prices have never changed. All our existing clients are staying on board as they know how affordable this medium is. The purely radio portion of our average multi-platform campaigns, makes up about 20% of the discounted package price. Any digital marketer is aware of the power of an opinion leader on Twitter. Now think about 500-odd of them listening in an hour. That is why most of our radio competitions end up trending on Twitter. Clients who have experienced this in the past include (but not limited to) Sunglass Hut, KFC, Vodacom and MWEB.

What do you think is needed to further boost online radio in South Africa?

I think you guys have done a good enough job for now, thank you. If Shaun Dewberry could throw a curveball like that every second month, we should be challenging the SABC in no time ;-)

In retrospect now that we have come out the other end, it would have been appreciated if Dewberry had approached us for comment prior to filing his report. If only for the sake of us getting the ball rolling on an independent audit sooner. Our objective has been to grow awareness, not necessarily individual numbers. Although they are obviously important – at this early stage of the game (for internet radio in SA) the key is to get people and brands on board. Which we are doing successfully.

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Online radio alive and kicking in SA