Lotus FM: Broadcasting to the ancestors and a ghost listenership

#DURBAN: The national Indian lifestyle radio station, Lotus FM has attracted a significant amount of unwanted attention over the past 2 years and when one looks back you have to wonder how did they manage to get here.

The public asset owned by the SABC is barely able to keep itself relevant and current with the existing marketing strategies.

The format of the station has remained stagnant with no innovation and attempts to attract the commercial & millennial audiences.

In the marketplace,the station has lost the leverage of the reach, habitual listenership & local presence and with that advertising brands have deserted the station.

Don’t take our word for it, the figures that matter and the national broadcaster, SABC need to act soon before there’s nothing left of the station.

The numbers don’t lie

In 2017, The Media Online analyzed the Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) results and Lotus FM was at the top of the junk pile.

Lotus FM has, year on year lost the interest of the minority South African Indian community with the listenership sliding by 130,000 from 390,000 to 260,000. Then, in April last year the station had reportedly lost more than 40% of listenership compared to other stations.

When TMO ran their analysis of the RAMs the station’s statistics indicated a further decline into despair having shed close to a third of its audience to just about 170,000.

Bear in mind that South Africa and the city of eThekwini is recorded to have the highest concentration of people of Indian origin outside of India. You have to wonder why hasn’t the station been able to capture this audience.

Fast-forward to 2018 RAMS results, Lotus FM is broadcasting to just about 130,000 listeners.

What is going wrong with Lotus?

The recent spate of scandalous allegations, resignations and poor management for the past two years has seen Lotus FM sink deeper into an abyss.

So let’s look at what is going wrong from a business perspective.

Strategy

One of the failure points has been the strategy of the station, the vision and the direction it takes to OWN the SA Indian audience.

When SABC Radio demands a marketing strategy, the Lotus FM management has their blinkers focused on just the KZN market audience of which they have failed to retain.

The Millennial

The millennial generation are accustomed to on-demand digital environment and their consumption habits have changed critically to platforms like Youtube, Spotify & ITunes just to name a few.

You would notice that the other stations owned by SABC have thrived even with the stiff competition – Lotus FM has remained the exception – they have failed to engage this audience of a million plus Indians who are a niche audience.

They have underestimated the community stations in KZN that have thrived on smaller budgets and smarter idea generation.

A competitive analysis of the broader radio market should be done in order to develop a turnaround strategy that works across the spectrum not only focusing on Hindvani & ECR being their only benchmarks.

The Mrs. T. Chetty case study

An ageing listener demographic, let us take Mrs. T. Chetty for example, she has been the grand matriarch of the Lotus FM call-in line. No one can compete when it comes to being the top listener of the station.

She is known across the nation of listeners as someone who has stood behind Lotus FM, but there is so much that the lovable Mrs. T. Chetty can contribute to in terms of being a listener.

In her messages on-air, Chetty is reminding us that there is another generation of listeners out there.  Lotus FM needs to look at the little Divania, Indres, Pooven and Moga’s who actually are the people they need to capture.

They are the new generation that Lotus FM has ignored or their marketing strategy has not worked. Why must the station wait for another marketing summit to make a decision on strategy that has failed?

Constant analysis that is at the stations disposal needs to be the benchmark for changing what doesn’t work even if it means on a daily basis review and act.

Music discovery and the listener that Lotus FM is not LISTENING to

The listeners have shifted their focus from depending on Lotus FM delivering what they want to hear.

With the ease of access to data, the hungry South African Indian listener has drifted away from Lotus FM as their source to digital platforms like Youtube, Spotify, Saavn and even streaming India based radio stations for their listening consumption.

Among new music fans it’s clear the key consumer age has dramatically changed, according to statistics.

Research conducted at ADISHAKTI Media has shown that

  • There is a 12+ demographic of future consumers that need to be attracted.
  • This young market of music lovers have said keeping up-to-date with music is important to them
  • Lotus FM is not their preferred choice as YouTube has superseded AM/FM radio as even an option to them.
  • Social media is another driving factor for their listening consumption
  • India’s record labels and movie production houses deliver directly through custom phone apps to our South African Indian consumer
  • Consumers are showing the need to tune into Lotus FM is irrelevant

The situation is clear, Lotus FM has failed to shift their focus and resources to working alongside these digital platforms that can place them in a competitive space.

Revenue streams have slipped away due to the above factors where other stations are capitalizing on effectively. Without the listener the advertiser has pulled back from booking airtime slots with the station.

Music discovery for the new generation of SA Indians is important and the reliance on Lotus FM – based on our research – is that as a station they are less influential, trailing far ahead is YouTube, Spotify, Saavn and mobile apps breaking into the SA Indian consumer across the African territory.

Forecasting the digital landscape and new platforms  was missed in their strategy.

With Lotus FM lagging so far behind they have risked the opportunity to shape consumer behavior to increase their value in the advertising market.

Allowing the user to control the content they desire to consume is achievable but the station’s focus is not geared for such innovation with the current leadership and management.

Local music development

The quality of the local music content from the South African Indian quarter has increased in quality but lack of access to recording studios have stunted their development.

Let’s be realistic also, when have you heard of the likes of a label like David Gresham records signing an Indian artist?

There’s a problem with how the minority market of SOUTH AFRICAN Indian artists being made visible.

These artists have also shaped their music journey on their own realizing that the Indian lifestyle station has blindsided them.

Artists like Deshan ‘Styler’ drove his passion through social media platforms to stardom status, SABC mandates have given artists like Deshan limited access to the national audience through the station.

The problem with advertising

Without a tangible audience reach and constant engagement advertising revenue has vanished. It’s quite clear, lost listenership equals driving your advertisers away.

The opportunities on mobile and digital platforms have given advertisers effective mediums that are better able to deliver accurately within the local territory market and Africa, with clearer ROI.

Each time the RAMs are released, there is always that statement we hear from the Lotus FM 5th floor at Old Fort Road.

“The numbers look bad but we have a good feeling we will do better.”

Agencies can’t depend on that statement to motivate their clients however the rock bottom Lotus FM packages have only managed to hold on to approximately 5-10 advertisers which we hear ad nauseam daily.

The SABC and Lotus FM have a long way to go, rethinking the strategy is key until then the listenership numbers are set to decline and potentially leaving the station off-air realistically.

Compound the above factors & scenarios of no transition and alignment to the consumer’s new listening habits; Lotus FM is heading for an iceberg.


About lakshya

Editor for Indianspice.co.za

2 comments

  1. Hi. Lets not forget the decline in listnership at Lotus started when SABC introduced the 90% local content.

  2. Lotus FM needs to concentrate on playing new indian content music, not devoting time playing English music, you never hear indian songs being played on other local radio stations. Come on Lotus FM pull up or you going to be replaced.

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