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IN 1981, MTV heralded its arrival with the song Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles. Clearly, MTV bigwigs thought they were being far-sighted by predicting the death of radio with the rise of music videos. Clearly, they were wrong.

Contrary to popular opinion, radio is very much alive and well; it has just moved to another platform: the Internet. According to data on the World Radio Day website, between 2006 and 2013, there was a steady increase in online radio revenue worldwide, from US$278mil (RM1.01bil) to US$827mil (RM3.01bil), representing a growth of 28% a year.

While all that growth is amazeballs, the interesting question here is: how many young people still listen to the radio? After all, with the availability of music streaming services like Spotify, why would young people need to tune in to the radio at all?

This is one of the questions that World Radio Day, held on Feb 13, hoped to address through its Youth & Radio theme, which aims to encourage discussion about youth participation in radio.

To get more perspective on this, we spoke to Kudsia Kahar, Chief Operating Officer of The Star Radio Group (which broadcasts Suria FM, 988 FM, Red FM and Capital FM) and has nearly 3.8 million listeners. Here, she offers five reasons why radio is still relevant to young people.

Sustainable sound waves: Kudsia says the Internet has been  a boon to radio,  as more and more young people consume radio online now.

Sustainable sound waves: Kudsia says the Internet has been a boon to radio, as more and more young people consume radio online now.

The Internet has made radio very accessible to young people.

“There was once a proclamation that Internet would kill radio, but it actually worked the other way around – any online technology and platform has actually turned out to be radio’s best friend, because it enables radio to engage the youth. More and more today, youth consume content online, so this enables them to continue to consume radio online as well. When they’re doing their homework or projects, they are keeping radio stations on. So we see them engaging more digitally.”

Traffic jams in Malaysia are getting worse, which translates to extra radio listeners.

“For commercial radio operators, traffic jams are actually good news because people will continue to listen to the radio. On a daily basis, there are a minimum of two million vehicles that ply the MRR2 alone. The population is increasing, more people are seeking work but living further away, so private vehicle ownership will also continue to boom, which means more people will listen to the radio in their cars.”

Radio is often the first source of news for most people – both young and old.

“People now don’t have the luxury of reading the newspapers when they’re having their morning coffees at home, because more and more of them have to leave their houses fairly early, to get through a one-hour jam before they get to work or school. So radio actually becomes the first source of news and information and then when they want to read more about it, they go online or pick up a newspaper.”

Young people still listen to the radio – they just engage in a different way.

“We do get a lot of them (young people) engaging with us, it’s just that they’re not calling the radio stations anymore. When I was growing up, it was a big deal to call up a radio station and dedicate a song to your friend because that’s the only way that a friend could get bragging rights. Now you don’t need that anymore, because you can get shout-outs via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, so the mode of communication has changed.”

Radio deejays, like Red FM’s Azura Zainal, go through hundreds of new tracks to find the best ones for listeners, something that music streaming services do not do, says Kudsia. Photo: RAYMOND OOI/The Star

Radio deejays, like Red FM’s Azura Zainal, go through hundreds of new tracks to find the best ones for listeners, something that music streaming services do not do, says Kudsia. Photo: RAYMOND OOI/The Star

Young people still need reference points, which are unavailable on music streaming services.

“You know, when streaming services were introduced, the death of radio was again proclaimed because they were saying music discovery is all about streaming. But lo and behold, people still need reference points, so they still depend on the announcer or deejay to tell them what’s new or what’s good. On any given week, there are at least 100 new songs introduced worldwide that could garner your interest and if you are actually gonna sit through 100 songs to decide what you’re gonna like … well, nobody has that time. So again, the human beings in the studio become the reference points. It’s the same reason people go online to TripAdvisor, for example, because they want to seek other people’s opinions, so they don’t have to go and look for it themselves.”

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