Advertisement

Why radio has remained popular in Malaysia despite the onslaught of new digital media and online platforms

While digital platforms dominate, radio maintains a stronghold in Malaysia, capturing 95 per cent of weekly listenership amidst evolving media landscapes.

Despite the rise of digital media, radio maintains its stronghold in Malaysia, with 95 per cent weekly listenership. As World Radio Day approaches, local industry experts share insights on its enduring relevance.
Despite the rise of digital media, radio maintains its stronghold in Malaysia, with 95 per cent weekly listenership. As World Radio Day approaches, local industry experts share insights on its enduring relevance. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

By NATASHA JOIBI

MALAYSIA — Traditional media has long been described as a sunset industry. Indeed, thanks to high mobile and internet penetration, there is a belief that TV, radio and print publishing are no longer relevant.

The reality, however, is that while our attention has been increasingly claimed by new digital communication forms and platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, one legacy media format — radio — has remained popular in Malaysia, with 95 per cent of the population tuning in weekly.

But, why radio? There are many views about this, with Malaysia's high vehicle usage and traffic jams being touted as among the reasons for radio's enduring appeal here.

However, in conjunction with World Radio Day (which took place on 13 February), here is what local industry insiders think about the format and its continued relevance.

Promoting arts and culture

Best known for her stint on the reality TV show Akademi Fantasia as well as hit tunes like Sumandak Sabah, Oi Gaman and Aramaitiii, singer-songwriter Velvet Aduk, for one, believes that radio has been crucial in getting local artists and their work heard.

In fact, that is something she herself tries to actively promote in her other role as an announcer with Sabah-based station Kupi-Kupi FM.

Recalling her entry into radio, Aduk says that she was not initially convinced that it was the right fit for her, and a brief stint with another station in 2009 saw her vowing never to return.

However, being offered a job with Kupi-Kupi FM a few years later reignited her love for the medium and helped her recognise its power.

"We do our best to spotlight the local music scene. And by giving them a platform, we hope to motivate Sabahan artists to create new music.

"I feel proud witnessing the evolution of the scene, with more musicians producing music in local languages, such as Dusun," said Aduk, who herself just released her first English album; Darkest Knight.

Changing times

Of course, promoting local arts and culture is only one aspect of radio's role in Malaysia, Aduk said. There is also the medium's ability to deliver news and information to hard-to-reach rural areas.

But perhaps the biggest reason for radio's enduring popularity here is how it has embraced modern times and demands.

Shah Hayatudin, a director at Media Prima Audio, the radio broadcasting subsidiary of media and entertainment conglomerate Media Prima Berhad, explained that while Malaysian radio broadcasts were totally audio previously, they have evolved to include web-streaming, podcasting and vlogging.

This means that announcers can now be seen live and are no longer just disembodied voices.

"The younger generation, specifically, might not listen to you on radio but they do 'watch' you live on air via social media," Shah said.

The sentiment is shared by BFM 89.9 presenter Keith Kam, who adds that it was only natural that radio and digital media would "marry" at some point; more so as Malaysians no longer consume media as they used to.

"For example, with internet radio, everything is so much more accessible. We used to be confined to just listening to RTM and Astro radio stations. Now, not only can we listen to terrestrial radio stations, we also have access to radio stations from other countries," he said.

Shah Hayatudin of Media Prima Audio discusses the evolution of Malaysian radio, highlighting its shift towards web-streaming, podcasting, and vlogging
Shah Hayatudin of Media Prima Audio discusses the evolution of Malaysian radio, highlighting its shift towards web-streaming, podcasting, and vlogging. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

Resilience and advertising

Unsurprisingly, the longevity of radio in the country has been tied to advertising. Yet more than being a major source of income for stations, it is important to note that Malaysian brands continue to see radio as an effective way of reaching audiences.

Explained Media Prima Audio's Shah, "Radio is a powerful platform. Listeners can engage with it actively, or passively by letting it run in the background. People also switch on the radio when they need information like traffic reports and the news in brief.

"Brands still choose to advertise on radio because the consistency (of mentions) creates awareness. It's simplified exposure, and not in your face."

Kam concurs and notes that radio advertising is also effective because, especially given Malaysia's traffic situation, messages get to reach a targeted audience.

"You have a captive audience that listens to the radio while they are stuck in traffic, or even while they are running with their headphones on.

"If you have a product to sell, the first 30 seconds (of the ad) are very crucial. The challenge is to put your message out within that brief timeframe," he said.

All in all, the bottom line appears to be that despite naysayers and the so-called threats of impending death, at least here in Malaysia, radio is thriving. And as long as it continues embracing change, it might be around for quite a few years yet.

Do you have a story tip? Email: malaysia.newsroom@yahooinc.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, TikTok and Twitter. Also check out our Southeast Asia, Food, and Gaming channels on YouTube.