In the hearts, minds, eyes and ears of persons, digital/online radio stations seems to be a way out or a promotional (or added) value to the broadcasting sphere of radio stations. Many have loved the idea but only a few have fully embraced it. Questions have sprung up to the issues encircling online (or digital) radio stations. It seemed to have been a perfect competition or complimentary addition to terrestrial radio stations, but till date, it has come under a lot of challenges, external and internal.
In the year 2016, there was only an online radio station in the city of Jos. Kr8radio seem to have started the journey and years later, the city saw the up rise of stations like iJos Radio, Rit Radio and Patris Radio but recently, there seems to be a reduction in their activity, broadcasting and audience reach. With terrestrial radio stations also banking on the digitisation of radio, there has been a battle of presence amongst them. Some of these radio stations have either been halted or converted to a more “lucrative” business venture since there have been little or no aid to support them.
In 2020, only Patris Radio was the online radio station amongst the four known on research on Radio Garden. The three were terrestrial stations who needed not battle for an audience reach in their host state.
The challenges facing present day online radio stations are narrowed down to;
1. Funding: Many online stations are privately funded and due to the doubt/uncertainty of its reach, companies and brands rarely bank on their audience to promote their goods and services.
2. Awareness: This is an advantage to terrestrial radio stations. They do not bother to create the necessary awareness about who they are, what they do and how to reach them. Just a random frequency search can lead you to a radio station that may stay with you through the course of the day. Also, on the issue of awareness, many believe it costs an arm and a leg to listen to an online radio station; since “data is precious, it shouldn’t be wasted” has been the perception of people.
3. Staffing: People get weary of not gaining loud ovations for been tagged MEDIA PERSONALITIES, hence a brick wall in online radio stations. Many also, are not properly remunerated so, it seems like a waste of time, effort, energy and presence.
4. Audience Reach: Due to the diverse (yet narrowed) perception that about 75% of the humans online are young people, online radio stations fight to get that one audience within their locality or host community. Most of their audiences are from European, Asian, or other continents and those within Plateau state and Nigeria at large find it hard to be a part of the audience. They may prefer an emailed recording to be sent to them (which is quite expensive) or a shared Xender program.
5. As a startup, there are little or no government support. As against the declarations to be properly registered under the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in past years, online radio stations have been ghostly existent due to lack of registration which may likely end since there is a move for a regulations of all broadcast outlets using the new media. In 2020, staff of Patris Radio were arrested during the lockdown despite their media pass to move, operate and report news to their audience.
You might question, what does the future hold for these radio stations?
The future hosts a possibility to two sides of the coin; bleak and believable.
With the up rise of podcasts in the city of Jos, the cloning(or proper understanding) of radio stations may be achieved, as many seem to have a certain sense to the regard that podcasting is an form of online radio. This is partially true but unsubscribed in the real sense of it. Also, the possibility of it been bleak is high. The enumerated challenges have given to the bricklayer certain blocks to lay the foundations of its closure. By 2030, if there are no support in sense of soft loans, appreciation to the practice, adequate staffing and attentiveness to radio stations, there might be no “virtual” or online radio stations again in the city of Jos.
We might be left out of the digital switch, because in the real sense of issues, online radio stations are like guinea pigs to create a soft landing to online TV station.