WITS Radio Academy

Event Reports

# Storytellers: Return to old values to look forward


The business models are forever changing, but the community, or listeners, will always remain a constant feature. No matter how the radio of tomorrow will look like, from podcasts to fact-checks – the core of the radio was and will always be the listeners and their stories, which are told by journalists. This is the reason why the radio of the future won`t disappear.

Radio Days Africa 2018, held from 4. to 6. July at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, attracted more than 300 delegates from public, community and commercial radio across Africa and the world. The conference started with a discussion on #Storytellers and what challenges and opportunities will arise for the radio in the future. Director of the Wits Radio Academy, Prof. Franz Krüger, opened the panel with a fairytale “Radio Princess and the seven Dwarfs”. During the discussion, Primedia Group CEO Omar Essack talked about how “unappealing” and “unsexy” the radio is in contrast to online media.

In spite of this, radio stations in Africa would “bring home the bacon”, as SABC journalist Nada Wotshela replied. Listeners and their needs are essential for radio. In addition to cost factors, cooperation was also debated. Collaborating with Google, Amazon or Sonos, for example, could help reach the youth, as Commercial Radio Australia CEO Joan Warner said.

Know the community and move with the times

The BBC has also responded to the needs of their community: Join Seren Jones and Olivia Lepoidevin of BBC Minute made it impressively clear that the younger generation prefer solutions-oriented journalism. In addition, there are other success factors for BBC to reach young people, including personalities, informative but interesting writing and going with the trends. "Messages are about people, about going to the people," Jones said.

Soweto-based Jozi FM takes this advice to heart with the slogan "Jozi FM is owned by the community". Jozi FM is a community radio that celebrates many events together with its audience. "Get out, be seen," said Station Manager Mpho Mhlongo.

In order for such a conversation to succeed, one must know their audience. "What do we know about our listeners? Nothing. What does Facebook know about its users? Everything". This statement by Lance Claasen from Un-Told Media pointed out that radio still uses an analog model on a digital platform. He also emphasized the importance of responding to the needs of users and create a product around them. "All processes must be related to relationships, we need to be more than social media."

Building up trust

Hence Africa Check has a mission as a fact-checking organization. Kate Wilkinson, a researcher, shared the organization´s tips and tools on how to verify facts. Again, it was all about the return to old values of journalism: asking, being critical and accurate.

The loss of confidence was also discussed by SABC COO Chris Maroleng. He described this as his biggest challenge. He emphasized the need of change.

Podcasts – the future?

Besides the trust, podcasts were a big topic at this year´s Radio Days conference. Some podcasters came to talk about their experiences or to present their podcasts, like Kathy Tu with "Nancy".

The conference ended with the Innovation Panel chaired by the veteran journalist Paul McNally. CTO and co-founder Upspeak in Germany, Jonas Reif, talked about the podcast trend in Germany and his App for podcaster and communites. Looking to Germany shows that new trends such as podcasts can exist parallel to conventional radio, both can benefit from each other.