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Tuning in to Jordan

Tuning in to Jordan

The Hashemite Kingdom has a population of only 5.1 million, yet its airways carry 30 radio stations. Why is the medium so appealing, and what does it take to succeed?

March 26, 2009 10:54 by

Mixed signals. Whether it’s down to the industry’s immaturity – after all, it is only five years old – or an extremely competitive environment, Jordan’s radio broadcasters are in for tough times, as in these times of economic strife, a cull of non-productive stations seems unavoidable.

According to data provided by Ipsos, only 35 percent of Jordanians aged 15 and older listen to radio on a daily basis, and they only do so for an average 46 minutes per day. (By contrast, an average listener in the US will tune in for two and a half hours a day.) Stations also suffer from a lack of differentiation, with 85 percent of them broadcasting Arabic music. “Investors tend to do their business research after having started their business,” says Jarrar. “They don’t seem to realize that there’s no loyalty to a specific station; listeners are loyal to a specific kind of music.”

There are simply too many radio stations in Jordan, well above the market’s capacity. Still, more licenses are being granted, including four last December.  “The industry needs regulation,” says Jarrar. “The Audio-Visual Commission is supposed to regulate the scene but, for now, they are only granting licenses, which are very easy and very cheap to get. Therefore, the commission should shoulder a large part of the blame.”

Hanna agrees that the industry is yearning for more regulation and for the end of excessive licensing, but he’s also confident that the airwaves should begin to smooth soon. “Companies and ad agencies that previously didn’t have branches in Jordan now do,” he says. “Professionalism and organization are getting better. Clients that used to hire one individual for sales and marketing are now recruiting for a specific marketing department. They’re learning and becoming more knowledgeable.”

Virgin newcomer. However, in this overcrowded context, the launch of yet another radio station may seem adventurous, if not foolish. Whether Virgin Radio – which is currently negotiating representation with Specom – manages to find its place in the Jordanian sun remains to be seen.

“Jordanian clients don’t really care about the brand,” says Hanna. “What interests them is the result on the Jordanian market. But back-up from abroad, be it from Beirut for Sawt el Ghad or from elsewhere for Rotana or Virgin, can definitely help a station penetrate the market more easily.”

Well aware of the difficulties ahead, Virgin’s Saad is carefully defining a strategy as he conducts surveys and market studies. The station’s choice of language will be crucial, as Jordan already boasts nine English-language radio stations, which attract only 2 percent of the country’s listeners between them. “We won’t necessarily stick to English,” he says. “Virgin Radio in Turkey broadcasts both in English and in Turkish. In Jordan, roughly 80 percent of ad spend goes to Arabic stations so we know that if we want to generate some money, we also have to go for Arabic. The question is: In what proportion?”

Saad hopes that on top of its advertising revenue, Virgin will reap income by setting up strategic alliances with event organizers. “Our brand name should give us access to many artists,” he says. “We will differentiate ourselves through on-location events, concert sponsorship and various other channels.” For example, the station’s studios will be housed on the ground floor of Amman’s City Mall, where people will be able to see the presenters and DJs. “We want to define concepts and build a trademark,” says Saad. “It’s all a matter of how you present yourself.”

First seen in Communicate magazine.

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