Introduce yourself, what is the nature of your business?
My name is Emma Jane Robson and I am the founder of Awake Online, a digital audio sales house focusing on stream podcasting and on-demand audio. Online radio differentiates itself from traditional marketing methods and has the ability to generate content that targets a specific niche market. Awake Online strives to facilitate connection, build brand identity, visibility and generate greater exposure for advertisers who choose to advertise online.
What inspired the launch of your business?
An endless love and passion for radio and the possibility that delivering a broadcast message across borders without any geographical limitations was inspiring.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I didn’t (ha-ha)!
I did not know what the market looked like; I just thought, radio works, so why wouldn’t it work in a digital space? There was one small indicator though and that was the growth in popularity of online radio across the globe, which I believe creates a gap in advertising sales for this medium. What I like about digital radio is that listeners are able to pull from rather than be pushed at. They are able to personalise their radio, listening to what they like rather than what the station wants them to listen to.
How did you raise start-up capital?
I worked a 10 hour job and every other weekend, sold my car and a few other items to put together R170.000.
Describe your business model and how you make money?
Radio advertising has not changed for years, but what has changed is how people access and receive it. We sell the ad space within the digital radio space. We strive to facilitate connection, build brand identity and visibility, and generate greater awareness for advertisers who choose to advertise with our digital radio stations. Traditionally, commercial radio advertising slots have been sold at such a high percentage that radio really was not applicable and affordable for everyone. I wanted to change that.
What challenges have you faced and how did it overcome them?
I have faced many challenges over the last 3 years. The traditional walls and the traditional expertise of how something works. How could it possibly work outside of what we have been doing for a million years? Educating clients as to why they should pick online radio for advertising is a priority, as is trying to convince terrestrial radio that this is not a competing sector, merely an additional one.
Recent stats indicate that 19% of South Africans have listened to a podcast, and the growth in this medium in SA is undeniable. Advertisers and brands should all take notice.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Signing my first few stations and closing my first deal 10 months in, which so early on made me realise that the vision was correct. Awake Online now represents 20 unique digital radio stations across the country, including African Business Radio, TransAfrica Radio, Soccer la duma, Massiv Metro, and Caxton Radio
Which technology has made the biggest difference in your business?
The growth in connectivity generally and the prevalence of smartphones.
What marketing strategy has proven profitable for your business?
Strangely enough, the very marketing approach we recommended to our clients, which is understanding the value and growth in digital and the power and reach of audio.
That has been the best strategy I have applied to my own marketing and communication.
What was your biggest business mistake?
In haste as a start-up, with so much on the go, I overlooked the ‘rigor’. Things like reading through contracts thoroughly is now of paramount importance to me.
Please share your business website and social media links…
Awake Online on Facebook
@awakeonlineza on Instagram