THE EVOLUTION OF SHUJAAZ RADIO: from hundreds to millions [ARCHIVE]

  • Blog
  • 21 Sep 2017

I joined Shujaaz in 2014 as a radio producer and was immediately struck that when I spoke with Kenyan youth across the country, the name Shujaaz seemed to only refer to our monthly comic. It seemed like no one was listening to the Shujaaz radio show even though we broadcast the show daily. Radio was the underdog.

When I joined Shujaaz the radio show was a daily 10-minute show where the presenter DJ B ‘hacked’ into the airwaves of a few FM stations across the country to share ideas and info with his listeners. While the content was great, the short format was limiting and it was easily lost amongst the noise of the stations other shows. Our small radio team all agreed we wanted to make a better show that could stand on its own. We wanted a show that could change the lives of young people by giving them a platform to have their voices heard – quite literally. We wanted a show that would help Kenyan youth achieve their dreams; and thus the radio revamp journey began.

In order to achieve our goal of creating a loyal audience of millions, we wanted the show to have a new identity. So, we decided to drop the hack-in conceit, increase the length to one hour and tried to land a popular national station to broadcast the show. After extensive research with our target audience in early 2015 we arrived at a new, winning format and produced our first pilot.

By aiming high, we got even more than we had hoped for. QFM (a national radio station) loved the new show and gave us a 2-hour slot for free. This was the big thumbs up we needed – the 2 hour slot allowed us to get really creative ensuring the show was packed full of entertaining, interactive content that was guaranteed to get a youth audience tuning in each week. The show included music mixes sent in by aspiring DJ’s, life-tips, dilemma questions sent in by our listeners with solutions proposed by other Shujaaz fans, weekly competitions, celebrity interviews, vox-pops with the audience, debates on hot issues and we even introduced a female co-host for DJ B to work with.

As we all know, the path to success does not always run smooth and after a few months of partnership, with no warning Q FM shut down and we went off air. Team morale dropped as we were forced to revert to our 10-minute format, broadcasting only on community stations. We felt we’d let our fans down, but we still kept the faith. We just had to find a way to get Shujaaz back on air.

As the media space in Kenya became increasingly competitive, we realized we could no longer rely on the good-will of broadcasters to broadcast Shujaaz for free. We were going to have to pay for it. Our research indicated that there was a massive untapped audience on radio just waiting to be reached by Shujaaz. So we made the strategic decision to reduce our comic print run from 750,000 copies a month to 705,000 copies and use the money saved on print to invest in airtime. This proved to be a good move – almost immediately we were able to secure an extremely popular young national station – Milele FM. Once again, our goal of a Shujaaz radio audience of millions was in reach. Immediately we started receiving hundreds of SMS’s in response to the show. When we review our SMS traffic data we can see a very clear spike every Sunday when the show is broadcast with up to 1000 SMS being attributed to the radio show each week.

Not only have the numbers increased, but so has the quality of the SMS messages. The content of the messages has changed from generic shout-outs to friends and song requests, to deeper engagement with the content we produce that is designed to offer social and economic value to our listeners. For example, the majority of the SMS that came in response to the 3rd September show, were all from youth sharing the issues they want their newly elected leaders to address.

Another big success for us came when two stations requested the opportunity to broadcast the Shujaaz show when they heard it on Milele – and they wanted to air it for free! One of these stations, Flamingo Radio, has reported that since broadcasting Shujaaz radio their listenership has grown from around 100,000 to 1 million plus. We’ll take that as a win!

I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved as a team. We’ve consistently listened to our audience and looked at the data and have made quick changes to the content and format to keep our show fresh and popular.

The evolution of Shujaaz radio show is one that reminds me that hard work, consistency and persistence will always pay off no matter how long it takes. That sometimes you need to fly under the radar so that when you finally get your break, it’ll be worthwhile. That you should never underestimate the “underdogs”. And so, the evolution continues.