paper Informal and Formal You : the way the radio listener as been treated in the past decade in Portugal

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paper Informal and Formal You : the way the radio listener as been treated in the past decade in Portugal
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  Teresa Costa Alves Universidade Nova de Lisboar/com – renascença comunicação multimédia Formal or informal 'you'?'Você' or 'Tu'?How the radio listener has been treated in the past decade in Portugal  Abstract:In the past decade, the way of treating radio listeners has evolved towards a more informal way of treatment. Until 1998, the formal “you” (“você”) was the consensual way of treatment in radio broadcasting.The first radio station ever to treat its listeners in an informal “you” (“tu”) was Mega FM, which was founded in1998. Mega FM’s target, at that time, was young adults, mainly students, and treatment them in an informalway was a strategy in order to improve proximity and intimacy with the radio listener. After that, competitorsthat arose (Best Rock, Cidade FM,...) started using the same strategy, creating a new paradigm in the radiomarket: stations aiming at youngsters would be informal and use “tu” and stations targeting adults would beformal and use “você”. This phenomenon was the status quo during the whole first decade of the century.However, nowadays there seems to be a growing tendency of informality in the social patterns. Since theend of last year, RFM – the leader in radio audiences, which target is 25-45 year olds – has changed itspositioning in the way of treating radio listeners and is now treating them by the informal you (“tu”). Thetreatment has been changed but not the target, therefore, this might reveal a few social tendencies that canguess the future. Radio broadcasting seems to be following a tendency of informality, which is not happeningin media competitors such as press or TV. This tendency might be explained by social patterns: lifeexpectancy has been increasing so exponentially that people become older much later in time; also youthand beauty are extremely valued, and have became a goal to the majority of people, thus making themappreciate the fact that the environment around them makes them feel young. However, there are alsocommercial reasons behind this tendency: day by day, companies have been communicating their brands ina much more innovative and fresher way, many times using an informal tone of voice in advertising.Therefore, the informal treatment in radio broadcasting also creates coherency between information andentertainment contents and advertising. In this communication, the main goal will be to understand this newparadigm that is developing in the past years about the way radio stations treat their audience, try to explainits causes and how this tendency will evolute in the future. The two case studies mentioned (Mega FMand RFM) will be introduced more deeply and the social analysis of the radio listener will also take place.  Introduction Radio is a tribal drum , has McLuhan mentioned back in the 50's. Sixty years later, we could now say thatradio is “a tribal orchestra”. Therefore, when we reflect on radio evolution, we have to understand what sortof “instruments” have grouped with traditional radio transmission, in order to make it evolve the way it did incontemporary times.Digital broadcasting, Internet, Podcast and Facebook have changed post-modernist ways of listening toradio. Radio is not an exclusive belonging of hertzian waves anymore. All these new ways of relating to theradio have also changed the way listeners perceive it and relate to it – thus, radio content.The Portuguese language and culture is characterized by certain specificities that are naturally exported intothe radio universe. Communication and thus the radio industry are social extensions of human relationships.Therefore, the way people relate between themselves is also reflected in the way radio interlocutors relate totheir listeners.In this paper, in order to understand how radio has evolved in terms of narrative formalization, I wouldconsider important to go through ways of treatment towards radio listeners in the last decade. For thisreason, I will start my analysis in 1998, an year of breakthrough due to the creation of  Mega FM , the firstradio station in Portugal to treat radio listeners by the informal 'you' ('tu'). Afterwards, I will focus on theevolution of marketing strategies, showing how brands have been demanding the change on the way radiostations direct to their listeners in the 00's. Following this can associate reflection, I will focus on the case-study RFM , which has since 2010 changed their way of treating the listeners.Moreover, the Spanish have long been informalizing their way of treating the radio listener. Spanish mediahave long been more informal than Portuguese peer. Spanish cultural patterns are more colloquial, laid-backand rooted to daily life. The Portuguese radio industry participants were perceived as opinion-leaders. Thisstatus has slowly been dissipating, therefore, radio stations have positioned themselves among listeners as“peers” instead of the old “leaders”.For all the reasons mentioned above, I believe that this theme will be important to the understanding of radioevolution in the last decade. How, when and why listeners are treated nowadays in a less formal tone byradio stations are topics that I am willing to address in the next few pages. As it is a very recent tendency, Ibelieve this is the first formal research on the theme of treatment in radio audience. This tendency mighteven anticipate a change in the radio paradigm, so I am willing to make some predictions on how radio willevolve in what concerns treating its listeners in the future. As a tribal orchestra itself, radio is most of all a human system that aims at connecting to people in anengaging and fruitful way, almost as a love relationship: if you love me you should be faithful to me, and if Ilove you I should do my best to deserve your love. So stations do need the faithfulness of its listeners anddefinitely do listeners demand more and more quality from stations, so that they are not seduced by other competitors in the market. And is the seduction game not a market itself too?  Part 1 – The radio panorama in the 90's In the 90's, the radio panorama suffered many changes that helped it to develop in the post-modernist frameof mass communication. The crescent digitalization in what concerns technical structures of broadcastingand the raise of internet as a source of information and also itself as a radio player have changed the waypresenters communicate with their listeners.In the 90's in Portugal, the radio market spread and developed. New radio stations were created, directingthemselves to an even more specific target, segmenting the radio market more and more. The growingimportance of marketing strategies in the contents of radio stations also marked a deep change in the tone of voice used to communicate.Moreover, in 1998 a new radio station was founded, which revolutionised the way presenters communicatedwith their listeners: Mega FM . The first radio station that treated listeners by an informal 'you' ('tu') was aboutto reinvent communication in radio in Portugal. Mega FM , the third radio station belonging to the historic Renascença Radio group, targeted youngsters inthe age range 18-29 years old. This radio group, which included Renascença (market leader by that time;very popular among mature adults and seniors, due to its connection to the Catholic church) and RFM (second most popular station in the country; very good acceptability among the 30-45 years old), lacked theyoung adults fringe, which was somehow directing audience to competitor stations (such as Energia, XFM,Rádio Cidade and others). In addition, in terms of marketing strategy, the young adults segment was growingin terms of commercial attractiveness.When Mega FM was created, it struck the marked as the first radio station to treat its listeners in an unusualcolloquial tone of voice. The informal 'you' ('tu') was a breakthrough in the history of radio evolution inPortugal, as it opened the door to other stations to informalize and communicate in a more youthfulcharacter. Mega FM can be classified as belonging to the Speacialist Music/Youth Oriented format,classification made by Ofcom (2005) 1 . Its namming refers to colloquial language used by youngsters; 'mega'means 'great', 'huge', which is a positive connotation, creating emphathy and identification links with thetarget. Rádio Cidade , back in the beginning of the decade, already treated its listeners in a much colloquial tone-of-voice, however, as the presenters used to speak Brazilian Portuguese, they used 'você', a pronoun thatrepresents the informal 'you' in Brazil but the formal in Portugal. Therefore, Rádio Cidade was alreadyinnovating in the area of contents and style back in the beginning of the 90's but was not yet using theinformal 'you'. This step ahead was made by Mega FM and this could explain part of its huge successamong the target right after its launch in the radio market.In the years that followed Mega FM 's creation, a few competitors entered the hertzian spectrum following thisvanguardist movement, reacting to its quick approch to the young target. All these competitors took part inthe same radio format as Mega FM , that is, Speacialist Music/Youth Oriented format. Best Rock FM first and later  Cidade FM were launched by competitor Media Capital in order to break thecrescent and broadener audience fringes that Grupo Renascença was aiming at. These two radio stationsacted mimetically, also treating their audience by the informal 'you' and bringing new songs and freshcontents to their programming. 1  In http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/communications-market-reports/cm05,lastconsulted on 12/09/2011.  In terms of radio audience, Mega FM soon became the leader in radio audience among students in Lisbon,city where its first mast was grounded. Antena 3 , the public service radio station aimed at youngsters, keptits leadership in the target nationwide, thanks to its almost 30   masts. Antena 3 treats its listeners as a whole,meaning that it used the 2 nd person plural ('vocês'), and this was one of the components that mostly allowed Mega FM to make the difference in this market segment – as we will verify later on in the next chapters of this paper.  Part 2 – The radio panorama in the 00's The 90's ended with the growing audience of  Mega FM , bringing a breakthrough in the radio market with thelaid-back attitude of its presenters and the freshness of its playlist. Antena 3 started to lose the race andthen Best Rock was created in 2003 by Media Capital, the second greatest player in the radio market.In the 90's, radio professionals were confronted with the slowing down of a phenomenon that dominated theradio market in the 80's: 'pirate radios'. In the 90's, the radio market became more commercial and profit-searching itself. The spreading of digital information technologies changed the way radio professionals relateto the media and, consequently, the listener.The growing important of the digital happened to individualize communication in a deeper way. With onlinemedia streaming, each listener related to the station in its own PC, therefore, in a more individualexperience. The radio starts to move towards the listener, and not the opposite as it used to be. The listener acquires a double role: listener-user. RFM , the radio station leader of audience in Portugal, is a paradigmatic example of how radio has evolued inthe last decade in Portugal. It belongs to the Chart Led Mainstream cathegory, which means that its format ismade to please an audience that is fond of contemporary music hits, thus a broad target, from young adultsonwards. RFM has made a strategic decision in 2010 that changed radically its way of communicating woith listeners.It started to treat listeners by the informal 'you' ('tu'), becoming the first adult radio station in Portugal toradicalize the tone-of-voice. The music appears to match this informal way of treatment, because nowadaysmainstream music sucesses are mostly included in the pop/rock/dance styles, and the majority of them dosound light and youthful.This strategy of informalization follows a social tendency that has been growing in the past years. Listenersneed to feel identified with the radio station (and consequently the brand) to develop loyalty, therefore, theywill obviously feel more into a station that represents their relationships with the world (family, friends,workmates, people that normally treat them using the 'tu'). Altogether, in this decade radio performs a metamorphosis, becoming a 'self-media' alongside the status of 'mass-media'. This tendency grew along the following decade. In the beginning of 21 st century, internetaudience started to be measured as well, becoming another socio-economical indicator of the radio marketpanorama.Nowadays, interactivity with the listener is growing day-by-day, specially thanks to social networks. Thereinforcement of the presence of the listener in one of the radio station's platform (Facebook and Twitter mostly) increases to pressure of response from the radio's side to meet the listeners' wishes and wills. Thelistener enters the private sphere and this one becomes more imposing than the public sphere itself.Therefore, we might conclude that radio is suffering in the end 00's and beginning 10's another metamorphosis: from 'self-media' to 'own-media'.But what are the main reasons for this growing proximity, and therefore, informality in radio communication?The reasons are mainly three: economical, socio-cultural and strategic. In the socio-cultural perspective, wecan argued that radio communication has gone informal due to the growth of life expectancy and the latter age of certain traditional practices, such as getting married, having children of buying a flat (what we used todo by mid-20's we now leave it for the 30's).Socially and culturally, the rejuvenation of cultural practices nowadays make individuals feel younger until a
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