Cliff sees niches as future of online radio - TechCentral

Cliff sees niches as future of online radio

Gareth Cliff

Gareth Cliff

Since moving away from FM radio in May, Gareth Cliff has been driving a new brand of radio that he hopes will break all the rules imposed by traditional broadcasters.

Speaking at Tech4Africa in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Cliff said the value of online radio is that it can tap into niche audiences.

“Initially, we had something closer to traditional radio in mind for our business model, but that morphed into the branding of packaged content,” he said, in a presentation on why he quit mainstream radio to start Cliff Central. He said it’s about reaching audiences that advertisers want.

But Cliff seems more passionate about the content, something that he feels he was not able to do with integrity during his time at 5FM, a national, youth-focused radio station owned by the SABC.

He said demand for content is far higher than it has ever been and if South Africans are not going to develop it themselves, someone else will. “Young people in this country want more from their content; you can’t rely on a good song to keep your audience happy anymore.”

Although live online radio is how CliffCentral produces its content, it’s the podcasts that are produced after the fact where Cliff sees the most value. The accurate tracking that podcasts provide makes it much easier to commercialise, he said.

CliffCentral claims that it reaches about 500 000 listeners a month. “From 1 August to 23 September, we had a million podcasts downloaded and it looks like this is going to become a trend. I am so happy I could s*** bricks,” he told the audience at Tech4Africa.

It would appear CliffCentral’s agreement with MTN has also paid off for the fledgling broadcaster. In May, MTN launched a deal offering clients on a select number of packages unlimited data access via WeChat. Cliff said MTN has sold over 120 000 packages that offer unlimited CliffCentral streaming.

Cliff said the limited number of radio stations available on the FM band will drive the adoption of online radio, especially considering the proliferation of cellphones that can receive audio and video content.  — © 2014 NewsCentral Media


  1. Greg Mahlknecht on

    >CliffCentral claims that it reaches about 500 000 listeners a month. “From 1 August to 23 September, we had a million podcasts downloaded

    500,000 looks impressive, but let’s just boil it down. If a “listener” only tuned in and listened to a single podcast a single time and never visited CliffCentral again, that number would be correct.

    There are 12 hours a day programming, roughly divided in to 12 podcasts.

    Let’s be generous and assume there are repeat listeners, and a “loyal listener” listens for 3 hours every second day. That gives us 3 (podcasts a day) * 15 (days for every 2nd day of the month) = 45 podcasts/month per loyal listener.

    That gives us a figure of around 11,000 loyal listeners a month (500,000 downloads / 45 downloads per listener). Closer to what we’ve come to expect from online streaming radio. 2oceansvibe revealed a few months ago they get “between 10,000 and 15,000 unique listeners per month” … which as anyone who’s been in the game for more than 5 minutes knows it means 10,000 a month, and they saw 15,000 once and they still have no idea why it peaked 🙂

  2. CharlieTango on

    Until we overcome high bandwidth costs (particularly on mobile phones) I don’t see this business flourishing – particularly with the teenage target market Cliff is talking about. I think those bricks are going to become boulders and will lead to a severe case of constipation.

  3. Greg Mahlknecht on

    Yup, he’s equating the equivalent of page hits to unique visitors. If someone did that with trying to sell their website to you, you’d laugh at them and walk away. Shows that he really doesn’t understand the game he’s in.

  4. Gareth Cliff on

    Hi Greg. I never said 500000 of anything. That inference was drawn by Reghardt. I only gave the total podcast download numbers. I make no attempt to guess the number of users, other than my observation that that number is growing very nicely.

  5. Gareth Cliff on

    Read above gentlemen, and stop doing what everyone else is doing and making dumb over-used puns including my surname. We’re also not selling on those numbers, so relax. I don’t know what business you’re in, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be so bold as to criticise it without having a conversation with the people already doing it.

  6. Gareth Cliff on

    Charlie, they’re not teenagers. According to the info we can mine using social media on’s pages, it’s mostly 25-35 year olds, with a wide range under and over that category.

  7. Greg Mahlknecht on

    You gave the total number of download numbers, which was 500k/month, that’s 500k impressions, I don’t know how you can say you didn’t say “500k of anything?” You gave a hard number on a very specific and familiar metric. Unless Reghardt misquoted you in that direct quote?

    If you have to “guess the number of users”, you should have a SERIOUS chat with your guys on that side, one of the huge advantages of the online platform over traditional broadcast is that you can track these numbers fairly accurately. I’ve worked with the WeChat backend API and you should certainly be able to get uniques from there, for starters. And it’s easy to track on a website too.

    If my above calculations are correct, that’s good news too – yes it might be a small number of uniques, but you’ve caught up the established 2OceansVibe in a short time.

  8. Gareth Cliff on

    Greg. Quotation marks are used where I was quoted. I said what is in the quotation marks. I also told you I’m not interested in live listening numbers. We’re not competing with radio listenership numbers or with 2Oceans, which is a music online radio station. Reghardt has not misreported anything. He got to 500000 entirely on his own. I didn’t say that.

  9. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>Cliff said MTN has sold over 120 000 packages that offer unlimited CliffCentral streaming.

    On CliffCentral you also have a YouTube channel. Does the MTN package offer unlimited streaming of your content on YouTube?

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