Radio advertising in Malaysia is huge business. It has been around for decades and continues to play an integral role in media and advertising for brand owners and advertisers. Radio is currently the only and probably most accessible audio media available in Malaysia.

Where it all started?

To understand how radio came about in Malaysia, it goes all the way back to 1921 when A.L Birch brought the first radio set through his appointment as an electrical engineer with the then Johor state government. This would then be the formation of the Johore Wireless Society before the Malaysian Wireless Society was established later.

It would then grow to Kuala Lumpur before the Penang Wireless Society started broadcasting in 4 major languages. During the World War, radio was used to broadcast propaganda by the Japanese. When it ended, RTM was established and began service on 1st April 1946. By 1960, commercial advertisements started and this started to form the platform for advertising on radio.

Growth of radio broadcasts

By 1971, Radio Malaysia started 24-hour broadcast across the nation. 4 years later, stereo broadcast became available. Suara Johor was the first private radio station which was launched in 1989. In 1994, Time Highway Radio was launched and it became one of the top stations that time.

Enter the era of format radio

In 1997, the radio industry saw another revaluation when AMP Radio Network was launched. This was where several stations were concurrently made available offering single format services. They were:

  1. Hitz FM
  2. Mix FM
  3. Light & Easy FM
  4. Classic Rock
  5. Talk Radio

AMP Radio would continue to grow in 1998 when they launched MY FM and Era FM which took over the reins from Classic Rock and Talk Radio. MY FM and Era FM are radio stations offering Chinese and Malay music respectively.
More stations then followed suit. AMP would then take over THR while Media Prima Berhad launched FLY FM. In 2007, Bernama Radio24 was launched.

Why advertise on radio?

Radio falls into the same category as traditional media like TV and print. What makes radio so attractive as a media for advertising is that it is affordable and very efficient. Advertisers like radio as it offers a quick solution for messages to reach the target market. Although this might touch a mass group of listeners, the advent of format radio allows advertisers to choose a certain listener profile and demographic.

Furthermore, radio today is very different from how it was 20 years ago. Most stations today have incorporated more options for their listeners by offering and integrating new platforms like podcasts and videos. In fact, some stations have used social media with live radio telecasts in offering more attraction in their services. Listeners are now more selective in what they want to receive on radio which makes this media all the more enticing for certain advertisers.

The Radio listener’s trend in Malaysia

Radio is a major source of entertainment for Malaysians from all walks of life. It has been on an upward trend for the past 5 years. The average listening hours is about 13-14 hours. Most Malaysians listen to music in their cars and on their phones. Collectively, both these sources constitute to more than 60%.
In the public domain, radio ads contribute to about 25% of daily consumed ads. A lot of listeners like to provide feedback about radio on social media.

Radio Channels at a glance

There are national and state radio channels operating across Malaysia. Among the major ones include:

  1. 988 FM – Owned by the Star Radio Group, this Chinese station is one of the top and most listened station in Malaysia. Broadcasted nationwide, it has a variety of programmes offering entertainment for every age group
  2. Best 104 – one of the oldest stations in Malaysia, it is operated by Suara Johor which is broadcasted in Bahasa Malaysia. this station has a huge following of listeners around the southern region which can be received all the way to Singapore and Indonesia
  3. BFM 89.9 – operated by BFM Media, this station is broadcasted in English and BM. Available mostly in the Klang Valley, it offers news, updates and is one of the only talk radio stations in Malaysia
  4. Era FM – One of the many stations operated by Astro Radio. It is a BM station and has among the most listener base in Malaysia.
  5. Fly FM – Operated by Media Prima, it is broadcasted mainly in English with some segments in BM. Fly FM plays a mixture of current and contemporary music.
  6. Hitz.fm – one of the top radio stations by Astro Radio. Hitz.fm has underwent several changes since it was launched. As the name implies, it offers the latest hits and music for its listeners. As such, its listener profile is among the younger ones.
  7. Mix FM – operated by Astro Radio as well, Mix FM has been one of the most consistent stations that offer music of the 80s, 90s and current ones.
  8. Lite FM – offering light and easy listening, its target listeners are more adult and towards the middle-age group. This station is operated by Astro Radio and is broadcasted in English Language.
  9. Melody FM and MY FM- Operated in Chinese, both these stations are broadcasted in Chinese. Melody FM plays music from all era and is owned by Astro Radio. Meanwhile, MY FM plays the more current and latest Chinese hits and appeals more to the younger listeners.
  10. THR Gegar and THR Raaga – Formerly under the Time Highway Radio umbrella, both the stations are now operated by Astro Radio. Gegar plays Malay music while Raaga is broadcasted in Tamil.
  11. Red FM – Operated by the Star Media group, it is one of the major English Language stations in Malaysia. Red FM offers a bit of everything for its listeners with most tuning in during the rush hours of the morning and evenings.