Kanal 77: A strategic approach to digitalization

Kanal 77: A strategic approach to digitalization

Media freedom in North Macedonia is improving but far from perfect. In its 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders noted that “widespread misinformation and lack of professionalism contribute to society’s declining trust in the media, which exposes independent outlets to threats and attacks”.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, since 1991 Kanal 77 has been on a journey of transformation, growing from a regional station into the leading national player, its recent expansion driven by a strategic approach to digitalisation.

Founded in the city of Štip in the east of the country, a significant generational transition in the station’s management has inspired a progressive review and modernization of programming aimed at better serving their existing and expanding audience.

Planning for growth

The first step was investing in equipment and studio construction. To finance developments, Kanal 77 took out two MDIF loans, the first in 2014 – investments that led to increased revenues, which in turn allowed the station to repay the loans. Once these infrastructural building blocks were in place, the station enlisted specialist advisory support from MDIF’s Media Advisory Services to launch a process of strategic planning, content optimization and revenue diversification. The impact was substantial, propelling Kanal 77 to number one position in the market.

Kanal 77’s frequencies have covered all four regions of the country for many years, but its recent strategic push has enabled it to expand its coverage and deliver valuable news and information to more listeners, often in areas with little quality independent radio coverage.

The objective was to devise a comprehensive strategic approach, enhance content planning, optimize audience acquisition, explore new revenue opportunities, and improve the station’s operational strategy. The company was also able to access a small grant, which enabled it to evaluate and improve content, music updates and on-air performance, as well as further develop and design new products.

Modernizing content to grow audience and advertising

The impact of the strategy has been significant. The station has modernized news broadcasts, improved the program line-up, and launched several fresh radio shows. Through continuous collaboration with a consultant, Kanal77 enhanced anchor training and implemented regular remote air check and development sessions, leading to a substantial improvement in output quality.

Although the advertising market in Northern Macedonia is relatively small and focused on other media channels, Kanal 77 has devised strategic initiatives to elevate its attractiveness to advertisers and now provides clients with diverse marketing options. As a prime illustration of setting itself apart from competitors, the company introduced the “Pay Your Bills” promotion—a widely recognized on-air method for branding a cash giveaway, although still relatively novel in the North Macedonian market.

The station has significantly grown its presence and branding across the country. By collaborating with numerous regional radio stations to rebroadcast its news programs, Kanal 77 effectively amplifies its impact and extends its reach. It also enhanced engagement by curating compelling content, fostering listener interaction through contests and live shows, and leveraging social media platforms to create a more immersive and interactive experience. This concerted approach has led to a notable upswing in daily and weekly listenership, underscoring a substantial surge in both growth and engagement. Their two flagship shows – morning and afternoon – are among the most popular in their categories in North Macedonia.

Embracing digital transformation

Kanal 77 has also taken strides in its digitalization journey. Embracing advancements in technology and recognizing the potential it holds, the company dedicated substantial efforts to establish its MMS website. Moreover, they fortified their presence across major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Viber to promote their radio programming. With the intention of targeting a younger demographic, they launched a new news project on TikTok, with their most popular video garnering more than 235,000 views. Additionally, the station launched its first online radio channel, Kanal 77 Ex-Yu, and created a system allowing it to easily introduce further digital radio stations in the future.

With a renewed focus on urban populations and advertising, and continuing to improve workflows and cost efficiencies, in 2023 Kanal 77 reached top position in the market. As it heads into 2024, the station has prepared a very aggressive plan to increase revenue opportunities and maintain its position in the market. A challenging year lies ahead, but one it is prepared for.