This article was first published in The Media Report. Click here to download it and get more insights by some of South Africa’s leading media and marketing minds.

Media Report 2014 – Independence Issue
Click to download:  The Media Report 2014

Once enfant terrible of SA’s airwaves, Gareth Cliff, caused a major stir when he left his former employer, 5FM, for the brave new world of streaming digital content. The result of Cliff’s digital content experiment? Some 500,000 listeners a month as of September 2014. Going from broadcast to ‘streamcast’ has been an interesting experience for Cliff, who answers our Q&A on the medium he calls ‘unradio’.


What is the state of play in SA Talk Radio?

Gareth Cliff: Well, we’re not a radio station per se – that would be SAFM, Power FM and 702. I think there’s a lot of serious talk and news interrupted with lots of ads so commercially, they must be doing well. There’s room for everyone.

Why has the Cliff team opted out of the terrestrial model? What are the challenges and opportunities of this?Gareth Cliff

Gareth Cliff: FM (The FM broadcast band), is 100 years old. The technology is being replaced with much cheaper, much more effective, much more measurable and much less regulated alternatives. The internet is already where you get your favourite music, your news, your favourite TV shows and other content you care about. It’s time radio caught up. Data rates are dropping by the day, media companies are becoming more and more costly to run and everyone is going to have a smartphone within a few years. They’ve stopped making cars with radios in them in North America and Europe. For me personally, the choice was to be part of the new wave.

How central is Cliff’s brand to building audience?

Gareth Cliff: Well it’s important at the beginning. It will hopefully become less important as we grow the CliffCentral brand with all the new talent and the diverse properties and programming options available on

What audience followed the move – what do audience figures look like?

Gareth Cliff: We had over a million podcast downloads between August 1 and 30 September, and we see that demand growing. We’re not expecting to have live listening figures anywhere near those of the big FM stations – this is much more niched but there’s a show for everyone!

What has the response from marketers been?

Gareth Cliff: The response has been amazing. Most are aware how fast the landscape is changing and are curious to explore to explore new and innovative ways of reaching audiences.

What value proposition does Cliff Central offer marketers?

Gareth Cliff: We allow clients, agencies and marketers an opportunity to have early access to early adopters. The audience who listen tare really engaged – they don’t just tune in for a song and then tune out again. We’re doing solid content and we’re building a loyal community, across all the online platforms, of influencers, leaders, and people who are more discerning than those a mass medium can reach. We aim to forge comprehensive interactive engagement between audiences and advertisers, products and services.

How is this value proposition different or unique when compared to other talk radio?

Gareth Cliff: Again, we’re not talk radio. We’re an online content hub engaging on air, on WeChat, on FaceBook, on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google Plus. Our content lives on in the form of podcasts as it can be accessed any time post-broadcast, which in turn means our advertisers’ messages live on.

How does this move align with global media trends?

Gareth Cliff: We may be ahead of the curve for South Africa, and on course when we compare the model to examples in the US. We spent a great deal of time at Sirius XM in New York this February, and internet radio is the biggest threat to both conventional terrestrial radio and satellite radio.

How are CliffCentral listenership figures impacted by the cost of data in SA?

Gareth Cliff: Not very much at all. Audio data costs you between 25c and R3 an hour, depending on what package you’re on. What can you buy for 25c anymore? We were concerned about this before we launched, but there are so many fake stories and urban legends about the cost of data that some people are scared to try listening, So far, of the people who have listened, none have complained about outrageous bills. In fact, they keep coming back.

How have you or are you working on content to ensure listeners perceive massive value/relevance?

Gareth Cliff: Our content offering is unbelievable for a channel that has only just turned 5 months old. We have the likes of Tony Ndoro; Casper De Vries; Trevor Gumbi; the editors of Marie Claire, Stuff, The Daily Maverick, Heat, Business Report and Blaque doing their own shows. We have plenty of brand-new, undiscovered talent taking to the air for the first time and many niched programs that none of the big TV or radio channels would risk putting on. It’s the most exciting offering in content terms since broadcast licences were opened up for bidding in the 90s.

What is your message to marketers?

Gareth Cliff: Come and see us. We have solutions for your clients and brands.

Gareth Cliff: Yes: listen to us by going to or downloading one of the many podcasts available.


Follow Gareth Cliff on Twitter: @garethcliff

Listen to Gareth Cliff at

Click here to download it and get more insights by some of South Africa’s leading media and marketing minds.