Exactly a week ago on 29 January 2018, Singapore Press Holdings launched their first business and personal finance radio station, Money FM 89.3. By now, most of us already have an audio routine, whether it’s a Spotify playlist, a list of podcasts, or a default radio station playing in the car. Is Money FM 89.3 compelling enough to make Singaporeans change their listening routines? We tried it for a week to find out.
Day 1 (Monday, 29 January) – How to Listen
As the Content Lead at DollarsAndSense, one of the first things I do each morning is to check that the first scheduled article of the day goes up correctly on the website and then share it on Facebook at 8am.
After I did so, I remembered that today is the day Money FM 89.3 begins transmission. My genuine excitement soon gave way to confusion, as I realise that I have never listened to the radio on my smartphone. I tried to download some mobile apps that allow for streaming of FM stations, but realise that Money FM 89.3 was not one of the supported radio stations, perhaps because it was too new.
After some trial and error, I was finally up and running. Here’s how you can listen to Money FM 89.3:
By that time, I missed the exact moment they went on air, and my ears were greeted music that would be best described as “oldies”. According to Money FM 89.3, their target audience is English speakers aged 35 years and above. I hope that at least someone is enjoying the music selection. In the interest of this review, I resisted the urge to turn off the radio. Tastes in music varies wildly among people and it seems that Money FM 89.3 will always face the challenge of selecting tunes that appeal to a broad audience.
Day 2 (Tuesday, 30 January) – Getting into the Grove
After two days of listening, the rhythm of Money FM 89.3’s programming starts to emerge:
6am – 10am: The Breakfast Huddle with Elliott Danker and Yasmin Jonkers
Lots of music early in the programme, followed by more frequent traffic and headline news from 8am onwards. There are also segments peppered in between giving money tips, interview clips, and business stories.
10am – 2pm: Midday with Howie Lim
The highlight of this segment is really the extended interviews with guests who run Small Medium Enterprises. The combination of Howie’s great interviewing skills and refreshing perspectives of entrepreneurs makes the show a great listen. The rest of the show is pretty much similar to the morning show, with (usually repeated) news bulletins and market updates. There are also rebroadcasts of BBC programmes, which is a little strange, since some of the episodes are not very relatable.
2pm – 4pm: Prime Time with Claressa Monteiro
Fashion and lifestyle topics are covered in this afternoon segment by Claressa, along with a healthy dose of music.
4pm – 8pm: The Curve with Desmond Wong
Desmond is the energetic host of the evening drive time show. Along with repeats of some clips that have already been heard throughout the day, he closes the day with news and market roundups for Asia and Europe.
Day 3 (Wednesday, 31 January) – Some Gems, Some Jams
After listening for three days, I would say that the segments I look forward to the most are the interviews. With the right guest, each interview can be entertaining and enlightening. Perhaps due to their clout as a subsidiary of SPH Radio and the prestige still attributed to ‘live’ radio, Money FM 89.3 already had a line-up of guests that include Piyush Gupta (CEO of DBS Bank), Loh Boon Chye (CEO of SGX), Walter De Oude (CEO of SingLife), Teo Ser Luck (Member of Parliament of Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC), Christopher Lee (CEO of ShareInvestor), and many more.
I think that if they continue to apply the formula of having interesting people giving insightful interviews, that would be reason enough to keep the SPH Radio app on my mobile phone. At least just to tune in to interviews I want to hear. Fortunately, you can get updates on interview timeslots on the Money FM 89.3 Facebook page.
Day 4 (Thursday, 1 February) – Getting Existential
As I continue to stoically listen to Money FM 89.3 during the work day, one question is always on my mind: Why does Money FM 89.3 exist in 2018?
Don’t get me wrong. As a Singaporean who is interested in finance, I am glad there is one more source of Singapore-centric personal finance content. But I feel that because they are a radio station, Money FM 89.3 has an uphill task as they fight for survival.
For listeners, radio is a horrible format. You are held captive by its ‘on air’ nature, which means that if you’re busy or just forgot about a segment you have been looking forward to, you would have missed it. Money FM 89.3 does have a podcasts section, but it currently has very few uploads. I hope they will continue to be populated with the best interviews and documentaries so listeners can access them if they missed it the first time round.
The fact we cannot choose to skip boring interviews or topics we have no interest in is another weakness of broadcast radio. Time is precious, and if I’m going to the gym or be doing chores, I prefer to choose which podcast episode or music playlist I want to listen to that day, rather than having a DJ make that decision for me.
Radio is also kind of bad for advertisers. Nobody ever knows how many people actually listened to an ad. The best guess is either extrapolating listens from the web player or mobile app, which statisticians will tell you is wildly inaccurate, or rely on surveys by companies like Nielsen.
Day 5 (Friday, 2 February) – Closing Thoughts
As the week draws to a close, so does this little experiment. To be honest, I did not know what to expect from Money FM 89.3 at the start. As a fan of podcasts and audio books, I was a little sceptical of a niche radio station launching in 2018, especially when other radio stations are closing down.
As mentioned earlier, Money FM 89.3 faces huge challenges in building their regular fan base. To get listeners, they would need to get Singaporeans to change their established listening habits, or compete with existing radio stations for market share. Both sound like daunting prospects. But that’s not for me to worry about. I look forward to the original programming produced by the team and will listen whenever my interest or curiosity is piqued.
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