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  • Smile 90.4FM becomes a trusted source for information in the midst of a global pandemic

    As the scale and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate across the world, we are all being inundated with fake news and misinformation on social media and private groups, sending fear and panic rippling through communities who desperately need a reliable, credible source of news. Smile 90.4FM’s programming style of positivity and hope in the ‘Mother City’ and their positioning as the ‘amplifying the good news’ station means that the Cape Town-based radio station are uniquely positioned and already geared to provide comfort and clarity to their community during a daunting period. This offers them the opportunity to cut through the noise and quickly establish themselves as a trusted voice at a time when the need is crucial. A new status quo calls for new approaches Empowered by the Fabrik suite of software applications since 2016, the station had provided their closest listeners with a mobile app in which they could send and receive direct messages with the station, as well as listen to podcasts and the live broadcast – wherever they were. Since launch, the platform’s direct messaging functionality has helped the station become closer with their audience. With a broadcast message, all app members receive a push notification immediately alerting them about a new competition, survey or call-to-action – leading to rapid response and healthy engagement from Smile 90.4FM’s most loyal listeners. And by empowering listeners to send the station voice notes and text messages, the app gives every listener a fair shot at having their opinion heard without the burden of a big phone bill for SMSes or phone calls. During this particular phase of uncertainty, Smile stepped up to the opportunity of being of service to their audience. Through a dedicated messaging channel within their mobile app, they supplement news broadcasts with timely, relevant and factual COVID-19 updates that contain an added focus on the Western Cape province. “It was imperative that we provided a credible, relevant, succinct and immediate update to the pandemic,” says Naveen Singh, Programming Manager at Smile 90.4FM. “Our main role was to ensure that we engaged, informed, entertained, and emphathised with our audience across all platforms.” Powered by Fabrik’s secure, private platform, each registered member of the app is automatically added to this channel and flagged to be notified whenever a new announcement is received about the COVID-19 pandemic. Individual members are able to exit the channel of their own accord, or mute the channel if they prefer not to receive notifications. By setting the channel as ‘read-only,’ the station can post streams of news-related updates and links to useful resources, while keeping the noise of well-meaning community members forwarding other types of info that may not have been fact-checked prior to posting. To get the content out rapidly to the audiences across their various digital properties – the app, Facebook and Twitter – the News team make use of Fabrik’s Smashboard member engagement dashboard to easily disseminate breaking news or share pertinent announcements from live national addresses in real-time. A key iteration in Smile’s live on-air programming is the broadcast of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s nationwide addresses which are also streamed live via the Fabrik-enabled app an website streams, as well as interesting daily segments on Coronavirus-related issues that may affect their listeners. Those segments are made available immediately after broadcast as podcasts in the app and on the website. In addition, the station has incorporated daily on-air calls to action into every half-hourly news bulletin as well as daily promotions prompting listeners to subscribe to the new COVID-19 channel along with information about the COVID-19 hotline and hygiene practices. And to bring as much awareness as possible to how their audience can stay safe, the advertising billboards that appear when listeners first open the app are being dedicated to educating their community about protective measures related to the virus. Does being ‘of service’ improve engagement? To monitor how the consistent app-based COVID-19 updates are being received, the station has been tracking their audience’s response in real time via Fabrik’s Metrics dashboard – a reporting and analytics tool that empowers radio stations to view and monitor live engagement data. What Smile observed is that more of the station’s existing app members are opening the app more often, drawn in by the need to be kept informed by a trusted voice in their own community. Since the COVID-19 Updates channel was launched on the 12th of March, an average of 5 updates have been sent to members of the channel every day, keeping them informed on the effects of the pandemic on local communities and health authorities without becoming a source of spam. Over the course of the ensuing weeks, the team noticed interesting correlations between the ongoing updates and the frequency with which new and existing members have been engaging with the app. In March, the app was used almost 4 times more than in the same month a year ago by more than twice the number of members and, notably, the number of individuals who opened the app over 100 times – the station’s most loyal app-based audience - increased by 57%. The overall app audience continues to increase by hundreds of new members every week since the commencement of the amplified COVID-19 coverage – demonstrating a sustained appetite for quality, factual, real-time news notifications. What this could imply is that new app members are responding to an increase in on-air or social media calls-to-action or that the station’s existing app membership are sharing the app with their friends and family specifically to receive trusted, consistent COVID-19 updates. Come for the news, stay for the community In correlation with the increase in app engagement, stats show that the number of live stream plays increased over this period. It seems that, while reading up on the latest COVID-19 news, more people are digitally ‘tuning in’ to what’s being played on-air – a significant outtake. It’s undeniable that the global COVID-19 pandemic the world faces with has left many disheartened and searching for clarity in a confusing landscape of misinformation and fake news. Smile 90.4FM’s early investment in a multi-channel approach has empowered the station to rapidly surround their community with accurate, verified news and educational information about the pandemic, supported by the effective but simple-to-use messaging and audience engagement functionality within their Fabrik suite of services. What’s more, the station was able to track the impact of their ongoing COVID-19 updates in real time using Fabrik’s data visualising tools, which provided them a glimpse into the effectiveness of their initiatives as well as the impetus they needed to pull the community together through this challenging period.

  • Maintaining scalable Cloud Systems in times of Unanticipated Peaks

    How Microsoft Azure’s scalability and elasticity allowed Fabrik to respond quickly to a rapidly escalating increase in community engagement during COVID-19. When immedia initially set out to build our Fabrik platform – a suite of ‘born-in-the-cloud' audience engagement tools and workflows - our development team elected to adopt a cloud-first approach in its development, using Microsoft’s Azure platform. Some of the benefits we considered in selecting Azure include: cost savings through economies of scale and a tenant-based system with shared resources; the inherent scalability, redundancy and reliability of Microsoft Azure which enables our applications to be automatically adaptable to increases in resource demand; the ability to take advantage of the monitoring and analytics of Microsoft Azure so that we can diagnose issues quickly and report accurately. the ability to adopt an Agile approach when architecting and developing the platform so we can be responsive to our clients’ needs, as opposed to over-engineering a system based on superficial and assumptive requirements. As the Fabrik codebase became more established and our service offering continued to diversify, our technical teams were able to add more and more features to our mobile apps, APIs and web-based tools aimed at empowering our clients to better serve their members with ease. As a result, the number of individuals using the Fabrik suite of applications in our platform has increased dramatically over time, and so in turn have our infrastructure requirements, which include PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) offerings such as ASP.NET APIs and Azure SQL Databases. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, our clients and their members heightened their communication with each other, leading to an increased reliance on their Fabrik applications. Our technical teams therefore anticipated a rapidly-escalating increase in traffic to our platform, more unpredictable network traffic into our system, and more strain on our APIs and databases. When this kind of demand occurs, the specific nature of the demand is difficult to predict and although we were confident that the Fabrik platform would perform based on Azure’s many elasticity and scalability services, in unprecedented and extraordinary times like this, our team made the call to be on high alert in case of any bottlenecks in our systems that might require manual intervention. The primary impact was to our backend database system which was developed on Azure SQL Databases using the Elastic Pools deployment model. The elastic pools served us well because of the dedicated amount of resources that were allocated for our databases, but when the demand drastically increased, the allocated resources needed to be expanded appropriately to cater for the demand. In addition, due to the number of people engaging simultaneously, our API gateway which is hosted on Azure App Services needed to be scaled out to more instances as well. The following statistics indicate the response times of some of our API calls during peak days: Using Application Insights, we were able to identify specific API calls in our system that were taking more time than expected to process. During the same period, the usage on our database was as follows: Each spike in database usage indicates occasions when our elastic pool was being maxed out. Our infrastructure team mitigated this by increasing the capacity of the pool to meet the usage demand on the platform. When our databases were strained, this impacted the response times of our APIs. App visitors would experience slowness when using some of the functionality in the apps. After analysing this usage pattern, we were able to identify areas we could improve to better cater for this kind of unpredictable usage. We identified specific API endpoints that needed to be optimised and certain areas of the system that needed reworking to take advantage of the serverless capabilities of Microsoft Azure. One of those services is the use of Cosmos DB for serving ‘chat’ related data, which will be beneficial in improving the overall load on our API. Cosmos DB allows us to separate reads and writes across multiple servers that are possibly distributed across multiple Azure region - as opposed to SQL Elastic Pools, where reads and writes happen on the same cluster. We are actively investing time in decoupling our APIs into a more microservice model, through the use of Azure Functions which, together with CosmosDB, will help in distributing the load on our APIs at a global scale. Scaling up the database tier took minutes to resolve the issues experienced by people using the apps. Throughout this entire scenario, we were able to take advantage of Microsoft Azure’s monitoring, alerting and log analytics capabilities which gave us access and visibility into the health of the system, highlighting areas that required attention and/or improvement at a glance. Looking ahead, there are always going to be improvements we can make to our platform and applications to better serve our customers’ requirements and the requirements of their members. The monitoring we have in place allows us to make more informed decisions that keep improving scalability, reliability and availability, and that are more anticipative of the areas we need to be scaling up and out in response to unpredictable and unforeseeable circumstances.

  • Run smarter campaigns with Smashboard

    Use Smashboard's updated campaign functionality to facilitate campaigns, search and filter entries, select winners and find content to play out on air! Your Smashboard engagement dashboard recently received a number of upgrades aimed at empowering you to facilitate campaigns and competitions more easily - all in one place! Here are a few new things you can do in Smashboard: Create an automated campaign response Once you've created your campaign using the Campaign Manager in Smashboard, you can now create a customised automated response that will be sent directly to all entrants via the Contact Us direct conversation within their app. In addition to using this feature to acknowledge the participant's successful entry into the campaign, your advertiser might like to book this Automated Response to send the participant more information about their offer, share their contact information, or prompt them to visit the advertiser's website. Pick a campaign winner You can now select your competition winner/s from a list of unique entries (the individuals who have successfully entered) or from a comprehensive list which may contain multiple entries per entrant. Once you've created the campaign, follow these steps: Find the 'Action' section of your campaign. Click the '...' symbol, which will give you a couple of options, then click 'Winners.' From there, configure your campaign to either 'allow multiple entries' from entrants or choose from a list of unique entries (one entry per entrant). Lastly, choose 'Pick Winner' and Smashboard will randomly select a winner for you! Exclude recent winners from your campaign Using the same process, you can also disqualify an entrant that has already won a competition within a specified timeframe by checking the box that says 'Disqualify previous winners' and then specifying the time period you'd like to exclude. Filter for competition entries Smashboard's new Campaign filter gives you the option to filter out all campaign entries or only show campaign entries. This is particularly useful when you're receiving many different kinds of engagement from your members to Smashboard, and you'd like to search for campaign entries which you can then select to play on air.

  • Say Hello to Community Centre

    Use Community Centre to view real-time engagement, administer your app membership & configure your messaging settings. From day-to-day operations such as membership application and member suspension to managing a conversation or channel within your Fabrik-powered app, Community Centre has been designed to be the new go-to tool for community management! Here are a few ways you can start to use our newest addition to the Fabrik suite of applications: Administer your app membership On your Community Centre dashboard, you now have the ability to view profile information about each registered member of your community, approve or reject their application, or assign trusted privileges to members. Configure your Messaging settings You’ll also be able to configure the settings of the Messaging functionality within your app by adding new conversations or channels, editing or removing existing ones, or managing particular members within each group. View engagement metrics in real time Via Community Centre, you will be able to access your Fabrik Metrics dashboard (which is currently in Preview) – a real-time, data-driven system that empowers your stakeholders with the ability to observe and understand your audience’s engagement, instantly visualise your data and immerse into audience’s behaviour in real time.

  • There's a quiet revolution happening in broadcasting

    Radio has been a medium that has essentially stayed the same for the last century. A trusted, resilient and human centred medium that has withstood waves of technology disruption and even built communities around audiences of common values. But there is no denying that radio is often seen as sleepy, stagnant and disrupted by the digital and social revolution. Who would have thought then, that the most interesting thing happening in modern radio would be coming out of Africa, and Durban at that? Gagasi FM, one of South Africa’s best loved and the number 1 regional commercial radio station is delighting listeners with their new digital engagement platform. The Gagasi FM App available on Google Play for Android and the Apple App Store for iOS has created a trusted socialised space for listeners to become truly a part of the real time life of the radio station. On the 22nd November 2019, Gagasi FM launched their Gagasi FM App. During the launch Gagasi FM’s Head of Brand, Phinda Magwaza took guests through the Gagasi FM App on screen to demonstrate exactly what it can do. The Gagasi FM App includes, amongst others, these useful features; Live-streaming via the app so you can listen to your favourite radio station, anytime, anywhere! Real-time podcasts available within seconds of broadcast. Private and secure messaging channels with the Gagasi FM team and other listeners. Listeners are also able to enter competitions via the app plus submit music for possible airplay on the station. The Gagasi FM App also enables listeners to vote for your favourite song for the Urban Top 30. It’s literally Gagasi FM at your fingertips. Over 23 000 listeners have already downloaded the new Gagasi FM app with over 70% registering and opting into the Gagasi FM community. But this is not just another radio app. This is an ecosystem driven by audience interaction and engagement. A powerful backend collating all messages, storing all broadcast audio, and making it even easier for the station to create and deliver on podcasts. “Creating a socialised audience with a real-time feedback loop into the studio and amongst the community has been an incredibly exciting innovation for our creative teams,” commented the station’s Managing Director, Mr. Vukile Zondi. Gagasi FM’s Head of Brand, Ms. Phinda Magwaza added, “We did a soft launch over the December/January holidays and couldn’t be more excited by these early results. The audience is now taking us in new directions already with over 1 000 of them opting into the conversational channel Uthando 101 connecting with each other about life, love and living exclusively on the platform.” Gagasi FM is already getting more direct engagement from their audience community than through global social platforms. “This feels like African digital,” mused Zondi. “Visit your nearest App Store and get engaged. We are charting new journeys in modern media and using local, home grown IP to do it.” Zondi is referring to Fabrik, the Microsoft Azure cloud based platform powering their private digital community. Built by Durban technology team immedia, the hot new OTT technology is offering broadcasters a new freedom to build and own their own digital audiences. The world had better keep an eye on Durban as the city that’s leading the way in broadcasting revolutions.

  • Radio in the age of Coronavirus

    The subject on the minds of every citizen of the world this week is the Coronavirus – how does it affect me, what should I do about it, what will happen next? The questions just pile up. The real-time feedback loops of digital social media channels are already feeding a fear loop of misinformation and mistrust. Political actors climb into these discussions to achieve their own agendas, further dividing us – for example, right-wing politicians in the United States are now referring to it as the “Wuhan Flu”, a very deliberate “othering” that will create issues of social cohesion and effective crisis management that will affect all humans, not just those of a particular class or political stripe. To deal with this crisis, we will be falling back on our communities and our ability to support and sustain our community members through this disruption. While there is a lot of focus on the role of social media on the response to the first global crisis rooted in our common humanity to take place in the digital era, there are elements of this crisis that elevate a very traditional medium to centre stage at a time like this. Not because of the technology but because of the human dynamics. As a human-centred medium, radio has been a high trust, high community medium ever since inception. Time and again, in times of crisis, radio has risen as the preferred, trusted and resilient medium of information distribution to citizens. During the coming hunger for trusted information and community support and resilience, because of its real-time, human and curated nature, radio will find a new relevance against the digital platforms. I would bet that citizens are going to turn to their radio communities with a far greater immersion and trust than their digital communities. Radio needs to think carefully on how it can meet these expectations when people are depending on it for their lives. As a modern digital station powered by Fabrik, you have a unique ability to amplify the trust and information dissemination on behalf of various stakeholders – government, community and faith organisations, residents and private sector – in a real-time, choreography that is simply impossible for your competitors to replicate without such a platform. We suggest you adopt a best practice methodology to service your audience hunger for information AND engagement around this crisis. Create a “Coronavirus Updates” channel that is curated by the news and content teams. Add ‘Trusted Members’ from the Metro and Provincial Departments of Health so as to be able to publish direct information from their stakeholders. Negotiate a private feedback loop to Health or Social Welfare authorities or the regional Coronavirus “war room” to have citizens engage and log needs, updates, status and information directly with the authorities. This Cloud Contact Centre is already functional in your environment and your listeners have already registered with you – so it allows authorities to rapidly listen to your audience on a private loop around emerging conditions in their areas. Create a cross-station, interdepartmental co-ordination team for blending on-air, social, direct digital, events and on-demand content and engagement together that builds your status as a high trust, reliable and consistent information partner. And when it all blows over, just switch the channel off again. It’s that simple. But what you want to do, is be the credible source of information, not for posting memes or fostering half-truths, but to be a trusted information channel that builds a deeper relationship with its audience.

  • Real-Time Communication is Key

    This month’s Mindshift event held earlier today brought with it new questions for our attendees from the real-estate industry. ATTENDEE FROM THE REAL-ESTATE INDUSTRY “Fabrik offers brands the chance to focus on the main challenge ahead of them. How to retool your habits, workflows, and operations to a serve a real-time audience that is co-creating and participatory with you,” said Mindshift presenter and founder of the immedia ecosystem, Anice Hassim. The audience was introduced to digital practices and tools that can be implemented by businesses and the individual consumer that will take them into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and directly impact their business strategy. In reaction to the seminar, an attendee in the Real-Estate Industry pondered on the implications for the future of their business, profession and customers. “Fascinating and thought-provoking… Completely challenged my ideas of social media i.e. how we are trying to use it like mass media and not how it is intended – real-time communication being key. “We’re grappling with how to create the ecosystem and add value to communities. Would love to explore how it could be applied to my real-estate career and I would like to explore this… “In an extremely competitive environment, all real-estate agents have the same platforms to market themselves on. All agencies receive the same training and it is outdated. We must consider how feasible and possible it is to change this way of thinking.”

  • Shifting Minds in 2020

    Mindshift has kicked off for 2020! With an average audience of about 8 to 10, the seminar saw all kinds of people from manufacturing, healthcare, and education sectors in attendance. Regular Mindshift events are designed around sharing insight around the constantly-connected consumer of today, contextualised within the technological shifts that have brought us here, and how to get started taking advantage of digital workflows that empower your business and customers. The audience was introduced to digital practices and tools that can be implemented by businesses and the individual consumer that will take them into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and directly impact their business strategy. In reaction to the seminar, attendee Vineshree Pillay, BDM of Software Solutions at Mustek, remarked, “Everything you do, you do to perfection! From the invite to registration process, to event and post-event – excellent… “Anice manages to capture his audience – I loved it, very inspiring!”

  • What's New for your Apps

    Your audience will benefit from a better podcasting and live-streaming experience! Some of the new features include: A podcast scrubber that allows your listener to play, pause and scrub through a podcast. Improvements to the handling of audio-related interruptions e.g. pausing the playback of a podcast when a voice note message is played. The introduction of pre-roll audio advertisements which play before livestream and podcast playback. We've also completed the rollout of chat groups to all radio clients which means that your listeners will be able to engage with each other and the studio in interest groups - amongst other great new features! How are you using the Fabrik mobile apps? What would you like to see in Fabrik apps? Let us know!

  • Durban Chamber Coffee Connect

    This morning our team had the honour of speaking at the Durban Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Coffee Connection, held at the Standard Bank offices in Kingsmead, Durban. The regular Coffee Connection, a vital initiative that empowers conversations around #DurbanMustRise sentiments, was made possible by sponsors Standard Bank Corporate & Investment Banking, CCI South Africa and Vodacom Business. Our Mindshift talk delivered that morning was well-received by a KwaZulu-Natal based audience ranging from corporate entities to emerging small-to-medium businesses, all leaders in their fields.

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