THE VERBALLY GIFTED TECH WHIZ MULTITASKS
It isn’t every day that you come across someone with the gift of the gap and an equally impressive knack for IT. Meet Loh Ben Jern, also known as Ben, who is both a radio announcer for FlyFM and Network Digital Technologist for Media Prima Radio Networks.
TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU FIRST GOT INTO RADIO. WAS IT AN AMBITION WHEN YOU WERE A BOY OR DID YOU ‘STUMBLE UPON’ IT?
It came completely by chance. At the age of 17, I loved tech so much that I wrote articles about my gadgets and submitted my entry to this teen community site. A few days later, I got an Instant Message (IM) asking to speak to me and if I’d like to be a teen writer. I went in and showed off my web development profile and was hired as a web developer instead. That’s how I set foot into this media organization that led me to becoming the youngest radio producer in the country. This is where I met Phat Fabes; and after leaving the industry briefly for my IT degree, one thing led to another and after graduation, here I am on Fly FM today. That’s the SUPER duper short version.
HOW HAS BEING A TECH ENTHUSIAST COMPLEMENTED YOUR CAREER AS A FLYFM ANNOUNCER?
Well, radio has changed dramatically over the years. Thirteen years ago, there was no Twitter, Facebook, blogging or even phones with cameras! My love for tech has certainly helped to accommodate these changes. Every major radio campaign that’s run today is somehow socially connected whether you like it or not, so knowing the works really helps.
WE UNDERSTAND THAT ASIDE FROM BEING A RADIO ANNOUNCER, YOU ARE ALSO A NETWORK DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIST. CAN YOU TELL US HOW YOU GOT THE JOB AND WHAT THE POSITION ENTAILS?
Information Technology was always a part of me. In fact, before I landed the job in Fly, I was a Systems Architect and IT consultant upon graduation. So after being in Media Prima Radio Network for a few years, I decided to whip up a super quick presentation, barged into the bosses’ room (that would be Seelan Paul), and showed him what other passion I’ve got that could potentially assist the business. A few months later, I was given the position of Network Digital Technologist.
What do I do? I consult and work very closely with the Head of Interactive – Alex Poon. Together, we source new technologies, strategize, plan and assist in the implementation to make our radio stations even more awesome with the help of cutting edge technology.
Some of our projects so far include: the crystal clear, zero buffer, low bandwidth utilization online streaming, our latest fleet of mobile apps, and our latest pride and joy – the 1st online radio advertising system in Asia, InterAds.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I get to indulge in two of my greatest passions – tech & radio. It’s really the best of both worlds
WITH SO MUCH TO DO, HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN A BALANCED LIFE?
Sometimes I wish I had more time but it’s all about scheduling and being strict about your schedule. Priorities have to be set and health comes first, so I always get enough sleep and set sometime to hit the gym. When you’re physically healthy, you generally feel better and work better regardless of work overload.
JUST HOW MUCH EMPHASIS IS BEING PLACED BY YOUR ORGANIZATION ON UTILIZING ONLINE CONTENT TO DRAW
The way people listen to radio today is very different from yesterday. People drive to work or home listening to FM radio, but the moment they reach their destination, there’s a switch to the more convenient medium which is usually in the form of online streaming and mobile apps via WiFi.
In short, FM Radio and Online Radio are complementary. But depending on how they are listening to radio, these messages should be dramatically different to cater to the needs of the listener.
That is why we have invested in Asia’s 1st Interactive Online Radio Advertising System – InterAds. For the 1st time, listeners of Fly FM, Hot FM and One FM get to hear ads unique to FM and online radio.
For example if they are listening on FM radio, you’ll hear an ad talking about this super awesome burger place that’s in town – creating awareness. Online, you’ll hear a similar ad, but it shows a picture of this burger, and clicking on it gives you a 20% discount coupon. As you can see, these two ads are now completely complementary.
HAVE YOU PERSONALLY PIONEERED OR IMPROVED ANY TRENDS, STYLES, OR METHODS IN THE COMPANY; INDUSTRY OR NATION SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR CAREER IN MEDIA PRIMA RADIO NETWORKS?
For one, I’m quite proud to be the creator of the Krappi Call and the character Dung Krappi Dong Dong that comes with it – tormenting people’s lives with strange, disturbing prank calls.
From the IT side, there’s the implementation of the new online streaming service which brought up our online listenership by 160% within weeks, our latest fleet of online apps, and InterAds of course.
Then, there are little projects which include streamlining the way departments and teams communicate by implementing a digital whiteboard system for information and resource sharing.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES INVOLVED IN OVERSEEING THE SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY STRATEGIES IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NETWORK’S THREE DIFFERENT STATIONS?
Challenges in social media? It’s keeping up with the trends to keep listeners engaged, knowing how to handle feedbacks both positive and negative. Most importantly, threading carefully on sensitive subjects, because once it’s out in social media, there’s no “undo” button.
From a tech perspective – technologies continue evolving over time. The challenge would be to keep abreast with the latest technology and to ensure that we are using the most cost effective and most efficient technology to fulfill the needs of the business.
Another challenge would be time zone. Since some of our vendors are from all over the world, getting hold of these individuals for meetings or discussions would be a problem; so often times, we work and hold conference calls at odd hours.
WHO ARE YOUR TECH IDOLS? WHY?
Definitely Steve Jobs because he revolutionized touch computing, has this drive for perfection and if he has set a goal for a device concept, he’ll strive to achieve it no matter what.
Then there’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the creators of Google who redefined the industry when there were already leaders.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT ENGAGING YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE? WHY?
I don’t think it’s hard. I’m in my target age group so I’m being myself to be relatable. Of course, to hit the younger audience, I’ve got to read up on their trends, checkout what’s cool to be relatable to them as well.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS THAT YOU HAVE LEARNT FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH VARIOUS ROLES IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?
You can’t work alone and you need people around you that you can truly trust and empower.
FROM THE CREATION TO THE DISSEMINATION OF CONTENT, WHICH WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOUR FAVORITE PARTS, AND WHICH WOULD BE THE MOST CHALLENGING?
I think creation of content is most difficult BUT once you get it right… you don’t even need to worry about the dissemination. Through word of mouth, ‘likes’, tweets and recommendations, your content would go viral on its own.
WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS IN YOUR CAREER AND LIFE SO FAR? IS THERE AN ULTIMATE DREAM, OR DO YOU PLAN TO GO WITH THE FLOW?
I’d say that I really truly love my job – especially this dual role. It’s true when people say if you love something, it doesn’t even feel like work.
My ultimate dream? It’s in my resume, “To change the way people work, live and play”. I don’t know when or how it’ll happen but that’s the goal.
ASIDE FROM THE OTHER END OF THE MIRROR, WHERE DO YOU SEE THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY (ESPECIALLY WITH RADIO) HEADING IN THE NEAR
FUTURE (5-10 YEARS)?
Radio will always be around. It’s still the fastest over-the-air medium to transmit and consume information and entertainment. I foresee a world where radio will have a face, a screen; is more media rich and can be instantly accessible anywhere in high definition.