Opening Pandora’s Box

A CHR client remarked recently that he’s concerned online music services are eating up his midday ratings.  This is a very smart programmer at a major market CHR.  We felt compelled to share with him some data from our 2016 Ratings Prospects Study that support his hypothesis.


The epicenter for the new online radio services isn’t among stereotypical tech-savvy younger men – it’s among younger women.  Younger women – who make up much of the AQH for CHR stations.  Moreover, this TSL isn’t coming disproportionately from consumers who don’t use much radio.  TSL for these new players comes from those who spend lots of time with terrestrial.


The battle is here.  Now.  Don’t kid yourself that TSL to these new competitors will go down anytime soon.  And don’t kid yourself that it won’t spread beyond the Millennials.  The trend just happens to start there – as many trends do … just like Social Media did.

So, what’s the answer?  The only single answer is to adapt to the new reality.  The possible adaptations are many.  Here are a few ideas we have to start the conversation.

  • Think outside the walled garden of terrestrial radio.  Our competition is anything and everything that can satisfy a consumer’s ears.  Make sure it’s easy and obviously acceptable for respondents in your research to tell you that they’re using SiriusXM or Pandora and other services – or name those providers as answers to questions you ask.  Strive to know the truth.
  • Change the game we’ve been playing in programming and research for the last 30 years.  When radio was a walled garden, guiding stations to become the least objectionable alternative made sense.  We’ve built generations of stations that have more music and less talk.  We’ve played the game well when the game is to have consumers not change to one of the other stations on FM or AM.  But the game changed and we now need programming that will bring in consumers because it’s more compelling, more interesting, more entertaining than any other option.  Research needs to focus on what’s interesting and entertaining – not whether 6 songs in a row is better than 5 songs in a row.
  • We need to take credit for (and amplify) the things we do well.  Radio has a long history and deep images as a place to discover new music.  But, outside trumpeting airplay of the latest release from a superstar artist before any of the other radio stations, radio rarely says much about how it allows consumers to discover the best new songs first, absolutely free.
  • Get in touch with what brings people to radio – beyond just being the most-convenient appliance (as we are, for now, in most cars).  We know that the main reason most consumers listen to radio on the way to work is to get a laugh or improve their mood.  So, what can we do to make our morning shows better at doing both?  Hire comedy writers and work with comedians to populate our morning shows with the best material every day?  Hire motivational speakers as morning hosts?
  • These are perhaps just thought-starters on what steps need to be next for radio.  What’s certain is that radio must adapt.  Change.  Reinvent.  Innovate (again).  A great leader in our business said, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying enough new things.”  What new things will you try?