The Golden Age of Radio?

How many hours are there in a week? Anyone who’s been around radio programming for any length of time knows it’s 168 hours. Part of the job of programmers has been to determine what’s the best content to put on the station within that 168-hour window each week. And, more importantly, what to put into the 126-hour rated week, Monday-Sunday, 6AM-Midnight.

But, that would mean ignoring the possibilities inherent in digital subchannels and on-demand audio (A/K/A podcasts). If we truly believe in the trusted-brand status of many radio stations, then these brands represent much more than just the programming distributed free in real-time via the terrestrial airwaves. And, if we look carefully at the consumers responsible for our fates in the ratings, it’s critical we embrace today’s opportunities today.

Last week’s announcement that Nielsen is jumping into the digital audio ratings business should be a clear sign that the future we’ve been talking about is now. To be sure, there’ll soon be best practices to employ to get the best-possible credit in Nielsen’s new metrics. There’ll be tricks of the trade to use. There’ll be new rules to observe. And, they’ll be different rules than the ones we’re used to in PPM and diary.

Our NuVoodoo Ratings Prospect Studies have shown repeatedly that the great news about likely ratings respondents, for both meters and diaries, is that they use more radio than those who wouldn’t empanel in either methodology. Since the ratings are ultimately a sales tool, this is great for business. Of course, the trouble is that these same comparatively enthusiastic audio consumers are thirsting for more options and are already spending time with online streaming audio and on-demand audio.


If we limit “radio” to being the audio that is delivered wirelessly in real time via broadcast, either AM or FM, we put ourselves in box that’s slowly leaking quarter hours to the emerging options. But, if we embrace those new options and include them in our definition of “radio” – as consumers do – we open ourselves up to a second Golden Age of Radio, to go alongside the second Golden Age of Television currently underway. What content will you add to radio’s new Golden Age?

  • Marquee morning shows are offering up their best content for time shifting.
  • Some shows have waded into offering longer versions of interviews than make sense for real-time on-air content in the PPM or diary world.
  • Uncensored versions of bits are possible as streamed or on-demand content.
  • Niche-interest content that wouldn’t warrant the station’s broadcast channel could be sought after and profitable; narrowed by tight geographic territories or highly-specific interests.
  • In-studio performances by local bands. Chats with artists. Deeper content and behind-the-scenes content relating to current hits.
  • Skippable streams of station-compatible music.
  • A music-meeting show that samples emerging hits being considered for main channel airplay.
  • Serialized dramas or comedies featuring station personalities or local names.
  • Shows hosted by listeners or emerging talent hoping to make the jump on to the station’s main channel.

In competition with the other local radio stations, there are right now 168 hours a week that we can program. But, in competition with the wider world of new audio options – the new radio – the hours are infinite, as are the possibilities.