Radio: Vibrant Brands or Music Appliance?

As PD’s and managers at radio stations we talk about how listeners connect with our stations. We strive to create programming that engenders long listening occasions. We worry about minimizing tuneout.

In the study of over 2000 Millennials, ages 14-29, that NuVoodoo unveiled last month we asked these 14-29’s whether they rarely change stations or change stations every few minutes. The plurality say they change every few minutes.

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And, these button-punchers turn out to listen more than those who are inclined to set it and forget it. As daily overall TSL increases, the crowd who say they change stations often outnumber those who say they rarely change stations.

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The observed PPM reality is that most listening occasions are only a few minutes long and generally involve the just one station being on from the time the radio is switched on … until it is turned off (a few minutes later). Yet, we’ve all watched younger people change stations quickly once commercials come on, or an uninteresting song plays or a talk break lingers on too long. And these are likely to be radio’s more engaged listeners among young consumers.

The behavior paints a picture of listeners spending time with a device – the radio – rather than spending time with stations or brands on the radio. And it makes sense when we see the lower importance of radio’s added values among the youngest of the Millennials we interviewed. At the youngest end of our sample, we observed reduced importance for DJ’s (who often don’t relate to them), contesting (that sometimes excludes them) and information (which they can get more readily online).

Radio-as-music-appliance, rather than radio-as-brands is a threat to radio’s engagement with listeners and speaks to the need for greater targeting of these young consumers. Radio sometimes does a great job common-threading the musical tastes of these young consumers with older members of its audience, but then puts little on the air beyond music that legitimately targets teens. We’re talking about consumers who may not realistically even imagine getting parental permission to meet an artist backstage at a concert, much less fly off to a summer concert in Las Vegas.

We encourage stations to spend time with people early in their high school careers and hear how they talk about media. Take a greater interest in them in hopes that they’ll take a greater interest in our medium. Find out about names and entities and causes they relate to. Brainstorm with them about things radio can do to more actively participate in their world.