Success with Millennial Listeners

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Last week, we wrote about a focus group we conducted in front of an audience at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. Millennial Country music fans talked about their listening habits (smartphone-centric and channel agnostic) and their relationships with radio (car-centric and relatively passionless).

We wanted to conduct the focus group to see if the live, in-person answers from respondents would support the statistics we showed before the group was introduced; statistics gleaned from a quantitative study of over 1,100 Millennial Country music fans across all PPM markets. They didn’t disappoint.

Even among our panelists, who ranged in age from 23 to 28 (it was impossible to find 18-22’s who would show up mid-afternoon on a Thursday), there wasn’t a strong connection with radio. Our focus group panelists didn’t resonate with a “fear of missing out” (“FOMO”) on content or news or fun when they don’t have time to listen to the radio. The FOMO factor runs stronger for radio among Boomers and Gen Xers, but these younger consumers don’t share that “fear.”

With omnipresent smartphones delivering new listening options and radio programming having been less focused on courting young people, is it really surprising that these younger people aren’t as attached to radio as their parents and older siblings? In our sample of 1,154 Country music fans, ages 14-34, 57% said a Favorite FM music station was very important in their lives – propped up by the 62% among 25-34’s (and dwindling to 41% among 14-17’s).

Despite these thinner connections, many of our younger respondents spend significant time with FM radio. However, it’s important to take seriously the time being spent listening to music on YouTube by the youngest respondents in our sample.

These youngest potential listeners are less connected to terrestrial radio for personalities and are less reliant upon terrestrial for information (having grown up with smartphones). While we have their time and some of their attention, it’s urgent that we build connections with them.

Our initial list of things to try are likely in line with yours:

  • Station-branded streams targeted at younger consumers, with generationally-appropriate talent.
  • Station-branded apps targeted at interests of younger consumers.
  • Podcasts featuring station talent, but directed at younger listeners.
  • Facebook Live and other Social Media live streaming about events, causes and other things important to these younger listeners.

As mentioned here last week, we asked our focus group respondents for ideas. Some of them recalled radio station remotes. Done well, remotes are outstanding outreach for stations. Done poorly, remotes are bad for listeners and destructive to meter retention. (So, plan to do them well.) Beyond remotes, our focus group panelists sputtered for ideas. They think about their own careers and businesses and lives – and not what our business should do.

Radio needs to try more new things now in an effort to connect with younger listeners. Many of these efforts will fail, but Winston Churchill reminds us, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Here’s to our on-going enthusiasm!