Radio is “Less Relevant” to 18-24’s

Here's a new study (from MediaPost's Research Brief – not posted at the moment) that hints at radio's place in the new media pecking order (and I'll assume for a moment that radio does not include a digital portfolio, even though every regular reader of this blog knows it does; I'll also assume radio's future is not online, as every regular reader of this blog knows it is).

According to this TargetCast study, "The biggest usage declines were found among men and young adults 18-34 in newspapers, magazines and radio." 

Okay, no surprise there.

"60% of consumers say newspapers need to change the most to stay relevant, compared to 30% for magazines and nearly 20% for radio. Fewer than 10% feel that TV or the Internet needs to change to stay relevant."

No surprise there, either.

The study shows the proportion of folks who say they listen more or less to radio than they used to, and those numbers are fairly similar, skewing slightly to the "less" side.  But I don't make much of numbers like these since they are attitudinal rather than behavioral and subject to a host of biases.

Here's another tidbit:  "Adults ages 18-24 are more likely to say radio is not as relevant."

Look, "usage" is one thing.  "Relevance" is something else.

Indeed, given the wealth of choices these folks have across platforms, that's no surprise – but it is a warning to us all to ramp up our digital strategies.  It also is a reminder that adding more Top 40 to a market is not the same as increasing relevance to 18-24's.

And related to that point:  "Adults aged 18-34 are more likely than other consumer groups to consider advertising on the internet influential in their purchase decision."

Says the report,

41% of [18-64's] surveyed indicate that radio is still relevant in today's media environment. According to respondents, radio provides a great venue to discover new music that cannot be experienced elsewhere. And, respondents overall prefer to listen to music through the radio station vs. Internet stations or on their mp3 player.

Good news.

But also a snapshot in time, where the time is changing fast.  The ubiquity of radio and the relative scarcity of online audio content and relative usage barriers to that content are a dynamic equation.  The "radio experience" online will not be the same as the one over the air, but it is a growing experience, nonetheless.  So while it's great to see such enthusiasm for radio in the short run, the writing is on the wall.

The report concludes:

Over the past 100 years radio has been a ubiquitous part of our daily lives. However, after surviving the challenges of broadcast TV, the emergence of cable and the launch of the Internet, radio is slowly being tuned out by a generation addicted to personal, programmable MP3 players, iPods, iPhones and other multi-media devices.

So what business are you in?

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  • I think you’ll find more stations targeting the 35+ demos, the ones that grew up with radio and are “used” to it.
    However, in 10-20 yrs, as that demo shrinks and the one behind it grows, radio will find itself with a lost generation. An entire era of people who didnt grow up attached to a dial, who have no relationship or nostalgia for the medium and, ultimately, have no use for it.
    You can’t concentrate only on generation now, you need to pay attention to generation next as well.
    I address that here:

  • I’m 55 and if radio were as bad in the 70’s as it is today, I would have wanted alternatives when I was young too. AM is now almost exclusively reserved for right wing talk, and sports personalities interspersed with ads. FM jumped the shark in the 90’s and kept on getting worse. I live in a major market and I mostly listen to the PBS station when I can’t be online, and for music there are only stations I marginally like at all, if I don’t catch them during a typical long commercial block. If we had something like Absolute Radio here, it wouldn’t be so bad when I just have access to the radio.
    It would be great if cellular towers were also able to provide WIFI, and autos were equipped to receive web streams.

  • It won’t be long now, rparky….

  • J.M. Dempsey

    More people in U.S. radio should pay attention to what the BBC is doing with radio, in particular BBC-2. This is extremely entertaining, engaging, intelligent radio, and from what I know, BBC is very healthy. Could this type of programming combining music, talk, celebrity interviews, work in the U.S. and could it work at the local level? If not, perhaps a return to network radio, with local affiliates and breaks for local content, is something that might work.

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