The challenge of AM radio

In any given market, there is a certain proportion of the audience who never EVER visits the AM band.

Not at all.

In retail, they have the expression “location, location, location.” And increasingly, being located on the AM band for anything but the most successful and established stations is the equivalent of being on that side street just off the main drag.

A huge challenge for AM broadcasters is that, for any audience not visiting the band, you have to sell the BAND, not just the station. That means you have to manufacture new behaviors and change habits. It also means you lose all benefit of potential chance listening that favors FM stations because there’s so much traffic on FM (it is the “main drag”).

As long as AM is a “different destination” from FM this situation will only get worse. Sure, the audio quality is one issue. But if the AM “neighborhood” is one you never visit then you will never, ever “shop” there, no matter what it sounds like. The reality, after all, is that everything sounds better on FM – even Talk.

What fraction of YOUR market is “FM only”? And is that fraction increasing or decreasing over time?

Already you see FM versions of AM stations (News/Talk, All News) or AM stations moving to FM altogether. As you project the trends out into the future, what do you see?

Well, HD Radio will solve this, you might say, thanks to the improved audio quality. Perhaps. But what a shame that the two-tiered band (AM vs. FM) is replicated on HD when we had the perfect opportunity to make it one LOOOONG band that includes both AM and FM on equal footing. HD Radio should have started with a blank slate rather than the current slate which gives AM second class status.

If you really want to make AM listening easy, don’t force the audience to punch “AM” in order to visit you.

Bring the side street to the main drag.

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