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Would Today’s Youth Miss Radio if it Went Away?

In an article aptly titled “Young People Don’t Care About Newspapers, Old People Don’t Care About Smartphones,” Business Insider quoted an Ofcom study contrasting the responses of persons 16-24 to folks 75 and over.

The question? “What media would you miss the most?”

And here’s the chart:


BI writes:

People between the ages of 16 and 24, for example, would not blink an eye if newspapers and magazines went extinct; smartphones are the “must-have” device of the younger generation. The breakdown among all adults shows a much stronger craving for TV over smartphones and computers, and the older generations (those over 75) don’t care much about computers and have absolutely no problem living without smartphones.

They skip over the findings for radio, so I’ll tackle them here.

But first, since I do research for a living for many of the audio industry’s top brands, you can believe me when I tell you that this is an extremely flawed question.

Just a few reasons why:

  1. Hypothetical questions like this one yield hypothetical responses. We could as easily ask what their favorite media would be in the presence of a zombie apocalypse.

  2. The list of options is anything but comprehensive. “Smartphone,” for example, does not include “tablet,” does it? Whole categories are presumed not to exist.

  3. What’s being evaluated here are not really “media,” they are media distribution channels. TV content lives on a smartphone as does radio content. So does that qualify as “Smartphone” or “TV”? Where, for example, do Pandora and Spotify live? In the “smartphone” category, right? But why? These are audio platforms that complement or substitute for the distribution channel called “radio.” This is a dumb rookie mistake, if you ask me. Researcher heads should roll.

  4. “Smartphone” is much more than a media device, so what you “miss” there is much more than media. Ditto for “Computer.” Respondents are reading in layers of value that go well beyond the intent of the crappy question.

With all that said, I do think there might be something to take away from this question.

If you compare the size of the “radio” slice among 75+ with the size of the same slice among 16-24, you find that “radio” is viewed as far less “essential” among 16-24’s.

So rather than compare “radio” to the other alternatives for each demo, simply compare “radio” to itself across the demos. That’s a fairer indication of the relative value of the distribution channel compared to the same (incomplete) set of (vague) alternatives.

But keep in mind what this really means: It’s an indictment not of “radio” per se or of “radio” content – it’s really a statement about the perceived value of the AM/FM terrestrial radio band, since any stream of audio content available on a smartphone would likely fall in a different category than “radio” in this survey. In the context of this survey, a “radio” is a device – like a “TV,” “Computer,” or “Smartphone.”

So young people are not saying audio entertainment and information is less essential. They’re saying the platform called traditional over-the-air FM/AM radio is less essential.

What broadcasters need to recognize is that young people are less attached to the distribution channel – they’re more attached (if they’re attached at all) to your content.

Give it to them how, where, and when they want it.

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