You’re Not Talking to Me

DAKRSkVkQwumvq7Zd9aTUwI sat on a webinar the other day and when it ended the first thought that crossed my mind was, they’re not talking to me. Their demographics in the study capped at 55-years of age. Really? No one over 55 matters to radio or to radio advertisers?

65+ People

Then I read this World Economic Forum article that was headlined, “For the first time ever there are more people over 65 than under 5.” Think about that for a moment. Economists point out there’s widespread consequences for productivity, inflation and global growth by this demographics shift, to which I would add, consider the impact on ad supported media.

65+ People are Renters

While millennials are buying homes – if they aren’t weighed down with student loan debt and minimum wage level jobs – seniors are becoming renters. People 65+ are empty nesters and find they simply don’t need a McMansion and all the work/expense that goes into living in one. I know that’s certainly been the case for me when I sold my home in 2003. I have been a renter since. Renting is much more economical than owning.

Market Watch reports that Americans will find they will need to spend nearly $9,400 in “hidden costs” to own and care for a median-priced home, based on the latest analysis from Zillow.

Millennials Abandon Brick & Mortar Stores

Tethered to their smartphones and comfortable with buying online, those millennials aren’t necessarily the best customers for their advertisers that radio might have thought.

Millennials are the largest generation in American history, and their shopping habits are worlds away from those of their parents. Thanks to the rapid pace of digitalization and new shopper-friendly tools, like browser extensions and voice assistants, retailers must be ready to embrace significant change.

PR Newswire, March 19, 2019

Only 18-months ago, research indicated that millennials were still going to brick & mortar stores, but that’s changed dramatically, and in a very short time. You can download the full report HERE.

$164.55 a Day

Jessica Dickler reporting on CNBC writes, “Between housing, food, cellphone bills and other expenses, Americans shell out $164.55, on average, in a given day.” Punching that number into my calculator, I quickly saw that’s over $60,000/year, but averages are funny things and you can be sure ‘your mileage may vary.’

Putting that number aside for a moment, we find that the bulk of that money is spent on housing. That fabled ‘American Dream’ can be a boat anchor on the pocketbook.

While seniors are moving from being home owners to renters, you might be surprised to learn how similar the senior household expenses are to the average household according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Major Appliances
Small Appliances
Household Textiles
New Vehicles
Old Vehicles
Health Care
Other ExpensesTotal
Senior Household

Avg.  Household


Source: Advertising Age’s American Demographics, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure survey. (1) Includes social security contribution (excludes health insurance, which is classified as health-care expense).

Not all that different, is it.

And far from that other analysis of the average adult spending over $60,000 a year. So why aren’t more radio companies focusing at least one of their radio signals on seniors?

Retirement Epiphany

All my life, the focus was on planning for and saving for retirement. I’d like to say I did everything right, but the reality is far from that.

The great wealth destroyers are divorce, moving and changing jobs.

In my personal life, I’ve gone through two divorces. As the radio industry was dramatically changed by the Telcom Act of 1996, I would spend a decade moving around the country about every two years. That communications act also found me changing companies with just about every move too.

The final chapter of my working life, as a university professor of broadcasting, gave me seven years of stability and an opportunity to save as much as I could for retirement.

Now I’m retired. The goal is no longer to save for retirement, but to spend in retirement. My wife and I are in good health and taking zero medications, which affords us the opportunity to spend on our new found passion of traveling. Spoiling the grandkids, eating out, and redecorating are also high on our list of things to do. I’m sure we’re not alone.

The irony is, the radio media seem to ignore us. And they do so at their peril.

We’re retired, not dead.


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

27 responses to “You’re Not Talking to Me

  1. Bral Lovett

    Radio is going to igmore seniors as long as advertisers either ignore seniors, or find that there are better ways to reach seniors than radio when it comes to the cost of the sale (how many radio ads does it take to sell onr car, for example). Pharmaceuticals are largely out because of the long disclaimers required (plus do I want to hear the music of my youth with constant reminders that I’m old and my partd don’t work like they used to,?). I don’t believr it’s a matter of radio not telling its story in selling to seniors, or better salespeople to finally convince recalcitrant advertisers of the value of the senior population…people have talked, with all the charts and graphs, until they are blue in the face. There are just no 55 plus agency buys, and all but the smallest adverisers have some type of agency. It is ironic that seniors have ti embrace newer technology to hear the Beatles and Chuck Berry.


    • Brad, I started my radio sales/management career programming and selling to the then “greatest generation” of listeners. Those arguments were the same then, as I hear today. The only real difference is, today Boomers have options. Options that didn’t exist back when I started in radio.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jim Rich

      You are right on target. Other than for Atlanta traffic on rare trips downtown, all of my radio listening in online to stations like WPLB. It is the music of my generation. Blending both oldies and classic country. Every song conjures up a memory. Songs you know by heart. But I do miss the kind of radio where personalities actually communicated with the listener. If you want to gather apples why not shake the tree with the most apples? Baby boomers! Atlanta radio is dead to my generation. But if a local station actually served my little community north of Atlanta I would gladly support them and their advertisers. Provided the spot load didn’t insult the listener. Bill Drake figured out the formula.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Gregg

    Everyone is focused on the new generation of consumers and how their spending habits have changed. Whereas the 65 plus world has changed even more. We live longer healthy, active lives and we embrace change. We are avoiding malls. Shopping more on line and using our smartphone for shopping, entertainment, education, reading, communications and information to name a few. We are even embracing viewing on demand. We’ve done more. We’ve experienced more.


    • I agree with you Gregg. One thing we have in common with the “greatest generation” is that we will buy the latest, not waiting for the next improvements. We know we may not be around by then and if we are, we will buy the improvement.

      I saw that back when I started selling radio to seniors 50-years ago and I am now one of those people today.

      The good news then and now, there weren’t a lot of others programming and selling to seniors and it left a wide opportunity for me.


  3. Agree. I’ve seen at least three very solid local traditional “Oldies” stations flip in recent years. Our entire region has no product for those listeners now. Rather than flip, they should have spent more time figuring out how to monetize their product in the “today.” Maybe today the model is mostly non-traditional for that format. I can imagine opportunity there; health fairs, grandparents fairs, retirement fairs, etc… Regardless, the fact is that people were listening — lots of people. So next question — how do *I* fill the hole that now exists? (And monetize it.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • The best way to find out exactly what the hole is, is to ask the listeners you want to super serve. Sometimes the hole is so obvious, you can intuitively pinpoint it.

      When the hole is identified, then you can create the programming solution, if that’s your forté, or work with a format consultant or format provider.

      Monetization comes with a sales team trained in presenting the audience to advertisers that can benefit from reaching such people.


  4. juke9252014

    Agree. I’ve seen at least three very solid local traditional “Oldies” stations flip in recent years. Our entire region has no product for those listeners now. Rather than flip, they should have spent more time figuring out how to monetize their product in the “today.” Maybe today the model is mostly non-traditional for that format. I can imagine opportunity there; health fairs, grandparents fairs, retirement fairs, etc… Regardless, the fact is that people were listening — lots of people. So next question — how do *I* fill the hole that now exists? (And monetize it.)


  5. Kevin Fodor

    This is why I’m behind John Sebastian’s “WOW Factor” format that he’s pitching to stations now. Yes, seniors today (of which I am rapidly becoming, darn it!) compete with and play hard against younger folks today. We ride bikes, motorcycles, camp, hike…heck, I’m a jiu-jitsu class and I’m competing with college age students. I completely understand the advertiser’s arguments, and they go back to a different day and age. You could say this about my grandparent’s generation…not mine.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Don Sinclair

    Dick, it seems to me there are three flaws in your report. You do research, you think and you care while corporate-owned radio appears to do none of these. Since most stations today operate withou human beings it should come as no surprise that human beings are not attracted to them. There are a few stations that I try to listen to in the car but after listening off and on for about three days I have heard everything they are going to do or play for the rest of the month. I have thousands of songs I have enjoyed over the years on a tiny memory chip in my phone and they auto play in my car or where ever I am. Gary Owens, Don Steele, Robert W Morgan, Charly Tuna, Dr. Don Rose are all gone and “who’s gonna fill their shoes?”, a computer! Few if any CEO’s have any actual broadcast experience and anyone who actually does was fired long ago. Radio hasn’t just ignored the “boomers” radio ignores all potential listeners.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don, seems only retro movies and TV shows aim anything at the Boomers. Radio has some that are doing it, but unfortunately, so many markets have none. I, like you, grew up with great radio personalities and they are gone.


  7. I’m approching the magic “55” number. As I watch TV and listen to radio the majority products and sevices pitched I have no interest in, but younger demos do. The items listed in the BLS survey are basic items, transportaton, food, health, insurance, etc. Basic categories that cross age boundries. I am more frugal now with old age. When I was 25 I would buy the new phone of the week, the latest shoes, electronics,see the latest movie (every week), buy the latest fast food item (every week), video games, DVD, new music on CD, cassette, record (for those who remeber what those were) that new soft drink and the list goes on and on. Now I’ve downsized, shed a lot of clutter, and at this point I don’t wany anymore stuff. Spoonfeed the younger demo and they will buy stuff. The latest and greatest increases sales and the bottom line (and advertisers know this). A true story: At one company I owned we tried to offer health insurance to our 30 employess. We would need 10 to activiate the program. Only 6 responded and two were under the age of 35. Their out of pocket cost would of been under $100 a month. Most responses when asked were “we can spend that money on other things more beneficial”. I asked rent? food? … no just stuff we want. Ask anyone over 55 and insurance would be a top priority. Cars? If you are over 55 you probably want a fine luxury car. I’m seeing more budget and used car ads now targeted to those just getting started on first time car buyers (volume sales). Back to the BLS survey: After working, saving and accumulation of assets the Senior number should be higher. At that average Seniors would need to budget wisely and wouldn’t have musch to spend on non essential items. Younger demos have their parents in most cases to make up their deficit when they spent money (the ad target demo) when they spend money on those non essential items.


  8. Mark

    I program a Classic Hits format (60s-80s) on a privately owned station in a medium market. Our whole sales philosophy is different than corporate radio but we really make it work. We screen every client before the come in the air to make sure they are trustworthy and ethical. We turn away clients regularly because of their questionable reputation or because we already have too many clients on the air doing what they do. We have all local hosts, 6a-12a M-Su and do very well commercially. I agree that agencies want very little to do with our demo. We get business from them here and there but 80% of our business is direct with the small business owner. Small business owners know who has the disposable income for kitchen renovations, flooring, metal roofs and the like. They know who can afford $1,000+ for weight loss treatments. Many of these business owners work with corporate stations as well and readily admit that we outperform them with regards to quality leads and cost/reward. Sometimes we have local clients that sign with agencies. We call it “going Hollywood.” They get stars in their eyes from the results they get with our audience and think that if they go with the big guys (iHeart or Entercom) that the numbers would just multiply. It’s sad to watch them piss away their money on 10 minute stopsets and audiences that don’t respond with any loyalty, but these are adults and they will learn. I disagree with the article in that we find that products and services that would only interest home owners do extremely well with us. All that to say, 50+ have money and will spend it if they trust the business.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You Mark. Sounds like you radio station really understands its market and has found a niche to serve both from a listener and advertiser standpoint.

      There are a lot of seniors that still own homes, but the future trends are moving in the direction of renting. Don’t stop selling to homeowners is that’s the make-up of your radio market.

      At they always say, your mileage may vary.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your experiences.


  9. Joe Klein

    Interestingly, however, CBS, NBC and ABC focus on the senior demographic in the ad breaks on their evening news broadcasts. Nearly every spot is for the latest “designer” prescription medication (all of which are incredibly costly). FOX NEWS also caters, and panders to the “old white male” group and runs a lot of ads for overpriced medications as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Midnight Mike

    All the years growing up listening to the great personality stations be they aimed at adults or teens, I thought radio was the center of the universe. I grew up and was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to get into radio. For 20 more years it was the center of the universe. Then about 1994 just before the cutbacks and consolidations started to take place I decided that radio wasn’t much fun anymore and I went in search of greater money and job security. As soon as I got outside of radio I discovered it really wasn’t the center of anything. Either the times have changed or I have. I think it’s probably a bit of both.

    If you were on the air in the ’60’s you were a star, if you were on the air in the ’70s you were really cool, in the ’80’s the reaction was oh that’s nice… I guess. in the ’90’s if you told someone you worked on the air in radio they’d lock up the good silver before inviting you into their house!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike, I’m sure what you shared will resonate with many who read this thread. Thank you for stopping by the blog and contributing your experience.


    • Mike…I was in radio in the 70’s. What you say was true…IF you were in a rated market, or a large city. Though I experienced a little bit of “star syndrome” from listeners back then, I can assure you more than a few parents looked at me very warily were I to show up wanting to date their college aged daughter at age 20.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dick….this may your best blog-post to date! (and perhaps because, as a 30+-year broadcast vet and someone who is weeks away from turning 59, it resonates with me!)

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I also laud established programmers like John Beck and Tom Langmyer for taking on some interesting challenges relative to ‘bringing back local radio’ initiatives. I hope they include boomers in their format-research.

    I also think there are established broadcasters like myself who would love to be a part of a group/station/enterprise that would target this segment…but doing it such a way that it isn’t merely a ‘throwback’ to what was done previously. (I work with dozens of clients in a Production/Imaging capacity, and there are simply too many instances of ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ that exists.) It has to be a vibrant, forward-thinking model. Yes, there are no versions of The Greaseman and Don Rose around anymore; however, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t talented broadcasters who are hungry to STILL make a contribution, if given the chance to flex their creative muscles.

    (Finally, you mention ‘renting’. We’ve considered it; however, in northeast Ohio, based on average rents, I think it’s still more economical in many areas to buy. My 90-year old parents have a 900-square-foot, 2-bedroom apartment and they pay $300.00 a month than I pay for a mortgage, and it’s average, at best. Still weighing that one…) 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt, thank you for your kind words and adding your personal experience to this thread for others to learn from.

      Renting vs owning will always be dependent on a number of factors. Less space means less stuff. In my renting years, I have a gym, pool, lots of walking paths and convenience to all kinds of services for less than most people pay for just their mortgage. And then they have lawn equipment, appliances, etc to own & maintain. You have to factor everything in, in order to make an educated decision for your situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I do broadcast at a classic country station and we are continually out what the older demos in the area are wanting on the air and it turns out that the older demographics and the older demo advertisers on the station want farm reports, so we are giving them those every M-F during the day, local and Westwood One sports to help pay the bills, and for the entertainment, we run Into The Blue (a syndicated Bluegrass show), Home Country with Slim Randles, we rebroadcast Riders Radio Theater (the Riders In The Sky group members are aware of my broadcasts and have even given me an autographed CD), we also have listeners of “Chronicle of The Old West” (a syndicated talk show about the old west), we also have a polka program on the air called “The Funtime Polka Party” as well. I am also trying to talk my supervisor into carrying “Sing Out!” and airing those programs as well as every once in a while on my shifts, I do play some classic and contemporary folk music and there are listeners who respond to it well

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like you have your hand on the pulse of your listeners and are giving your advertisers great exposure to people who could use what they have to offer. That’s what it’s all about.

      Thank You Bradley for sharing your story.


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