Bill Thomas, a media and branding idea expert and broadcast & radio veteran (@BillThomas), shared a link on Twitter to an Ad Week article about three brands that bought ads in Super Bowl 54, targeting the 50+ demo. It’s not surprising, as the author of the article points out, that this is the age group that is most active and ready to spend online. Any guess on what the three brands are, that were targeting this Baby Boomer age group? Do you think it was iHeartMedia, Cumulus, and Entercom? Stay tuned.
Citizen Insight Academy
The City of Winchester holds a Citizen Insight Academy annually, and I signed my wife Sue and I up for the 2020 edition. We’re only nine weeks into this 16-week program and it’s been illuminating learning about our city and the way it operates. The other evening, we had a session with the city’s Emergency Management and E-911 departments.
You can imagine my reaction when the head of the E-911 department began her talk with “People don’t listen to the radio anymore, but they’re really into social media.” She went on to say how she grew up listening to the radio but how other forms of communication, like social media, have replaced that habit. Much like smartphones have replaced people’s landline telephones.
She told us that most calls into the city’s 911 switchboard come from wireless phones versus landlines. The percentage was something like 75% wireless to 25% landline. I myself have been a cellphone only household for over a decade, and our class of 35 had only about four people who still have a landline.
Traditional Radio Stations Have Lost Faith of Listeners
If I thought our city’s 911 Director was tough on radio, the BBC’s head of radio and education, recently said “Radio as we’ve always known it, has lost the faith of listeners.” He explained that “where once it was everything, now it is not. In fact, for many listeners, it is no longer their default.”
In 1920, when commercial radio service began in America, you were lucky if you had a single choice for wireless communication. In many localities, you might have only had radio service after sunset via the AM skywave phenomena.
As more radio stations came on the air, Americans began to develop a radio habit. Radio listening was something we did while working, riding in the car or while we were at play. It provided the audio accompaniment to our lives. But everything’s changed. Now radio stations need to create an experience that earns a place in someone’s day.
NuVoodoo on Media Addictions
I wasn’t surprised to see NuVoodoo releasing some data from their latest research that shows all age groups today are addicted to their Smartphones. But what caught my eye was how Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z groups were more addicted to a favorite FM or AM radio station than Baby Boomers.
Which got me to thinking, why were the very people who grew up with radio and few other choices, be the age group least engaged with the medium today?
Boomers Know Great Radio When They Hear It
Baby Boomers grew up during a time when great radio personalities dominated the airwaves. Broadcasters like Harry Harrison, Robert W. Morgan, Larry Lujack, Dan Ingram, The Real Don Steele, Ron Lundy and so many more filled our lives with information, entertainment, community and companionship. It was a time when radio stations had local news teams, great promotions, exciting radio jingles, stationality and air personalities. Personalities, so important in our lives that we wanted to meet them more than the recording artists that created the music they played.
Radio for Baby Boomers isn’t like that anymore, so they’re moving on.
The boomer generation now embraces smartphones, smart speakers and social media with a vengeance, taking all their dollars to spend right along with them. Baby Boomers hold around 70% of the disposable income in the United States and they make up 50% of sales for all consumer package goods.
The Big Three
So, who were the media companies that want to gain a larger share of the 50+ demo? The ones that know that Baby Boomers are the most active and ready to spend their dollars online?
Google, Amazon and Facebook, that’s who.
Facebook advertised during a Super Bowl television broadcast for the very first time in 2020. They hired as pitchmen, Chris Rock (54) and Sylvester Stallone (73). Both men are iconic celebrities and are part of this powerful consumer demographic, the 50+ audience.
Meanwhile, radio continues to jettison the very people that connects them with their local audience, the radio personality.
7 responses to “Where Have All the Baby Boomers Gone?”
Hi, Dick. The solution is this. Boomers are going to have to start their own radio stations. The commercial AM and FM bands are not properly serving us. Satellite Radio charges you a monthly fee. Yes, i know about the internet but those shows are sporadic, you have to remember the day and time they are on and you have to remember where to find them. And while some internet shows are good some are horrible. I believe the only way that we boomers can have our own station and play the music we want to hear, 50’s & 60’s oldies is to go the not for profit route. Right now I’m putting together a video which I will send out to various philanthropic organizations, wealthy individuals and other sources which will explain my plan to start an FM non commercial station that will be geared for seniors. This will include not only music but also news and information that will benefit them. I know that raising the necessary funds to do this will not be easy but I believe that’s it’s a cause and project worth fighting for. If anyone wants more information on this they can contact me, Curt Krafft at email@example.com. Thank you, Dick for allowing me to get this message out to the public.
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Good Luck with your project Curt.
John Sebastian is doing something similar in AZ and Scott Shannon’s True Oldies Channel is well done and addresses this same issue.
I was so thrilled with Scott’s format that I put on a radio station I was running in Sussex County, NJ back in the 2000s. I even changed the call letters to WTOC (True Oldies Channel).
Today, I enjoy WMEX-LP and Rewound Radio that I stream through TuneIn Radio.
Boomer Radio is The Game Changer. And, yes…when Boomers Hear It, They’ll Know It, Love It and Sponsors will Buy It!
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Agreed Clark. -DT
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Seems to me oldies stations, while well-intentioned and sometimes fun (I like Martini in the Morning myself), don’t address the problem you pointed out.
Radio did have personalities, going back to single experimenters and crystal tuners and black can headphones, right up to when I was a kid. Then program managers chose full automation. It’s cheaper.
Then they made the radio staffer just a trained monkey running the computer. It’s cheaper.
And they lost their audience, who took their money and purchasing power with them, to where the personalities are. Is it still cheaper when the listeners/customers/advertisers go away?
What does a podcast have that the sort-of-local radio station doesn’t? An actual person who’s allowed to be an actual person because it’s their show (or my show, I’ve been a podcaster since 2007). And while a podcast usually doesn’t cover physically local news, you can at least trust it stays “local” to its topic, something of particular interest to the listener. And don’t get me started on weather and emergencies. I grew up listening to live blizzard coverage back in 1960s Minnesota. The other day, big blizzard, and absolutely none of our “local” stations even mentioned it. Because they aren’t local, and the people don’t talk. Because it’s cheaper.
I learned to talk from an AM radio next to my pillow as a child. I went to school to work on the radio, and graduated. Everyone who hears my voice tells me “you should be on the radio!” Except radio stations, because they don’t have people. It’s cheaper.
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Thank You for sharing your experience and perspective.
You’ve shared how the radio industry is its own worst enemy.