Radio’s GEN-Z Challenge

GEN ZI recently sat in on the Edison Research webinar about people born between 1996 and 2012, known as GEN-Z.

If you read about this webinar in the radio trades, you would have learned that 55% of these young people listen to AM/FM over-the-air radio. What’s not to like about that?

The reality was, this daily radio listening was only to Over-The-Air FM radio, none of these GEN-Z people ever mentioned listening to AM radio. That’s still a positive, right?

It is, if your only focus is on the immediate future, not future trends.

Generation Z

Today, people aged 8 to 24 make up over 65-million Americans. They are the first truly digital natives, not having known a world without full digital access to content. GEN-Z people are also often called “ZOOMers.” They would rather create their own content than curate other people’s content.

Edison Research points out that Generation Z has only known a world where everything is ON DEMAND, and it’s the growing up in an ON DEMAND world that makes ZOOMers a challenge for OTA radio.

ZOOMer Trends

  • Their smartphones are the center of their media world.
  • 53% of ZOOMers listen to audio streaming daily.
  • They spend 98% more time than the rest of the population watching videos and listening to music on YouTube.
  • Spotify is their go-to music streaming service.
  • Their radio listening is mostly in the car, some at work, but none of it occurs in the home.
  • If they listen to OTA radio, it is on a device that only receives OTA radio signals, not with a digital streaming device.

When Edison Research ran clips of people in this age group talking about their media habits, it was clear FM radio wasn’t their first choice, but the fact that it was available in the car they were riding in or it was playing on a radio that everyone listened to while they were working.

Things Radio Can Do to Attract ZOOMers

Edison suggested that these programming ideas might be a way to attract the GEN-Z audience:

  • News & Information is important to GEN-Z, it’s their social currency.
  • Remind ZOOMers that radio is available on their digital streaming device.
  • GEN-Z wants to change the world, their local communities for the better and OTA radio could be a catalyst for helping them do this.
  • Surprise and delight ZOOMers with your content.

This last point is really about engaging the listener, and showing them you really care. In reality, 74% of your listeners probably don’t care* if your FM radio station disappears, because they don’t think you really care about them. Radio needs to create shared experiences for this age group. Radio needs to show they care.

Shared Values and Shared Purpose

Christian broadcasters and NPR both understand the shared values and purpose of their listeners and base their programming decisions on them. These broadcasters understand that their mission is not to attract everyone to their programming, but to build a loyal audience with those who share their vision of the world.

Using the Edison Research on GEN-Z, how can your radio station inspire and empower the ZOOMers in your community?

How do you learn what the shared values and purposes of the GEN-Z listeners are?

Ask them.

Form a GEN-Z advisory board to learn what’s on their minds and what their vision for the future is. Be willing to focus every aspect of your radio station on what’s important to THEM.

Change doesn’t begin with a slogan, it begins with shared values and purpose, which then inspires people to come together and create a world that is better than they found it.


*based on book “Know What You’re For” by Jeff Henderson


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

10 responses to “Radio’s GEN-Z Challenge

  1. Don Beno

    Some good ideas here. But do broadcasters really care nowadays? Are they really looking for new ideas, that might require more promo/programming/personnel spending?
    Put it this way. Radio had /has a chance to really shine and show off its strengths during the Covid 19 pandemic. But what did radio do? Use it as an excuse to ax more employees.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The problem is that boomers fighting for their survival control the finances and levers of power. They are beholden to Wall Street and a shrinking audience. I did a deep dive into the number one rated driving show. The show host has a long read Reddit subgroup. He claims Clear Channel is giving more priority to iHeart radio than his show. The overwhelming complaint from former fans is the never changing music lineup. He claims CC makes that call and not to expect any change since that is based on market research. So the strategy is short sighted in catering to the Gen X audience. Zoomers are not even factored.
    The obit for radio will read, “Here lies an industry that grew out of artistic talent choked by greed and starvation of the artists who served the listeners with their hands tied. The internet created on demand content that made radio irrelevant. Unable to service the debt CC, Cumulus, Univision, and others went bankrupt and sold off themselves in blocks”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad to do. When I moved into this market in 05, Rod Ryan, had just moved here from NOLA. I knew he would shoot to the top based on his programming. I stopped listening because as one fan wrote, he’s out of touch with online content demands. Enjoy


  4. Walter Luffman

    Advice for any audience/demographic, including Gen-Z: Determine your target audience, then get to know what matters to them. Be involved with the community/audience. Entertain and inform. Be consistent, except when it pays to be inconsistent (such as dayparting).

    How any station does these things will depend on each individual station within its individual market. Most group-owned stations will be hobbled by their “one size fits all” management structures, meaning a well capitalized locally-owned station can actually have an advantage here. Oh, yeah: owners have to let the stations keep enough profits to maintain and upgrade the entire operation — not just the broadcast equipment, but the entire operation *including talent*.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Local radio wins. That’s the bottom line. Yes, you can outsource a little voice tracking talent here and there (and teach them well about the local market). But if radio wants to reach the younger generations, it must be “reachable” to them. That means local talent.

    Liked by 1 person

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