Tag Archives: Baby Boomers

The Car Radio is 100

Commercial radio was born in November of 1920. The first OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) car radio came along in 1922 designed by the Chevrolet Motor Company and manufactured by Westinghouse. This first car radio was heavy, cumbersome and expensive; costing $200. In today’s dollars this would be the equivalent of $3,347.00. A 1922 Chevrolet, Superior 5-Touring automobile was priced at only $860, so you can see how expensive it was to buy one with a radio installed.

The good news is the radio worked and would then birth 100-years of innovation in the automobile dashboard.

The 1920s Car Radio Sales Pitch

With a radio in your car, your family could drive anywhere within a hundred miles of a radio station while being entertained, informed and educated.

It’s hard for any Baby Boomer to imagine not having audio entertainment as standard equipment in their dashboard.

1930s

It was radio engineer Paul Galvin that would pioneer more affordable car radios which he manufactured and sold through his new company, called Motorola.

1940s

Midway through the 40s, it is estimated that nine million cars now had radios in their dashboard and people were becoming concerned that they were leading to distracted driving thereby causing more auto accidents. Both broadcasters and radio manufacturers made the case for how having a car radio was useful in emergencies and alerted drivers to bad weather conditions.

Today when the topic of distracted driving comes up, it’s usually about handheld cellphones being used by drivers. But back then, Radio-Craft Magazine told of the battle being waged between state legislatures and radio manufacturers: “Ever since auto-radio installations became popular, a controversy has been going on…as to whether auto radio presented an accident hazard or not.”

The president of the Radio Manufacturers Association made the case that car radios were safe saying:

“Radio is not distracting because it demands no attention from the driver and requires no answer, as does conversation between the driver and passengers. Motor car radio is tuned by ear without the driver taking his eyes off the road. It is less disconcerting than the rear view mirror.”

Several states proposed steep fines for drivers, while others considered making installing a car radio a crime.

The Princeton Radio Research Project was created to study the effects car radios were having on automobile safety. In a paper published by Edward A. Suchman for that project, he reported that his small study found no link between car radios and traffic accidents.

1960s

In 1963, Frequency Modulation (FM) radios were introduced into the automobile for the first time. Radio penetration in cars had now reached 60%.

Along with FM radios, the 60s also gave birth to both eight-track tapes and car stereos, primarily due to the use of transistors, instead of vacuum tubes. Solid state transistors were smaller, drew less power and emitted very little heat.

1970s

If the 60s belonged to the 8-track tape player, the 70s would belong to the stereo cassette tape player. Recording tape manufacturer Maxell promoted these cassettes as nearly indestructible.

1980s

While the Compact Disc (CD) would be introduced in the 80s, it didn’t really become ubiquitous until the late 90s, coexisting with compact cassette players in automobile dashboards for two more decades.

21st Century

Probably the biggest disruption to the automobile dashboard came with the advent of Bluetooth allowing smartphones to interface with a vehicle’s entertainment system.

In 2011, automobile manufacturers stopped offering cassette tape players in their new cars, soon followed by the elimination of CD players/changers.

Today’s new cars come equipped with access to Satellite Radio, and an automatic interface with your smartphone allowing you the ability to stream anything you want to hear into your car’s entertainment system.

In fact, my first article for this blog in 2022 was “Why I Stream ALL My Radio Listening,” which diagrammed how my car radio audio systems are now programmed by my iPhone.

“Radio is not going to be Numero Uno in the dash any longer.”

-Fred Jacobs

AM/FM radio will most likely coexist with other forms of audio access for a period of time, but the writing is on the wall.

The definitive answer to how long over-the-air radio will continue to be used in the automobile really depends on broadcasters and whether or not they offer compelling and attention-getting content that audio consumers demand to hear.

AutoStage

Xperi’s newest in-dash experience is AutoStage. It was demonstrated at CES2022 and it should be noted that this system comes with the following pre-sets: SiriusXM, FM, AM and TuneIn Radio.

I use the TuneIn Radio App for most of my radio listening, but why was it chosen by Mercedes Benz? Turns out the answer is, “TuneIn’s radio stations can be accessed worldwide in 197 countries on more than 200 different platforms and devices.” TuneIn says it “provides the displaced radio listener a connection to home with local, national, and international stations anywhere they go and on any device.”

In other words, why would any audio consumer need DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), DAB+, Digital Radio Mondiale, HD Radio, AM or FM when they can receive any radio station in crystal clear audio via streaming?

With the exception of the proprietary content offered by SiriusXM, everything else is available via streaming at no charge.

Waxing Nostalgic

Car radio has come a long way from the day William Lear and Elmer Wavering drove their girlfriends to lookout point high above the Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois to watch the sunset and their dates told them how much better this romantic evening would have been had they been able to listen to music in the car.

Lear and Wavering shared their girlfriends’ comments with Paul Galvin who would go on to make Motorola car transistor radios, and then AM/FM radio would dominate the dashboard for the rest of the 20th Century.

So, now moving further into the 21st Century, radio broadcasters really need to follow the advice of Steve Jobs in order to survive and thrive, and that is to:

Think Different

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What Do Seniors Want?

Seniors born in the 1950s and 1960s, known as “Baby Boomers,” created a tsunami of change in the world of marketing and communications. Now, the generation that coined the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30” is turning 70.

50th High School Reunion Re-imagined

In fact, my 50th high school reunion was to have been held in 2020, but due to COVID19 this was rescheduled to October 2022. The committee organizing this event decided to re-imagine our Golden Reunion Celebration and are now calling it “The Class of 1970 Turns 70.”

Boomers actually began crossing the 70 year old threshold in 2016 and will be growing the 70+ demographic population until the year 2034. Over the next ten years, our numbers will eclipse 55 million with a growth rate twice that of people aged 18-49.

Boomers Are Spenders

Currently the 70+ Boomers contribute $1.1 trillion in annual spending on consumer goods and services. According to AARP, we spend on pharmaceuticals, health insurance, medical supplies, AV equipment, food at home, personal care products, apparel, entertainment, household furnishings, and travel.

Since I retired in 2017, my wife Sue and I immediately set out to see more of this world. We took a Caribbean Cruise, three cross-county road trips driving over 25,000 miles and were planning to travel abroad until the advent of COVID19 brought things to a screeching halt.

Boomers grew up in the postwar era with a sense of promise and possibility. We believed if we could dream it, we could do it.

The Senior Mindset

When I was in my early years of radio sales, I sold advertising to a contemporary of mine that was working in his family’s pharmacy. His primary focus was on developing new revenue streams for growing the business.

He was the first person I ever knew that went to Las Vegas every January to the Consumer Electronics Show; now known simply as CES. Each year he would bring new and innovative electronic products into the store.

But that’s not the point of the story.

In my 20s, when I saw these new devices – often with some pretty hefty price tags attached to them – I would say, that’s pretty amazing, but I’ve read that next year the new model will be even better.

My friend would reply, “That’s the way we think, but people who are much older than us don’t see things that way.” He explained that their view of life was, if they wanted it, they bought it now. And if something better came along, they would make another purchase. They didn’t have time to wait around for the next big thing to come along.

Retirement is a Transition from Saver to Spender

Now that I’ve become one of those people who are “much older,” I understand that perspective. Baby Boomers are now at that point in their lives where they see more of their lives in the rearview mirror than out the front windshield.

People who are 70+ are free to pursue their passions and set new life goals for this next chapter of their lives. Products and services that compliment these things will be the ones who benefit from our spending.

I’m no longer thinking of how much I need to save in my IRA or contribute to my annuities, I’m now at that point in life where it’s time to begin withdrawing from the retirement assets I’ve accrued over my working life.

Are your products or services seeing me, hearing me, understanding my wants/needs/desires?

Time Spent With Ad-Supported Media Falls

The FCC reported at the start of this new year, the number of commercial FMs, AMs, and even LPFMs all decreased in 2021. While it came as no surprise to see the number of AM radio stations sign-off, the decrease in the number of commercial FMs should have been a real wake-up call for the radio industry.

Interestingly, non-commercial FM radio stations increased in number in 2021. Could it be they are serving up content that people want to hear?

53.4% of people’s time spent with media in the United States is with consumer-funded media, according PQ Media.

I started off this year of blogging with “Why I Stream ALL of My Radio Listening,” and in reviewing the latest data I find that our household is riding the wave of consumer-funded media for both television viewing and radio listening.

Media Post says

“While total consumer time spent with media is projected to continue to expand in both the United States and worldwide through 2025, ad-supported media’s share will continue to erode due to secular, not cyclical shifts in consumer usage of media – something other analysts and economists have been pointing out.”

You Can Save Time or You Can Save Money, BUT You Can’t Save Both Simultaneously

There’s an inverse relationship between time and money; you can spend one to save the other. In our youth, we feel like we have all the time in the world and so we focus on ways to save money. Later in life, we see how precious our time has become and so we will spend money to save time.

Long commercial breaks about things of little interest to us waste our time, so it should come as no surprise that seniors are willing to pay money to eliminate them.

People will give you their time when you offer them entertainment. People will give you their money when you offer them hope.

– Roy HWilliams

Consumer-funded media does just that. It gives us the wheat and eliminates the chaff.

The average person in America today is expected to live to almost 79 years old, that’s 28,835 days. When you turn 70, that means you see the future as 3,285 days left.

What do you think means more to a senior, another dollar in the bank or more efficient use of their time?

When people are asked on their deathbed what they wished they had more of, no one says “more money.”

Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was. Today, media money is in the hands of the Baby Boomers, aka seniors.

How are you serving them with your media property?

Updated 1/23/2022: An earlier version incorrectly said “Willie Horton,” not “Willie Sutton.”

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Best of the Blog 2020

It’s been my tradition on the last Sunday of the year, to look back at the year that has just past and share with you the Top 5 Most Read and shared blog articles of the past 52-weeks. Maybe you missed them or perhaps you’d like to read them again.

To date, I’ve published 334 articles that have been viewed over 218,000-times around the world.

Most Read Article of 2020

COVID-19 and the global pandemic completely obliterated our 2020 travel plans. But in November, we decided we could just as easily isolate ourselves in a mountain cabin as in our own home and so we traveled to Mount Airy, North Carolina, more affectionately known as “Mayberry USA,” the home town of Andy Griffith.

While there, I discovered the most unique and historic local radio station; WPAQ. Radio in Mayberry USAwould become 2020’s most read blog article.

Sue, (my wife and the editor of this weekly blog) and I are big fans of “The Andy Griffith Show,” TV’s second most popular sitcom behind “I Love Lucy.” Mount Airy embraces the spirit of Mayberry, a time when the most important question of the day was what the special was at the diner.

Read why this article touched the hearts of so many HERE

Second Most Read Article of 2020

Even before COVID-19 would turn radio furloughs into permanent layoffs, the radio industry was eliminating people. What were called RIFs (Reductions In Force) back in 2009, were now being called “dislocations.”

The article, Dislocation is the New RIF would see the most comments of any I had written in 2020 and come in as the second most read and shared article of the year. It was published on January 19, 2020.

Read why the radio industry, so many of us fell in love with and made a career of, is melting away HERE

Third Most Read Article of 2020

Let’s face it, radio sellers have always had to be the best in the business. You couldn’t see, touch, smell or taste radio advertising, it could only be consumed by the ear. But the power to plant the seed of an idea through the ear, can be the most powerful of all the senses when used correctly.

That’s why, when Nielsen announced in 2021, it would only list radio stations in its reports that subscribed to its service and not the audiences of the entire radio market of stations. I along with many others, felt that buying radio advertising would become much more difficult. It’s why I wrote Why Make Radio Advertising Harder to Buy?

Read more about Nielsen’s new “Subscriber First” policy that begins in a matter of days from now HERE

Fourth Most Read Article of 2020

The fourth most read and shared article of 2020, I didn’t even really write. What I wrote about was a simple poem written by Kitty O’Meara, dealing with the 2020 global pandemic, that was being widely shared on social media and labeled as something written about the 1918-1919 global pandemic and how history was repeating itself. My article was a takeoff on a radio feature Paul Harvey made famous, called “The Rest of the Story.” I know you will enjoy this wonderful poem by Kitty titled And the People Stayed Home.”

You can read it HERE

Fifth Most Read Article of 2020

Sue and I are baby boomers. We grew up with radio. I made it my career. So, when our city’s 911 Manager stated, “people don’t listen to radio anymore, but they’re really into social media,” and the head of the British Broadcasting’s Radio division said “radio, as we’ve always known it, has lost the faith of listeners,” I knew I had to write about it in an article titled Where Have All the Baby Boomers Gone?

Sadly, the radio industry continues to jettison the very people that connect its stations with the listening audience, the radio personality.

You can read the article HERE

Most Read Articles, Period

Two of the articles I’ve written over the past five years continue to garner traffic. They are “SiriusXM Radio is Now FREE” and “The Day the Dumbest Idea Invaded the Radio Industry”.

I actually updated my article on SiriusXM, when I read about the incoming 2021 CEO’s plans to consider offering some ad-supported channels that would be receivable by all SiriusXM radios and would not require a subscription. You can read that follow-up article HERE

The record holder for any of my articles, all 334 of them, continues to be “We Never Called It Content”. Over 3,500 people read and shared it the day it was published on Sunday, September 6, 2015 and to date, just shy of 5,000 people have read it and 68-people have left a comment about it. Read it HERE

Why I Blog

I blog for broadcasters, educators and students. I blog to provide media mentorship and to pay-it-forward to the broadcasting industry that I have been a part of for over 50-years. I’m grateful for the more that 164,000 people from all over the world who have visited this blog (https://DickTaylorBlog.com) and have read an article that caught their interest.

FREE SUBSCRIPTIONS

You can subscribe/follow this blog for FREE and get a copy of each week’s article delivered to your email IN BOX every Sunday morning. To subscribe, simply go to the bottom right-hand corner of your screen and click on the FOLLOW button. (If you’re accessing this blog via mobile phone or tablet, that button might not be visible, so be sure to do this on a computer or laptop.)

Thank You for reading, next week I will begin my seventh year of blogging with all new articles.

Together we can all learn from one another by sharing our experiences, knowledge and wisdom. Feel free to contribute your thoughts to the discussion in the comments section. I read every one of them.

Happy New Year!

Dick & Sue

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Car Radios & The Future

AM Car RadioThe first mass-market car radio premiered in June of 1930, but due to a second World War it wouldn’t be until the 1950s that car radios became common.

Another factor that slowed their growth was cost. Those early six vacuum tube car radios cost around $130.

To put that into perspective, you could buy one of Henry Ford’s model A’s for $450.

Motorola

The Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, founded by brothers Paul and Joseph Galvin, were early pioneers in car radios. Paul Galvin realized their radios needed a brand name and came up with the name of “Motorola,” a portmanteau (a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others, for example motel (from ‘motor’ and ‘hotel’) or brunch (from ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’) of the words motor car and ola. “Ola” back then was a slang word for anything audio.motorola car radio installation

Motorola introduced the first dash-mounted AM car radios in the 1930s. It wasn’t until 1952 that a German company, Blaupunkt, would introduce the first FM car radio. AM/FM car radios followed the next year.

1952

I was born in 1952, and like other Baby Boomers my age, radios and cars have always been one.

While transistor car radios were introduced in 1955, it wouldn’t be until the 1960s that they became affordable. It should also be noted that dashboard radios were still an option in 1963, however, they were a very popular option and more than 60% of all cars on the road in America had one.

Rear Speaker & 8-Track Tape Player

I can still remember the time my parents were buying a new car and one of the decisions that they had to make was whether or not to add the new car radio option that had just come out, adding a rear speaker to the dashboard radio.Car 8-track player radio

The first aftermarket option I remember my parents adding was that of an 8-track tape player. I loved this device because it allowed me to listen to air checks of my weekly radio show on my daily commute to college. I wanted to improve my style and presentation.

Cassettes & CDs

The 8-track tape players in cars would soon be replaced by cassettes, allowing people to make up their own “mix tapes” of songs they loved to hear most.

Compact Discs (CDs) eventually replaced cassette players in the car dashboard, and for those of us that didn’t want to change CDs, one at a time, it was a thrill having a six-CD changer located in the trunk that allowed for even more variety with the touch of a button.

iPods & Smartphones

Steve Jobs once said he wanted to be able to have a 1,000-songs in his pocket, and from that vision, came the Apple iPod. iPods could eventually be plugged into the car’s audio system and now offered a virtually unlimited supply of music and audio books at the touch of a button.

The iPhone would offer all that any iPod ever could, plus so much more. It became the computer in our pockets replacing a multitude of single use devices, including the car radio.

Entertainment CenterDigital Car Radio

Today’s automobile dashboard offers occupants a complete entertainment center that immediately connects to a person’s smartphone via either Apple’s CarPlay, Google’s Android Auto, or a manufacturer’s proprietary system. Today the vehicle’s onboard entertainment system plays a big role in people’s car buying decision and it can also add from a thousand to two thousand dollars more to the price of a vehicle.

Self-Driving Cars

TV Car RadioWith the evolution of self-driving cars, you can expect that more and more vehicles will come with video capabilities as well as audio, and also that the competition for who can provide the best in-car entertainment will be fierce and passionate.

Traditional radio programming staples, like Two-fer Tuesdays, ten-songs-in-a-row and no-repeat workdays aren’t going to cut it.

The global pandemic has caused two markets to significantly heat up:

1) suburban house sales and

2) new car sales.

Today’s reality is that people who now find themselves working from home, don’t want to be stuck in a little urban apartment and are moving to homes that offer more space to enjoy. Likewise. those individuals whose work demands they still commute, no longer feel safe on mass public transportation and are upgrading their ride.

Understanding how these changes will impact the future of your media enterprise is critical.

 

 

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It’s Wine Time

Wine GlassesThe headline read, “The Price of Wine is Dropping Fast.” Being a wine drinker, I wondered what was the reason for this downward price spiral and it turns out that it’s due to a surplus of California grapes. (Note: this story broke before the COVID-19 Pandemic. I’ll have an update on how that’s impacting wine sales at the end of this article.)

In this case, the law of supply and demand says when an oversupply of grapes exceeds demand., prices will fall.

From the moment they plant a new vineyard, vintners tell us it takes up to five years to bring wine to market. Only five years ago, demand greatly exceeded supply, causing vintners to begin planting a plethora of new fields. It seemed like a sure bet, because this growth in demand had been steady for the past two decades, until it vanished. The sudden slowdown caught the wine industry by complete surprise.

Supply & Demand

Any business that wants to see the price for its goods or services go up, knows that it benefits when demand exceeds supply.

For vintners, the first part of their problem was growing too many grapes, but the second part was seeing the consumption of wine drop for the first time in twenty-five years delivering a one-two punch to the wine grower’s gut.

Boomers

The generation that was fueling the growth in wine consumption were the Baby Boomers. And let’s face it, we Boomers aren’t going to live forever.

The problem the wine makers are having is best demonstrated by looking at two couples dining out. One couple is in their twenties and the other is in their sixties. If you were to ask a server to bet on which couple would be ordering wine, twenty years ago, they would have chosen the twenties couple, but today, they would bet on the older one.

Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division says it’s due to a failure of the wine industry to capture the attention of the millennials.

Does This Problem Sound Like Radio’s?

It’s no secret that the radio industry has been focused on increasing the number of signals it can put on the air in America. The FCC reports that as of December 31, 2019 there are 21,255 AM, FM, FM Educational, FM Translators & Boosters and Low Power FM radio signals on the air. Ten years earlier that number was 16,649, and twenty-five years earlier (the same amount of time that wine began its 25-year growth cycle) there were only 2,281 radio signals beating America’s airwaves.

So, like the growth in the number of grapes produced over the past twenty-five years, the number of radio signals grew almost ten times over that same period of time. Also, like wine, radio was dependent on Boomers to make their numbers. Younger generations are moving away from beer and wine for beverages, and away from broadcast radio for their audio consumption. Radio people and vintners have good reason to both want to drown their sorrows.

Former WLW programmer and air personality, Darryl Parks, tweeted the situation out this way:

More stations mean more avails to sell, which in turn means lower rates. Never understood how those running the big box broadcasters don’t understand the simple law of supply & demand. There’s no other way for this to turn out. Death by a thousand cuts.

Universal Laws

I believe that some laws are universal, in that they transcend all areas of life.

In the area of my college major, physics, Newton’s 2nd Law says, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Zig Ziglar, the great salesman and motivationalist, put it this way, “you can get anything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” And the Bible says, “as you sow, so shall you reap.”

Botanists know that pruning plants causes new growth. Forest fires, while appearing destructive on the surface, actually are part of the natural cycle of woods’ growth and replenishment, clearing dead trees, leaves, and competing vegetation from the forest floor, so that new plants can grow.

For the radio industry to grow and prosper, it needs to stop choking off its own growth and prosperity by thinking more and more radio signals will be to its benefit.

To serve their communities of license, it’s time for less radio signals, that do more for the communities they are licensed to serve, while being economically viable.

Why not pour yourself a glass of wine and start working on meaningful solutions that don’t try to counter life’s universal laws.

COVID-19 UPDATE

Quarantinis are driving a spike in alcohol sales

US sales of beer, canned cocktails, wine and spirits have surged in recent days as people stocked up on drinks to see them through quarantine and pub closures. Experts predict the increase will be short-lived as many households will prioritize more pressing expenses if emergency measures remain in place. Some experts have raised concerns about the risks of increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic — a fear that has driven officials in several countries to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages entirely.

 

 

 

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Where Have All the Baby Boomers Gone?

Baby BoomerBill 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 Citizen Insight Academyit’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.”

BBC Chief

BBC Radio Chief, James Purnell

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.

NuVoodoo Addiction to Media 2020

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

Real Don Stelle

The Real Don Steele

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 Amazon Google Logos

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.

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Seniors & Technology Adoption

old hands using high techTraditional habit patterns used to be that as people grew older, they grew into the same habit patterns as their parents. Things like reading a newspaper, watching the evening television news, becoming involved in their children’s schools, the community and listening to radio. But new research says, those patterns have been upended by what else but, the internet.

Connected Seniors

Perhaps the fastest growing segment of new users on Facebook are seniors. Over half of the people aged 50 to 64 use Facebook, but people over 65 have almost doubled their use of Facebook with now over 32% of them on the social media juggernaut.

It may be why younger generations are moving to other social media platforms, to get away from us oldsters.

You Can’t Turn Back the Hands of Time

Pew Research says seniors who become engaged in social media say they would find it very hard to give up. I’m one of those seniors and yes, I would find it hard to give up. How about you?

Social Media, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) helps seniors to remain independent. Adoption of new technology by seniors goes against the conventional wisdom that only the young want the latest new thing, but these shiny, new, high tech devices attract kids of all ages; even us “big kids.”

Us Baby Boomers were the biggest market segment for all of my life. Only recently have Millennials outnumbered us, but expect Boomers to change the concept of retirement and technology use. Broadcasters take note: Once people discover new technology, it’s unlikely they will return to the days of old.

Social Media Addiction

I don’t remember anyone ever sending out alerts about radio or television addiction, but with social media the world is seeing addictive properties akin to alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

Consider that the average adult now spends nearly 2 hours a day on social media. We can access it on our home computers or away from home on our smartphones. Of the 3.1 billion social media users globally, it’s estimated that almost 7% have a social media addiction problem. This form of addiction is defined as “a proposed diagnosis related to overuse of social media, similar to Internet addiction and other forms of digital media overuse.”

71% of us now sleep with or next to our mobile phone. I know I do and it also is my alarm clock. Worse are those people who check their social media before going to sleep or wake-up during the night to check their social media, estimated to be about 45% of us, making getting a good night’s sleep challenging.

Maybe even more alarming is the fact that 90% of drivers say they use their smartphones while driving. Half to check social media while behind the wheel. (I DO NOT) And according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, 9-people are killed and more than a thousand are injured daily by people using their smartphones while driving.

I can’t think of any reports of people suffering the same amount of death or injury listening to their car radio. Can you?

Apple even now tells me how much my weekly screen time is on each of my Apple devices in an effort to make me more aware of how much time I spend with them. I can even set-up my devices to force me to limit my time with them. That’s how different these platforms are from the traditional media of the 20th Century.

If you’d like to do a deep dive into “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech Saturated World,” here’s a link to a long report on all of this by the Pew Research Center.  Click HERE

Reader Question

I share all of this for radio broadcasters, the first social media, to consider the challenge of today’s new communications media. It’s addictive. Broadcast not so much.

A reader wrote to me asking this question: ‘Was radio the dominant media because it truly was a companion or because it was pre-internet, consumers had a lot fewer choices for basic full service information and music?’

Reaching Our Time Limit

Back in the early 90s I was living in New Jersey and AT&T did a presentation for my Rotary Club on a future of infinite capacity in communications. Just to be clear, these scientists defined “infinite” as having more transmission capacity through their wires than they could conceive of what to transmit over them.

I remember asking the question if the future was going to make available so much media product, how would a viewer or listener know what to consume? The answer they gave me was, ‘the media would pay the listener or viewer to listen or watch their program.’

It feels to me like we’re approaching that point in time now.

What are your thoughts?

 

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Radio’s Money Problem

Abandoned Radio StationFor the radio listener, your next break is all that matters. Does it speak to your listener? Does it have relevance to your listener’s life right this second? How do you know?

Homogenized America

With the growth of fast food establishments, big box stores and online shopping, one might think that America is now homogenized. That we’ve become a “one size, fits all” society. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Defining Generations

Before we discuss what specific age group goals are, let’s first define those groups.

  • Millennials (ages 18-34)
  • Generation X (ages 35-52)
  • Baby Boomers (ages 53-72)
  • Greatest Generation (ages 73 and older)

I’m part of the Baby Boomer generation, so let me speak about a group that I personally know something about.

Boomer Goals

Harris Poll surveyed 2,002 American adults to learn what we want as we get older. The number one thing was to travel abroad (57%). I know that travel is #1 on my list and that’s why this spring I set out with Sue on a cross-country trip across America that racked up 11,175-miles on our Honda Accord.

The next bucket list item the Harris Poll found was that American’s want to take up a new hobby (52%). In my case, that has manifested itself by working on my blog and volunteering at my church.

The other items on the list were tracking one’s health using a wearable, joining new social circles, living abroad and participating in extreme sports (28% to 3%). What these things all say is that growing older doesn’t mean we have to stop having fun.

Boomer Priorities

I really can identify with what the Harris Poll found as the top priority of aging Americans, spending more time with friends and family (62%). Previously my radio and teaching careers had been my primary focus for over 50-years, but not any longer. Now, being a grandpa is Job One.

Other priorities we have as we age, is the desire to seek out new experiences (51%), which explains our desire to travel and see more of the planet. To travel, one must be healthy and so health and wellness (51%) is also a priority.

Aging Positives

Americans agree that as we age we gain wisdom (65%) and experience (62%). Which begs the question, why do  companies seem to undervalue their senior employees or try to unload them with offers of early retirement and buyouts.

Other positives of growing older are that we feel more trustworthy, independent, are more comfortable in our own skin and feel more in control of our lives.

How Old is “Old?”

I think the answer to the question “How old is old?” has always been a moving target depending on the age of the person being asked that very question. The Harris Poll found that Millennials think old is 67, Generation X thinks it’s 72, Baby Boomers think it’s 79 and the Greatest Generation think it’s 82.

Usually the day after my fitness class, I think it’s my current age.

“Between now and 2029, one Baby Boomer will turn 65 every eight seconds,” says management guru Tom Peters. In his new book, The Excellence Dividend, Peters says “Most firms seem clueless – or worse, even seem to turn their back on the opportunity (of serving this huge population).”

Radio & “the Oldies” Market

Tom Peters is pretty adamant about what companies need to do to serve this segment of the American population.

  • Do a stem-to-stern assessment of the skills, assets, and culture that are needed to serve this market
  • People aged 50 or older have 47-times more net wealth than households headed by a person under age 35

It appears that some companies have done this and are enjoying the profits of their efforts. SiriusXM’s Q3 Conference Call saw that company’s CEO Jim Meyer telling analysts that audio is thriving like never before saying “the entire pie of audio consumption is actually growing.” Net income is up 24%, margins are up 40% and they plan to increase their dividend to investors.

Willy Sutton robbed banks, he said, because that’s where the money was.

The money is with the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation, the very population that was raised on radio.

I’m not saying every radio station needs to cater to this senior segment. Obviously, if radio is to be relevant to the generations following the Boomers, it needs to offer programs that are relevant to this age group too. However, in my travels around this country I’ve heard a minuscule number of radio signals appealing to the money age groups. In my opinion this is a missed opportunity, for the radio industry’s future and its current economic stability.

Another Place, Another Time

I started my radio management career back in early 1980, still in my twenties, as the general manager of an AM daytime radio station that programmed Al Ham’s “Music of YOUR Life.” Next to Rush Limbaugh, Al Ham’s music format was the next best thing one could program on an AM radio station to attract the older audience of that time.

Our FM station in that AM/FM cluster was programming the current top hits of the day, and between us, we pretty much covered all the demographics. The hardest part of attracting new advertisers to my daytime radio station, was convincing them to try it. Once they did, they quickly became regular advertisers because the people we attracted to our programming had the money to buy everything our advertisers sold. My company president always liked to say, “money makes honey,” and my success with this little 1,000-watt daytimer led to my promotion to market manager in Atlantic City running a news/talk AM radio station and a 50,000-watt FM Bonneville Beautiful Music radio station. Both stations were programmed to an older, well-heeled, audience. We were a million dollar cash flowing property.

The Time is NOW

Tom Peters pretty much sums up radio’s action plan by saying, “Cut the B.S. Can the excuses. Forget the fancy reports. Get moving now. Get the job done. On this score, nothing has changed in 50-years, including the maddening fact that all too often a business strategy is inspiring, but the execution mania is largely AWOL.”

Pay attention to the culture inside your radio operation. IBM’s turnaround CEO Lou Gerstner put it this way, “culture is not just one aspect of the game – it is the game.”

And finally, train your people.

“Training is any firm’s single most important capital investment.”

-Tom Peters

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouths Are

1021_boomboom 1

Boom Boom Brannigan, June 1, 2000. (Times Union Archive)

Last week, I wrote about the power of the human voice. Each of us who decided to make radio a career was influenced by the voices we heard coming through our radio speaker.

Zenith Radio

My first radio, a pocket Zenith Royal 50 transistor, was purchased at Sammy Vincent’s Music Store on North Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. My first SONY reel-to-reel tape recorder would also come from Sammy Vincent’s.

Both of these wonderful electronic devices would be the foundation of my lifelong radio career.

Sammy Vincent’s was also the place to get a free copy of the latest WPTR-AM1540 Top 31 songs of the week.

Boom Boom Brannigan

WPTR had many famous voices travel through its 50,000-watt AM broadcast signal. Its most famous voice was that of Boom Boom Brannigan. You can hear an air check of Boom Boom from January 1974 here. The Albany Times Union wrote upon Boom Boom’s death in 2010 at the age of 82, “Boom Boom Brannigan, a pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll radio in the Capital Region was known for his energetic personality, sideburns and bright fashions. For decades, Brannigan was the voice of the local airwaves, a high-profile DJ who delivered the hits that defined the music of the baby-boom generation.”

Every market had their own Boom Boom.

For example, Boston had Arnie Woo Woo Ginsburg, New York City had Cousin Brucie and Los Angeles had The Real Don Steele.

Each, larger than life personalities, that lived the part of being a radio star. Each more important to their listeners than the hits they exposed them to.

Radio Stars

Bob Lawson, who worked with Brannigan at WPTR in 1964 put it this way, “They were the real stars in those days, and Boomer was the epitome of radio stardom.”

These legendary radio personalities caused so many baby boomers to get into the radio industry.

I had the opportunity to meet Boom Boom one Saturday afternoon when he was broadcasting from a little phone booth like studio in the transmitter room, next to the huge 50,000-watt transmitter. He was the consummate gentleman and further inspired this young broadcaster as he let me sit in with him during his broadcast that day.

70-20-10 Rule

Fresh off CES2018 many radio executives are talking about the latest shiny new things that are on the horizon and how they will impact radio. Everyone’s talking about how radio needs to innovate. The big question is how does the radio business manage its innovation resources.

In his book, Mapping Innovation, author Greg Satell cites the 70-20-10 Rule that is used by companies like Google to allocate resources.

70% of a company’s resources should be invested in sustaining improvements to existing products. Eric Schmidt, Google’s Chairman, said the 70-20-10 Rule insured that Google’s core business would always get the bulk of the resources.

20% of available resources should get invested in exploring adjacent opportunities.

The remaining 10% are for creating something entirely new. Something that most likely will crash and burn, so you want to be able to sustain this effort without it damaging your core business. What Satell said he learned about businesses that invested in basic exploration was they all eventually hit on something big.

Radio’s 70-20-10

What would you say radio’s 70-20-10 rule is? 70% goes to pay down the debt? I’m sure many come away with that impression from what they read in the trades. But not every broadcast company is in that predicament.

How about your radio company?

Consider this operating strategy: 70% of your resources should be invested in your people who create the radio you broadcast every day. 20% should be invested in the adjacent delivery pipelines, like streaming, NextRadio and voice activated devices. And 10% should be invested in building a new paradigm.

What’s happening in the 21st Century is the acceleration of change for all industries. Innosight predicts that about half of the S&P 500 will be replaced by 2026. Back in 1965 33-years was the average tenure of a company on this stock exchange. By 1990, this narrowed to 20-years. By 2026, it’s forecast to drop to 14-years.

So, the gale force winds of change have never blown with more velocity.

Community & Companionship

What great local radio personalities each created in their markets was a sense of community and companionship for their listeners. That’s radio’s core business.

It’s where the bulk of your resources should be directed.

Put your money where your mouths are.

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Radio’s BIG Opportunity

54I know that radio needs to be planning for the future and the future is not going to be like the past. However, to ignore the present makes no sense to me whatsoever. Here’s what I mean, take a look at this quote:

“Japan is selling more adult diapers than diapers for children. Think about that for a moment.” –Joseph Coughlin, founder of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Coughlin’s point is, that while Millennials may be getting all the buzz in today’s media and advertising world, that retailers must be on alert to the aging Baby Boomer population that have all the money. Coughlin recently addressed the International Council of Shopping Centers Conference telling the 4,000 attendees important facts they need to know in order to grow and prosper.

Coughlin advises that retailers would be better to focus on the aging generations than the younger ones.

Robbing Banks

Willie Sutton has been famously quoted as responding to a reporter’s question about why he robbed banks all his life as saying “because that’s where the money is.”

Well, if you’re in the retailing business or the media business, the money today is with the Boomers and it’s time to focus on them more than anyone has in the past.

Coughlin’s Research

The research I’m going to share was reported in the Tampa Bay Times and you can go to their website for more details about all of this.

Coughlin pointed out that fewer people today are having kids and the result of that reality is the over-60 folks will outnumber the little people aged 1 to 15 by 2047. What’s interesting, is that Coughlin points out this has never happened before.

But if you’re smart like Willie Sutton, you need to consider the fact that right now nearly 70 percent of all disposable income in the economy is controlled by Americans in the age 50 and over group. (50 is the age that AARP sends you your first invitation to become a member. I know that, because that’s when I became a member of AARP.)

College Towns #1 for Retirees

Coughlin also said that retirees are attracted to college towns. Many colleges offer low or no-cost tuition to seniors plus they have lots of educational and entertainment programs that are often free or at very low cost.

My university put on a production of Beauty & the Beast with all of the original Broadway show sets and costumes, but the actors were from the university theater department and the full orchestra was made up of teachers and students from the music program. I have been to many Broadway shows in New York City and I’m going to tell you it was as good as any of them I’ve seen and the cost to park for the show was free, the seat I had was front row center and the cost of my ticket was $5.00; try and beat that!

Corvette City

Bowling Green, Kentucky is the home of the Chevrolet Corvette. The average age of a Corvette owner is 59 years old. So you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Coughlin says that luxury products that are high-tech and high price are bought by senior citizens.

But it’s not just cars. It’s everything. Grocery stores, drugstores, health, beauty and fitness and more.

With this crowd what’s in high-demand is internet proof. It’s experiences they can’t get online.

Beautiful Music

This week a station group in Michigan announced a new format for WBZX in Big Rapids.  The new format is beautiful music with the station’s new branding: “Beautiful 104, as beautiful as Northern Michigan.”

One of my favorite stations and the one that gets voted #1 every year in the local newspaper as one of the “Best of Naples” is WAVV in Naples, Florida. Both the music and the ads are perfectly targeted to their audience. Even better, the station maintains a commercial load of only eight commercials per hour. Four times an hour they stop the music and play two sixty-second commercials and then return to their unique musical offering.

Senior Power Radio

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. Ken Dychtwald wrote about this back when I first became a general manager of an Al Ham “Music of YOUR Life” radio station to be followed by managing a Bonneville Beautiful Music radio station in Atlantic City. The Age Wave clearly laid out the opportunities that would be coming.

Well, that day is here. Senior Power Radio is a true opportunity to leverage people who grew up on broadcast radio and will embrace any radio station that is focused on their needs.

It’s time for some smart broadcasters to make some money by focusing on the “interests, convenience and necessities” of the Baby Boomers; because we’re going to be around for a while.

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