I read a recent article in Bloomberg about how in an age of cord cutting, where millions of Americans are leaving the cable bundles and abandoning traditional TV, others are staying put.
The big reason should scare anyone working in ad supported media: “Our customers don’t want to cut the cord because they’d have to give up critical features like the ability to skip commercials…” said Jay Roth, chief marketing officer at Dish Network Corp.
Commercials = Clutter
A former colleague of mine at the university wrote to me the other day about the changes going on in higher education and the field of radio broadcasting. He wrote:
“I’ve also had it with local radio and TV, too. Too many commercials back to back to back – it’s like classified ads. Who remembers the 5th ad in a spot set, even if it is well written? (most are not). Thank goodness for SiriusXM. That’s where I am, unfortunately.”
Here’s the concerning point of sharing my colleague’s comment, this person grew up, worked in and taught AM/FM radio, and is of the age group that should still be “in love” with the business.
We have plenty of data showing how the younger age groups don’t even own a radio, instead listening to audio content via their smartphone or some other connected device.
So, what makes radio listeners stay?
The Radio Habit
A 2017 Jacobs Media survey found that AM/FM listening is pure habit. 91% of survey respondents said they listened to radio for an hour or more per day, but TV/video and the smartphone usage came in at 87%.
Digging a little deeper, respondents cited hearing their favorite music and a connection to their favorite air personalities as reasons they listen to AM/FM radio.
The 2018 Infinite Dial study from Edison Research and Triton Digital reported that 82% of respondents who have ridden or driven in a car in the past month listened to traditional car radio.
Pandora For Brands authored a “State of AM/FM Radio: What Advertisers Need to Know” piece that said:
“True, America’s oldest electronic mass medium – AM/FM radio – is still alive, kicking and serving throngs of listeners every day, but it’s also being disrupted by today’s growing digital media landscape. Radio has prospered for so many decades because it’s free, easy-to-use and there are tons of them around. In fact, it used to be the only way to enjoy music without having to invest in a record collection or to hear news, sports and traffic information on-the-go.”
But the real shocker was this data point:
“Currently, people between the ages of 50-60 years old who have mobile devices are spending more time with mobile apps than they are listening to AM/FM radio.”
-Nielsen Total Audience Report, Q1 2017
This age group was raised on AM/FM radio!
I bring this all up because we are seeing new habits being formed with the new disruptive media technologies.
It’s like the old saying “Once they’ve seen New York, how are you going to keep them down on the farm?”
Once you experience Netflix or Amazon Prime, it’s hard to return to ad supported TV. And those folks who still buy the cable bundle, do so in part to have a way to eliminate the commercial clutter and to produce a more Netflix type of viewing experience.
Once you listen to your music on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music or access your music via a smart speaker, you will be hard pressed to go back to a cluttered listening environment.
But the biggest new habit in our short-attention-span world is On Demand.
Whether we are talking about TV or audio, we are now a culture of wanting things when we want them, not when they are served up, and that’s the juggernaut all traditional media are faced with.
Newspapers, television and yes, radio, serve what they want you to have.
Today’s media consumer knows they have choices and they don’t have the time or patience for the way it used to be.
The Future is…
In 1967, the movie “The Graduate” had a scene where the Dustin Hoffman character was taken aside by a family friend who advised him about where the future was for a person his age. The answer was one word: “Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.”
What might a friend advise a young person today to focus on? Podcasts?
Focus on the Things That Don’t Change
Jeff Bezos’ secret sauce has been to focus his efforts on things that would not change.
He said the question that he’s always asked is “What’s going to change in the next 10-years,” but the question that’s rarely asked is “What’s not going to change in the next 10-years?”
It’s that second question he feels is most important.
Bezos doesn’t concern himself with what will change, but on what won’t change. Then working to make those things better and better and better.
With this strategy, Bezos has become the richest man in the world.
This is what the radio industry should be doing.