The radio world was all a buzz this week when it was announced that Millennials now out-number Baby Boomers.
Let me tell you why that doesn’t really matter.
William Francis Sutton’s Advice to Radio Operators & Advertisers
Sutton was famous for making money, lots of money. Actually, he didn’t really make money as much as he stole money. Sutton stole an estimated $2 Million over his forty year career. And while he denies he originated it, Sutton’s Law states that when diagnosing, one should first consider the obvious. So when Willie Sutton was asked by a reporter why he robbed banks all his life, he replied “because that’s where the money is.”
Boomers Are Where the Money Is
When the Boomers were growing up, rates of productivity and hourly compensation rose in lock-step. Productivity rose 96.7% and hourly compensation rose 91.3%. That changed in 1973. While productivity continued its upward slope, compensation flat-lined; productivity was rising around 75% in the period of 1973 to 2013, wages went up a mere 9%.
Worse, today a college education not only doesn’t guarantee increased earnings, it is more like an economic boat anchor that saddles a Millennial with student loan debt of tens of thousands of dollars as they begin to enter the workforce. Paul Campos wrote in the New York Times that “if over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition; the average car would cost more than $80,000.”
Unlike us Baby Boomers, Millennials have come of age at the very moment when economic opportunities are few and far between.
Trading places: The income of younger working-aged families was falling long before the Great Recession and has now been surpassed by the rising incomes of families well into retirement age. (Median Income for Younger and Older Families in Inflation- Adjusted Dollars)
The average middle-class family today makes the same household income as it did thirty-six years ago. The problem is that today’s heads of household weren’t even born yet. We’re talking about different people. So the advantage of a middle-class family today over one three decades ago has evaporated. That’s if they can even be considered “middle-class” as 61% of Americans considered “middle-class” in 1971 comprise less than 50% of those families today.
Vastly Different Economic Trajectories
In the more recent economic history of America, each new generation would far surpass that of their parents’ in material standard of living. Millennials, and Generation X’ers who came before them, “are falling farther and farther behind their parents’ generation in most measures of economic well-being.” This represents a change being experienced by today’s living generations that is unprecedented in America’s history.
Millennials Number 75.4 Million vs. Baby Boomers at 74.9 Million
Here’s why radio and advertisers shouldn’t be freaking out over the headline that Millennials now out-number Baby Boomers. There may be more of them, but when it comes to discretionary income – the money that buys stuff – Boomers are still your “bank.” Don’t take your eye off the ball.
If Willie Sutton were operating a media company or an advertising agency, he’d be focused on putting his marketing investment where the best R.O.I. (Return On Investment) is, radio and its #1 reach that delivers 93% of Americans every week. It’s the traditional mass media that Boomers grew up with and still use in great numbers. Radio still delivers.
The “Music of YOUR Life” is Now The Rolling Stones
Back in the 1980s, I managed one of the first Al Ham “Music of YOUR Life” radio stations. Next to Rush Limbaugh, this big band based music format was one of two formats that were attracting people back to AM radio. I remember joking that one day, when we Boomers were their age, the music of our life would replace the sounds of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller.
That day is here!
And there’s money to be made.