For 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”