Crystal Ball

It’s my first day back from a week off (even though the only days I didn’t communicate with the office were the 2 sundays) and a few posts pop up that seem to paint a fairly troubling picture for radio.

First – Fred Jacobs tackles the R&D problem with radio.

From our view at 35,000 feet, we see situation after situation where research spending in radio has clearly diminished. While some companies continue to approach research in the same methodical way that healthy people get an annual physical, many others have quietly cut back on spending as their economic situations have become more dire. We get it – you have to cut somewhere. But is research the best place to reduce spending, especially at a time when radio is under fire from any number of competitive challenges?

I addressed radio research here – my point wasn’t so much like Fred’s (that we’re cutting our research budgets – although I agree with Fred) but that the KIND of research we’re doing is exactly the same as it’s always been.

We’re asking mostly the same questions in the same way and I’m not convinced ALL radio research questions and methods devised in the 70’s are still relevant in today’s environment.  Also – our research is mostly designed to take the temperature of things we already did rather than help find new things we could be doing to keep people engaged.  Particularly now when the very relevance of radio is in question – which leads me to the next post.

This one (not ironically) from the Edison Research blog “Infinite Dial” (I still love that title!) about the 12-24 radio habits.

In 2000, Edison Media Research presented a study entitled “Radio’s Future: Today’s 12-24 Year Olds.” The study was put forth as a cautionary tale, urged broadcasters to take more aggressive steps to fight young-end erosion that was already taking place, and included the following warning: “An industry that fails to cultivate new users will almost certainly erode over time.”

We now follow up that study with a new look at the current 12-24 audience.

Among the findings of the new study:

TSL among 12-to-17-year-olds is down 22% since 1993. Weekly TSL at that time was 65 quarter-hours. By 2000, it had fallen below 60; it is now 51 quarter-hours per week.

While much recent attention has been focused on teens who may not be learning to use radio at all, 18-to-24 TSL has declined by an even larger percentage (24%). TSL in 1993 was 95 quarter-hours per week; it is now 72 quarter-hours. Listening 12-24 is falling significantly faster than among those 25-plus.

If Radio were in the lumber business this would be called clear cutting.  But even lumber companies understand that they can’t JUST be in the cutting business – they also need to be in the planting and growing business or there’s no business tomorrow.

Radio – in it’s defense has never had to do this or think like this.

People ALWAYS just listened to radio from a young age – almost as a right of passage.  The industry never had to motivate people to listen to the radio – or teach them – they just came.  Where else were you going to hear all the great new music?

Ah ha.

We’re not in that business anymore.  Do we know it?

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