Radio's Loss of Young Listeners May Be Unstoppable

Larry Rosin, a great guy and excellent researcher, was quoted in the New York Times recently as saying radio's unwillingness to target listeners in the 12-24 year old demographic instead of the money demo 25-54 is contributing to a significant drop in listening. Rosin's Edison Research indicates that listening hours have dropped about 21% among 18-24 year olds in the last ten years. Other mitigating circumstances are cited including the usual culprits -- the Internet, mobile devices, video games, movies, television, instant messages, portable music players and music downloading. What's significant -- and what the radio industry must grapple with -- is it's inability and/or unwillingness to accept the fact that (and it pains me to say it) they have done as much damage to radio as their new age competition may have done to radio. Radio must change. From Gen Y's point of view it has virtually no cache. It's often a disappointment. For a medium that is free and heard virtually everywhere obsessing on HD sub channels and other silly issues is a deal breaker with the next generation. Radio owners should be obsessing over creating programming. Where are the creative minds who can do this? I think many of them are still working in radio but neutered by consolidation. Big media barons acting badly, cutting budgets, pandering to their new Wall Street oriented owners. They've forgotten their roots. So let this radio guy remind them: think local not national. Personality not voice tracks. Young blood with new ideas not clones of old formats. Entertaining and informing not demanding broadcast efficiencies. Research and gut not re-purposing formats from the past 20 years. Read Lee Abrams' blog -- he, as I do, loves radio, but he seems to share my belief that for some self-destructive reason radio can't get beyond the "utopia" it wished for -- consolidation. And, as the saying goes, "be careful what you wish for".