Glimmer of Hope For Radio's Future

The NAB is sponsoring a Teen Initiative. Projects and research will be done to determine how to win teens and young adults back to radio. Some of the smaller, well-run groups are probably going to lead the way. The big consolidators need to sign on, too. Radio for decades has coveted its money demo -- 25-54. It's made a cottage industry out of 18-34. It loves women over men but knows how to monetize male listeners once they attract them. But teens -- most radio operators submitting to a lie detector test couldn't attest to their interest or concern for this demo. So, while radio was out consolidating and licking their chops about seven station platforms and monopolizing markets, teens and young adults found other alternatives. The Internet, the iPod, social networks, peer-to-peer downloading, the mobile phone and even Internet radio. And I'm just getting warmed up. Radio got away with this neglect for generations, but this time taking their eyes off their teens is having catastrophic consequences. They inadvertently put their stations' futures at risk for money demos and the promise of lots of stations. This project is one of the most encouraging things NAB has done for radio lately seeing as how NAB was so instrumental in getting consolidation legislation passed in 1996. Can radio attract teens? Right now it's a long shot. Not that teens don't appreciate good programming, but by and large they're they are not getting it on radio. Young people are turning to other sources. They have become individual program directors. Their iPods are their oldies stations even if they are only 19! To win back this demo its going to take a major, honest and complete dialogue with teens. I see young adults at USC -- they are way ahead of my dear friends who are programming radio stations. They want radio delivered in new ways -- not just emanating from an over-the-air signal. Can radio accept this? The youth market wants more knowledgeable djs -- do I have to really say more on this? They want real variety in music (not slogans) and they want radio to be local. They hate consolidation. They don't believe less is more and almost everyone young knows who Clear Channel is. Think Clear Channel is responsible for mediocre radio -- the poster child -- fair or unfair. What about CBS? They're rarely mentioned yet CBS has made as many bad moves as Clear Channel of late. It all resonates. If radio is going to spend the next year to modify existing formats only to make them teen-friendly then young adults are going to do what they're doing now -- bail out in droves. They want change. There is no future for radio without young listeners. Can the radio industry, really get to know this YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, iPod/iTunes, Pandora, post-Napster generation? The Teen Initiative is ten years late. Better late than never.