41 Days of Radio Listening A Year

The Census Bureau projects 41 days of radio listening by adult Americans in 2007. Some 65 days for television. One week each for the Internet and newspapers -- this according to an account in Inside Radio. Don't celebrate too soon. This is definitely good news for radio stations aiming at adult listeners, but we didn't need the Census Bureau to tell us older listeners are still hooked on radio. The harsh reality is that radio listening and resulting radio advertising revenue has peaked and is heading down. The straight scoop is that young people -- the next generation, the people media must have to grow for generations to come -- are not listening to radio 41 days. Nowhere near it. They are on their iPods, cellphones, online, emailing, and happily involved with the Internet. That's point one. Point two is that as soon as WiFi proliferates, these people will become more involved with their interactive media. Traditional radio, TV, movies and newspapers will not likely be the beneficiaries of a generation neglected and denied by old line media companies.

The answer then is not to get too happy about the Census Bureau figures. Instead, it's time to go to school on Gen Y. Traditional media companies are content providers if anything. Their delivery systems are fast becoming antiquated and not part of future generations' world. These companies -- including record labels -- need to understand how very different and unpredictable this generation is. They need to become experts. They are not presently anywhere near expert on the next generation. And they must come to understand that they are best when they are inventing content. Media companies want it both ways. They want to be the major provider of content and then want to choose the delivery system -- as they always have. When radio was invented, stations programmed them. When television was invented, stations programmed them.

The critical difference now is that these powerful media companies no longer get to choose the way the audience consumes their content. Start with that lesson and there remains hope. Ignore this and you'll see them hanging onto their failing models. You need go no further than record labels to see it clearly. Labels want to find the acts, control their contracts, supervise their recordings and sell CDs. As painful as it is to accept, this model is outmoded and ten or twenty years from now the only remaining media companies from this day will have learned this lesson. Census Bureau figures are what they always have been -- interesting and outdated.