The CBS Radio Youth Movement

Today, CBS Radio will dump a poorly-rated format on WXRK-FM, New York to play the hits on 92.3 Now.

CBS is making a move toward younger demographics.

A few weeks ago AMP Radio debuted in Los Angeles.

Prior to that Hot 95.7 in Houston and 101.5 Jamz in Phoenix. CBS also returned B94 to Pittsburgh.

CBS is looking for younger demos -- and in New York and LA -- they want some of the audience that Clear Channel has at Z100 and KIIS-FM.

Plus CBS is going to delve into more social networking -- something radio stations have been slow to do. With 160 million people on Facebook -- and "over 30" being the biggest growth area for Facebook currently -- radio has been late to the party.

That means CBS will try to include audio and video blogs created by "the station's network of bloggers", outside contributors from the area, music videos, fan forums and access to exclusive programs and events.

Twitter. Facebook. MySpace. Text messaging. Online streaming. All this to encourage interaction.

All of this is good, but may not be enough.

Young people -- certainly 25 and under -- are increasingly listening to radio when there is no other choice. What they like is music discovery not the repetition that radio offers. It is likely that these new CBS CHR stations will have to be repetitive to compete with Clear Channel's dominant brands in New York and LA.

So, here is some advice -- and it's worth exactly what you're paying for it -- about reaching out to a younger radio audience:

1. Less repetition -- even if it goes against your grain. Old PDs know cutting the playlist works in the ratings but it doesn't work with an audience that turned radio off because they can get more music variety on their own -- online, through file sharing sites. The next generation really means it -- they want variety.

2. More genres -- if it's going to be hip-hop and Katy Perry -- lots of luck. The younger end of the desired demo already has a station like that.

3. Authorities who know the music, singers and scene as djs. Radio has failed to keep up with the next generation that knows more about the music than many radio stations. Without this, the format will only be an also ran -- even with the favorable People Meter treatment to youth-oriented music stations.

4. Local artists -- undiscovered and unsigned -- should be "broken" on these stations. They must become music leaders not repeaters if they want to get the attention of the young end of their target demo. Apple knows how to find undiscovered music and make it a hit. Radio can do it, too. My guess is that there won't be a lick of difference between the Z100 and 92.3 Now playlists. That would be a big mistake. The playlists should share only 35-40% of their music. Think "Morning Becomes Eclectic" if you doubt new artists are essential.

5. Build 100 podcasts based around singers, bands, trends and the like and offer them daily as sub-sets of the terrestrial format. That's right -- I said 100! Monetize these without commercials but with sponsorship tie-ins. Get on-air listeners to subscribe to the podcasts as part of being a listener to the terrestrial radio station.

6. It's good to use Twitter, Facebook and MySpace but if the station gets traction in the "local" community, build your own social network that is specific to the music and scene. Let it be a place listeners can go to score tickets, ask questions, find out info not readily available elsewhere and connect them with each other. Again, make music discovery a big part of the station's proprietary social networking site. (And, don't -- I repeat don't -- create a CBS format specific social networking site for all your CHR stations. Keep it local).

7. Dump the usual formatics. The top of the hour has no meaning to this demographic. It is a station that is in continual motion and never stops. There is no need for a traditional hot clock.

8. Run only one unit per break. I see some folks having a heart attack right now -- don't. This generation has a short attention span. They actually like stopping and starting. College students have told me they prefer one commercial and a song over stacking the stopsets. If you watch them closely, as I have, you'll see they frequently don't even wait around to listen to the end of a song on their iPods. Run ten breaks an hour if you must but no music sweeps at the expense of big stopsets. That is so bogus. So non-believable to young people. Do that and you're buying trouble.

9. Build in some social consciousness -- causes, outreach. Gen Y is extremely civic-oriented. If you want them, this is where you must go. Save the public service spots -- I'm talking about cleaning up Central Park, rescuing animals given up because their families can't feed them. Nice local causes that the station champions, organizes, leads and participates in.

10. No liners. No sweepers. I repeat -- nothing says "radio" in the negative sense more than what we love to do -- use liners and sweepers. Think-- "don't say it, do it". They'll get it.

I commend CBS and any group that wants to break out of radio as usual -- broadcasting in a world that has changed so radically. And Clear Channel has done a terrific job maintaining Z100 and "Kiss".

But to build a successful station it will take more than a People Meter bias, more than accessing the top social networks and more than just playing the same music featured by the competitor you're going after.

As Steve Jobs would say, "Think Different".

As I would add, "Think Music Discovery, Social Networking and Civic Involvement".

Go to it and good luck.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. IMPORTANT: First you must check your mail or spam filter to verify your subscription immediately after signing up before daily service can begin.
Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.

BRAINSTORM WITH JERRY. One or two-day "Solutions Labs" to solve problems and to discover new opportunities based on Jerry's work as a professor at the University of Southern California where he helped radio companies, music industry businesses and new media ventures develop creative, revenue-producing ideas. You supply the "goals". Choose the participants in a private setting. Leave with an easy-to-implement "action plan".