Generational Radio Changes

It used to be that when I went to the beach I saw -- and heard -- boom boxes blaring local radio stations. And those stations were great! Young DJs having fun on the radio.

Each year it is becoming harder to find a visible radio on the beach owned by anyone -- of any age.

The world is changing and I wonder sometimes whether the people running the radio industry are as interested in this important fact as they are trying to save their own necks.

As I warned a long time ago, Citadel seems on the brink of some type of bankruptcy reorganization despite the fact that it made a minor debt payment last week and held off the big filing for a few more months.

But Citadel will likely not come up with the $150 million it needs to stay clear of loan covenants by January 15th. Bankruptcy is a foregone conclusion by those I consult on Wall Street.

That means more layoffs are likely in advance of the new year and a court will probably have to get involved in sorting out the results of Citadel's fiscal mismanagement.

Maybe some stations will become available at realistic prices this time.

Clear Channel and Cumulus, the other two big boys are not far behind in bankruptcy.

Yet, most of the people who are running stations and/or who have run stations know that it is long past the time to look to Wall Street when Main Street is exhibiting so much meaningful change.

While these good former employees may be on the beach (so to speak), they still know how not to drown which is more than can be said about their employers.

So I thought you might be interested in my generational observations on the beach that are perhaps a microcosm of this monumental sociological change that is being ignored by radio's biggest owners and the companies that mimic them.

1. iPods, not radio, are the apparent prevalent source of mobile music entertainment these days. I observed young people walking together with all of them listening to their iPods as they strolled on the beach -- not talking to each other. Even older people had iPods where there were music listeners. Jogging with iPod buds in their ears was more common than running in the surf and listening to the ocean. Maybe there is an app for ocean sounds -- oh, there is!

2. No radios were witnessed in a week of bumming on the beach. Keep in mind that I was at Long Beach Island after Labor Day, the traditional time young people return to school in the east. Oh, no radios by older people as well.

3. Cell phones were on everywhere. Blackberries, iPhones, smartphones, cell phones -- boy, have we ruined a getaway. Me, too. I stood in the surf and made notes on my iPhone for business, personal, the book I am writing about unlocking human potential and notes for these pieces. When an idea came to me, I walked back far enough away from the water (in case I dropped my iPhone) and punched away at notes. I would then walk back into the surf awaiting my next "capturable" thought. I know, I wouldn't go on vacation with me either! I used to use a legal pad. Everyone was on the phone as they are seemingly everywhere else. Forget the sunset or the ocean sounds, no exemption from a cell phone. My wife observed one young girl staying back while her friends went into the water up to their knees. She was texting. Texting never stops.

4. I usually visit the Inlet Deli where my friend Mike Anderson's daughter, Jennifer, used to work when she was a teenager. What clue did the young gal have that I was over 40 (other than the obvious) when I bought three newspapers to read on the beach. Used to be you couldn't find a paper unless you went early in the day. Now, you've got plenty to wrap fish in because fewer people buy them (some habits are hard to break even for a cellular Renaissance man). I observed some people reading books (older), and not one person reading a paper on a calm day. I saw some older folks using a Kindle on the flight to Philly, but that's another story. Why read when we can connect, see and hear?

5. I was able to monitor the Eagles-Saints game Sunday -- all day -- on my iPod and the Jets fans who shared this beach located equidistant between Philadelphia and New York were also snagged peeking. The Giants fans were free because their team played Sunday night -- unless they wanted to know how other NFL teams were doing. And during the USC game, I got the urge to throw my phone into the sea -- don't ask.

6. For two days the weather was so bad on this barrier island that there were predictions of tidal flooding, high winds, etc. When I turned to Harvey Cedars emergency radio station -- you know, the one that would lead an evacuation over the only bridge that connects the island with the mainland -- they had minimal weather information and mostly public service announcements. Local radio stations did better, but weather and emergency info on demand took the day -- smart phone apps and Harvey Cedar's own municipal emergency site that it did keep current.

Many of my readers confirm or enhance observations like these when I write about how massive the sociological switch is from traditional media to online, mobile and social networking sites.

What is worthy of note is that although the next generation lead this socio-techno change, Gen X and even baby boomers are also modifying their habits. They want it when they want it as well -- on demand.

All this doesn't seem to worry my programming, managerial or sales friends who are being forced to do radio the big "C" way (Cumulus, Clear Channel, Citadel).

They know that radio people have all the skills necessary to do better terrestrial broadcasting for the available audience as well as port their skills over to new media.

Their bosses may not know or care right now - but they know.

To borrow a salty analogy: they know the wisdom to fish where there are fish.

We can do this -- and will -- once bankruptcy kills off one or more of the reasons the radio industry is failing to respond to generational media changes currently taking place.

For those of you who would prefer to get Jerry's daily posts by email for free, please click here. IMPORTANT: Your subscription will not become “active” until you open an email from Feedburner immediately sent to your email inbox or spam filter.

Thanks for forwarding my pieces to your friends and linking to your websites and boards.