Around The Dial: Broadcast & Media News Today

News about media and the regulatory environment both inside and beyond Canada's borders.

Millennials And Radio - by David Marsden

Too often - when those of a certain age ponder a younger generation, those thoughts come with knowledge, of which the older is already equipped….but forgetting the younger is not. It’s an assumption - and a bad one.

   Millennials are the group defined as, "those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter." In 2012, they affixed the end point as 2004.

   These Millennials have no idea what their parents or grandparents are talking about when it comes to subjective matters such as music, movies or radio. Definitely NOT radio. The adults in the lives of Millennials may have accidentally taught them that radio is something for in the car.

   But that’s not the older ones' fault. That’s the fault of some radio programmers. Programmers who thought it would be really creative to play the same 500 songs over and over.

   Programmers who thought the greatest thing to do in morning shows, would be to hire people who laughed and laughed and laughed at almost nothing.

   Of course there are exceptions to this rule. IE - Roger and Marilyn. Pete and Geets. And a couple others across our great country. Professionals!

   But the Millennials remember thinking: that’s Dad’s station. Or something they heard when they were in Grandma’s car.

   More importantly, radio was teaching those young kids not to like it. To those kids - the Beatles were akin to Elvis when their parents discovered the Beatles. And so they did what all teens do at a certain point - they searched for something different. About the time the Millennials were heading toward being teenagers, radio failed. It became obvious. It became dull. It failed to inspire.

   The Art Of Radio Programming became a technical exercise: Something many of the folks in the corner offices, who never listened to radio, loved. But it wasn’t radio they loved, rather the applause from the shareholders. Pity.

   Too much radio was interested only in quarter-hours tuned, when perhaps it should have been interested in hours-tuned.

   Ah - but that would go against the whole idea the shareholders had bought into: Quarters meant commercials. Unfortunately, quarters also meant the same commercials over and over. But that didn’t matter. Radio was playing the same songs over and over, so why not the commercials.

   But by the mid-'90s, way above the confines of transmitters, a secret was brewing... Gradually it was sneaking up.

   And the industry most vulnerable?

   Anything related to entertainment - Games. Videos. Music. Radio. Television. Record Stores. Labels. Newspapers. Magazines.

   The list is endless, and each chose not to notice the gathering storm.

   Those businesses didn’t give a damn about the Millennials back then. Record labels ignored what was happening, when in fact, they should have been among the first to wake up and notice. The major labels eventually did notice and immediately got to work catching up.

   When I co-founded Iceberg Media and asked record labels treat Iceberg’s “Radio Stations” as a traditional radio broadcaster, they smiled and laughed. One even told me that the internet would be nothing in the years ahead.

   Perhaps he was thinking of that one day in the '90s when I visited him, but by then the young ones were already way ahead of his thinking.

   It was almost overnight when music fans realized there was more to life than the same 500 songs over and over.

   More importantly, they reacted as any young person of any generation of the past 100 years would have reacted: They called this new technology - theirs. They tucked their gadget under their pillow at night, just as teens had done with transistors way back in the '60s.

   Perhaps the most stunning revolution came with the deep broadening of genre. Once it had been Rock or Disco. Rock or Alternative. Easy Listening or AOR.

   Now genre was too deep to count.

   Certainly - radio, programmed as it was, couldn’t keep up. Nor did some radio want to - or even notice what was happening around them. And that was the moment when the reportedly all important Millennials went away.

  But the Millennials aren’t to blame. When a feast satisfies no one, the active ones, the influencers, will quickly leave and look elsewhere for something to satisfy them.

   And they take the crowd with them.

   Unfortunately, it is very extremely difficult to get them back.

   But it can be done!

   Or radio can sit back and serve the audience it has.

   But over the next few years that captured audience will begin to die off. What a shame that would be.

   Is Radio dead?

   No! But that “no” is tentative - unless action is taken, and taken now.

   Throughout radio’s history, it has always stepped up to the plate and mounted competitive ways to beat whatever was thrown at it.    Whether it was something called television - or perhaps a new idea called stereo - radio has always figured out what to do.

   Unfortunately radio today hasn’t figured out how to compete against this new idea.


   Because broadcasters are fighting the new idea rather than fighting what that idea really is. It’s never about the platform. It is about what is put upon the platform.

   When stereo Rock music came along, the music began to leave AM radio in favour of the two speakers on FM radio.

   AM radio had supported the FM station in the corner for years. I know, because I watched. The DJs and Programmers inside those AM stations didn’t see what was happening until it was too late. There was always the belief that the ivory tower would protect.

   The young people left AM and its hundred songs spun over and over - and began gathering in the Hippie rooms filled with the dimension of FM stereo.

   But it was still radio.

   Too many radio owners really didn’t care, because the money was all going into the same pot. AM or FM. Didn’t matter.

   So the owners didn’t care and neither did the shareholders. Everyone was happy - and at some point, those losing AM stations could be shut off or flipped to FM. All was right with the world.

   But this time there is no other frequency within the license. Nothing to keep the money flowing. And so when this group of Millennials needed to go somewhere, they gathered worldwide on this thing called the Internet.

   But back then, it was nothing to worry about. After all, one couldn’t connect to the Internet in cars. But wasn't the same true of  FM when it first came along? One couldn’t get FM in cars.

   The parallels are endless. Unfortunately, too many are unwilling to take notice.

   This disruptive technology is the new normal in technology, and Millennials, their older siblings and yes - even their parents - are starting to embrace it as the new norm.

   Smartphones and social network penetration. The list gets longer each day. Did you know young cohorts check their phones 150 times each day?

   Both corporate executives and the investors need to step up to the challenge. Or better put, the opportunity!

   Do a little research into smartphones and apps, social media, instantaneous communication, “snackable content,” omni-channel strategies, and making things shareable. Radio really needs to get with the idea of getting it. And that doesn’t mean just putting your signal on your website. It means so much more.

   Music – this is now the #1 spare time activity for 16-34 year-olds who listen 3.5 hours a day, or 75% more than Boomers (1.77h).

   Streaming has become a game-changer, with Millennials spending 143 min/day doing it. But radio is missing out. Sometimes it’s difficult to open one’s eyes to the new truths.

   Can the big overblown radio/media companies - or even the smaller independents - find their way to the Millennials' hearts this time?

   Yes! But this time it won’t be enough to just go across the hall.

   When we started three years ago - some called it a vanity channel.


   It was - and definitely is - a serious entertainment force throughout North America and other parts of the world: 24/7, with six extremely good DJs having the freedom to pick and choose the music they play.

   If radio really wants to last beyond the lifetime of another generation, there will have to be some sobering meetings and a lot of fresh thought given to programming. It’s going to take a lot of work, but it can be done.

   The Millennials are just like all the generations that went before them - but different. Just as video games changed the way kids play, the digital technology is totally changing how we hear music, words, videos, TV and so much more.

   My e-mail address is: and I still have a lot to do…….



-- WestJet has released its fifth annual Christmas video. The airline stayed close to home this year, surprising people whose homes were affected by the devastating May 2016 forest fire in Fort McMurray. It starts off as a bad news story and ends on a high note.



-- Advertising Age reports that Fox is reportedly 90% sold for Super Bowl LI ads in Feb. The publication estimates 30-second spots will likely go for around $5M per.

-- The Young Turks  (TYT Network), an American news and commentary YouTube channel, is raising $2M to fund four investigative teams.  The 2M might seem a lot to raise, but The Young Turks has had success with crowdfunding in the past. In 2014, it turned to Indiegogo in hopes of raising $250K to build a new studio, and it ultimately blew past that goal, picking up more than $400K from its supporters. Here, the base goal is $500K.



Nielsen eyes Gracenote acquisition: Variety cites sources who say such a deal would be between $450M and $500M. The focus for Nielsen would most likely be Gracenote’s automatic content recognition technology >>

-- Spotify reportedly testing on-demand elements in freemium: The feature is called Jump and it would let freemium listeners choose the songs they want to hear on select playlists. Currently, free-tier playlists work only in shuffle mode >>

-- James Cridland column: Radio tagging tool AirShr closes; insights about digital-first radio; no more shortwave for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; Christmasification at Boom 97.3 >>

-- Apple has released a new documentary feature film exclusively on its streaming music platform. The movie is titled 808 and it traces the impact of Roland’s TR-808 drum machine on a range of musical genres and artists. The trailer is watermarked with the Beats 1 logo, making the project appear to be a branded production >>

-- Podcast discovery -- it's a persistent challenge that affects listeners, creators, and distributors. The headline problem? An ocean of content and no easy way to dive deep. One of the best ways to make podcast content visible in general internet searching is to post transcripts. A new service tackles the audio search challenge >>


Selling radio is personal: In his latest blog Dick Taylor asks the question, If you haven’t met with a person, why would you ever leave your station literature behind? He says most salespeople will enter this hit-and-run as a “sales call.” It’s not. >>

-- Pirate drowning out NYC classical FM: The New York Post has the details about how South Brooklyn listeners of classical radio station WQXR are hearing a pirate preaching the Torah over their classical music >>

-- Are you trusting the wrong numbers? By Bob McCurdy - To maximize revenue in 2017 and beyond, we need to expertly mesh digital with on-air.  Digital is as necessary as fruits and vegetables are to a balanced diet, but every so often some additional “traditional” protein is needed to bring back balance >>



YouTube By The Numbers: 1 Day, 300K New Videos + More Surprising Stats: A new look by Pexeso at a day in the life of YouTube has revealed some interesting numbers. It seems music has drifted out of the spotlight somewhat, now coming in at fourth place behind things like gaming and blogs -- Hypebot

Why 2016 will go down as a giant year for the global recorded music biz: Half-year 2016 data shows significant growth in no less than 12 key nations, indicating that a revenue increase in the region of 5% should hold true for the worldwide label business across 2016 -- MBW




Leave a comment