Dear Radio Executive:
I received two interesting calls in the last 24 hours - from 'kingpins' at high levels at two of the biggest advertising agencies in the land. They wanted to apologize.
Apologies from such lofty men and women who control so much of the advertising dollar in the U.S. are hard to come by, so I promised that comments I may use in my blog or in research we do at Bridge Ratings would be anonymous.
One of biggest - and quietest - radio industry issues to come out of the last ten years has been the theory that one key reason radio is experiencing such attrition from teens and young adults is the perfect storm that was created as technology eclipsed radio's lack of compelling youth radio content. The logic goes that if radio had been a bit more aggressive with radio programming geared to 13-24 year olds over the last ten years, it is possible that radio time-spent-listening among this group would not have fallen so sharply.
But, the chicken-and-the-egg fairytale dictates that radio would have gladly pursued such a course of teen programming if ad agencies would have supported it. No big ad dollars for teen radio - not likely money-hungry broadcasters would spend the resources required.
So, what about those calls from ad agency big-shots?
The calls (I just got another while writing this blog) were about the just-released report by TRU, a subsidiary of Research International, that revealed that teen spending in 2006 had reached $179 billion. That amounts to about $180 in disposable income per average teen per month. These media buyers have apparently awoken from a deep sleep (or deep denial) and were asking poignant questions about the possibility of a rebirth of youth radio and what would I recommend.
I pointed them to a Bridge Ratings' study we published earlier this year that glancingly mentioned some new youth radio formats that had tested extremely well. Not really a mystery since the radio formats were put together and researched with the help of a pretty smart group of average 13-21 year olds.
Formats of particular interest to these media buyers had working titles of "Youth News" and "Current Blend".
"Youth News" is fairly easy to figure out - only you wouldn't believe how good it sounded in testing. That's because this new youth information format was written and delivered by no one older than 24 and it had music throughout.
"Current Blend" is a bit more difficult to decipher. However, I can tell you that it's a music-focused radio format that is not currently heard anywhere on the planet on traditional, satellite or Internet radio!
So, I'm excited because there seems to be a glimmer of anticipation on the part of some of the smarter media buyers about radio formats that focus on 13-21 year olds.
It would seem that they have just been waiting for something like this to come along.
I asked these buyers if radio stations began popping up around the country with these two ideas (and more), would they send more dollars - many more dollars - their way, and these buyers gave a profound "yes"! response...."...but only if they get ratings..." they concluded.
I asked, "Where have you been placing youth ad dollars over the last few years?".
They replied, "CHR and Rock stations, primarily. But we know we're missing a tremendous number of these kids because many of them don't listen to those formats."
I have no doubt that traditional radio can regain some of the lost youth listening it has been faced with in recent years. And these formats will do amazingly well with both of Arbitron's methodologies (diary and People Meter).
Which broadcaster(s) have the courage to step up?
I'm waiting for your call. 818-291-6420.
I welcome your comments. Let me hear from you. Your feedback is vital to our company's on-going success. Respond to this letter.
Dave Van Dyke