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Tweens are Radio's Future: Let's Treat 'Em That Way

For Immediate Release:

Wednesday July 25, 2007

A just-released Bridge Ratings study strips off the negative hype associated with the future of traditional radio.

The new study of 3314 kids between the ages of 8 and 12 conducted during February/March and June/July 2007 indicates that though exposed to many of the new technologies their older counterparts have been, AM/FM radio still provides a high level of satisfaction.

Interviews were conducted with parent supervision.

Much has been written about how traditional radio has forgotten its younger listeners and that it their experience with new media options will have dramatic impact on radio's future. The truth of this study is that while many of today's 15-19 year olds are spending more time with their digital music players, cell phones and the Internet for the same experience their predecessors got from AM/FM radio, Tweens - those between 8 and 12, are still experiencing radio and loving it.

The client associated with this study is a company that markets consumer products to the young-adult (13-18 year old) demographic and is seeking answers about the future of this group. Not today's 13-18 year olds - the 13-18 year olds of 2012.

First off, we wanted to get a benchmark on how much time Tweens spend with traditional radio. We asked the panel about their radio and other media habits in February and again in June/July. This is what their radio listening consumption looks like:

Winter/Summer listening increased among this demographic due primarily to lifestyle (school) adjustments and more free time. The Tweens in this study spend over 13 hours a week, just under 2 hours per day listening to AM or FM radio.

The panel was asked about their intent to listen More, The Same, or Less to a variety of media. Three of the most interesting are plotted on this chart:

Use of MP3 players among Tweens - as with all young groups we've measured - continues to see increasing use. Here 8-12 year olds state that among all their choices, even TV, they intend to use their MP3 player more in the next six months. Traditional radio does surprisingly well.

Tweens use of media hinges largely on access of that media during a typical day. As one might suspect, TV has the largest reach into this demographic - as does radio. 21% of the Tween panel has access to a cell phone daily with only slightly more gaining access to a device that will allow them to Instant Message or Text.

In this chart provided by Alloy Media Marketing, behavior comparison among Tweens and Teens related to a variety of weekly activities sheds some light on future use among Tweens.

For example 78% of Teens engage in email activity at least once per week while 40% of their Tween counterparts do.

This Bridge Ratings study shows that Tweens have a higher interest in listening to AM/FM radio than previously thought. The results also indicate that at this young age 8-12 year olds' preference for traditional radio is somewhat based on a controlled environment but there is considerably individual preference here as well. Less than half of the Tween sample had access to Internet radio on a typical day. However, when we asked the panel to rate their preferences among all the media they have access to rankings changed.

While 82% of the Tween panel had access to an AM/FM radio station on a typical day, 62% responded that they liked listening to the radio. 30% said they liked it "a lot". As you can see, TV faired quite well in the "Like a lot" vote with 71% and, interestingly, of all the "Don't Like" votes, cell phones scored the highest with 18% responding with that answer.

Of all of the above media, "watching DVD's" (55%) was second to TV in the amount of votes for "Like a lot", followed by "using email" (46%).

So, despite radio's moderate score in the "Like a lot" vote, overall, it would appear that Tweens have not as yet been tainted on radio, i.e. at this age they like it and a significant number still listen for more than 13 hours per week. This compares with the Teen panel in our study which - on average - listens less. Tteens listened just over 9 hours per week in July.

In fact, teen listening went down during the non-school period in June/July - just the opposite of the Tweens in our panel.

Finally, what radio formats do our Tweens prefer to listen to? 60% named the Top 40/CHR station in their town as the one they listen to the most and Radio Disney scored quite well with 52% indicating that was a station they listen to often. Oldies scored well here along with other adult radio formats but at least 40% of the radio listening done by this age group was done when an adult was controlling the radio. However, even in those circumstances, in over 90% of the cases the choice of station was made by the adult was made in deference to the child.

Final Thoughts

What are the implications of this data?

The data suggests that radio still has a chance with the teens and young adults of five to ten years from now.

Bridge Ratings analysis of teens over time has shown that while they may have very definite opinions of the media they use and won't use, as teens age, a high percentage of them tend to adopt media usage behaviors more common to young adults, i.e. opinions and preferences soften with age and even some radio formats that were not used when they were teens (News/Talk for example), become a larger component of their weekly listening.

For the future of the radio business, radio still has potential among 8-17 year olds. Teens may be a more difficult transition since the radio industry has provided little in the way of content over the last 10 years to nurture teen listening, but this study proves that it isn't too late for Tweens to be nutured by radio.

And traditional radio can learn something from Radio Disney as a format that Tweens find compelling, exciting and involving. Tweens prefer these traits to non-stop music/no personality radio and Radio Disney may be doing a favor for the radio industry in that it has developed a generation of listeners who have a "thing" for interesting radio. If radio companies put thought into extrapolating these positives into formats that will continue to capture the imagination of young listeners, radio has a better than average chance of retaining a high percentage of these young listeners, to stave off audience attrition and begin to rebuild confidence in the service it provides.


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