This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on April 23, 2019

All of us in the radio industry can relate. For years now, the number-one question we continue to be asked when we tell people what we do is “Does traditional radio have a future with all of the new competition out there like satellite radio, streaming, Spotify, Apple Music etc.?” Of course, the answer is always yes with a long list of reasons and statistics to back that up. But truth be told, there is a chance that traditional radio may become extinct soon, and sadly we have no one else to blame but ourselves.

I recently attended the Worldwide Radio Summit in Los Angeles and as much as I hate to sound cliché, I had on Oprah “Oh Wow!” moment. As I sat listening to radio executives debate the age-old battle of growing spot loads and the impact on ratings, I sensed that Charlie Sislen, President of Research Director, Inc. was trying to change the conversation. Let’s face it, we have to pay the bills, and there’s only one way to do that. That’s something we really can’t control. So, the “Oh Wow!” moment occurred to me when Charlie began to talk about the necessity of appealing to the Gen Z audience in everything we do with our brands, including commercials. Because if we don’t, when this demographic comes of age, traditional radio might not be around anymore.

I’ve worked with a lot of stations that target Adults 35+ because back in the day, that’s where the money was. Now, these same stations are asking the questions they should have been asking years ago, “How can we attract Millennials to our brand?” Radio is essentially playing catch-up because for the last few years, Millennials have been the fastest and largest growing population in the country. And while it’s still important to focus on this group, what most of us don’t realize is that, according to “Investors Guide to Gen Z: Weed, Social Justice and Kylie Jenner,” 2019 is the year that Generation Z becomes the biggest consumer cohort globally, displacing Millennials as a top obsession for investors.

According to the article, companies are trying to figure out how to cash in on the unique shopping and media habits of Gen Z. Sure, they’re between the ages of 7 and 22, but they have the spending power of $143 million in the U.S. alone.

What’s important to note is that Gen Z’s values and spending habits are very different from Millennials. While Millennials are constantly focused on pricing and deals due to large debt, mostly from student loans, it should be noted that Gen Z will spend more on a product or service if the company is invested in social causes like gender and race equality. They want corporations to take a stand on issues.

In addition, while Millennials are exploring craft beer and wine to feel “cultured,” Gen Z prefers weed to alcohol due to the natural factor and lack of hangover the morning after, as well as the fact that it is becoming more socially acceptable since the use of marijuana is becoming legalized more and more across the country.

It should also be noted that one in three Gen Z shoppers will embrace used or second-hand clothing this year. Not because of pricing, but because of their passion for environmental issues.

My point is that traditional radio cannot afford to come to the table late again when it comes to the growing population, fast-paced trends, and younger demographic just because history has instilled in our brains that adults 35+ are all that matter when it comes to ratings and revenue. The goal is to expand both. In order to do that, we must appeal not only to Millennials, but also to Gen Z in ALL formats. In five years, the older formats will be extinct if we don’t figure out a way to speak to young adults in a way that engages them, gives them a voice and makes them feel like “Your Brand” is “Their Brand.” That will require rethinking the way we do everything, particularly when it comes to podcasting and social media and more importantly, how it relates to traditional brands.

The million-dollar question we should be asking ourselves now is, “How is our traditional brand embracing changing technology and population growth on all levels so that it is inclusive and survives all audio and media competition moving forward?”