This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on May 21, 2019
In a recent conversation with radio executives, the debate was whether or not a low performing music station in the South should be flipped to an FM News/Talk station in a military retirement town. Sure, it seems like the obvious choice, except how were we going to monetize it? There would be little to no investment in local talent, prime shows would be syndicated, there would be little to no investment in traditional marketing, and social media marketing would be useless with retirees. There would also be little opportunity for NTR and event dollars. The majority of retirees have already invested their money in real estate, automobiles and healthcare. And military salaries are for the most part limited. What else is there to sell in a conservative town in the South?
In the last two years I have been asked to monitor a number of under-performing News/Talk stations on FM frequencies. Most of the time, I have the same reaction. The majority of them need a face lift. Not only because the presentation is outdated, but also because the talent isn’t speaking to the largest available growing population. While it’s important to maintain the base (which is predominately older men), it’s critical to grow the audience so you can continue to grow revenue. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard talk show hosts say something along the lines of “Well, that’s what the kids are calling it,” or “That’s what the kids are doing these days.” And that’s exactly why the audience isn’t growing. Because instead of being inclusive, these hosts are talking AT the potential audience instead of engaging them.
Let’s face it: Real talent, regardless of age, have the ability to reinvent themselves. The politics and ideology don’t have to change, but the approach and appeal to the audience, as well as how the message is delivered has to change. Extensions of the brand also need to reflect those changes. Social media and podcasting will be critical in getting the attention of the growing audience so the message is directed back to the mother ship.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not referring at all to any of the legendary monster AM brands that continue to drive some of the highest revenue in the country, like WINS, KFI, KCBS, etc. These brands are untouchable at the moment. They continue to serve their purpose in major cities and continue to drive revenue. Besides, the reality that younger demos would ever turn to AM radio for entertainment is laughable. The future of these brands is a much longer conversation, which should most likely involve the FCC.
But I am referring to FM Talk brands. While the majority of millennials in Talk radio are only producers, we need to start looking for social media influencers and podcasters to utilize on traditional brands to attract the younger demos, or think about grooming those producers and giving them a shot at their own shows. If anything, we need to at least look at adding more of the new guard vs. the old guard (regardless of politics) when it comes to hiring talent on our traditional talk signals. We should be looking at hosts who speak to the younger demographic without blowing off the base. Good examples of millennial contributors on both sides are: Ben Shapiro, Dana Loesch, Larry Elder, Hasan Minhaj and Jaboukie Young-White, Ira Glass, The Young Turks, and Samantha Bee. These hosts spark passion for both sides and engage their audiences in ways that makes them feel like their opinions and causes matter. That is critical to the success of creating and/or nurturing a brand.
This leads to a bigger question: Is “Millennial Talk” a real format possibility? Based on the success of political podcasting, TV and social media, I would say yes. But again, the challenge is capitalizing on that now, because if we don’t figure out a way to grow our reach and revenue with a younger demo on these upper-end stations, they could cease to exist in the near future.
This would limit formats on traditional FM signals and contribute to the bigger problem of lack of variety among radio brands. This strengthens the concern that traditional radio won’t survive the ever-evolving development of audio competition. Then what? The only way to prevent that from happening is to step out of the box and change the way we present our content on traditional signals and utilize our extension of those brands to market them to a younger ever-growing population.