Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dire Predictions about Radio

The majority of the time that the word "radio" is mentioned in any sort of media trend story it's in reference to commercial radio. I continue to be amazed that indie, community, college, pirate and non-commercial radio are not given their due. Of course every type of radio is facing challenges in 2009 in gaining listeners, volunteers, and funding. The mantra that I hear over and over again, though, is that for young people radio is no longer relevant.

This week, Radio Ink offers up radio expert Mark Hubbard's predictions about radio. He argues:

"Young people (those under 25) are no longer listening to radio with any loyalty or regularity. I do informal surveys with my college classes. It is rare when more that 20% have even listened to a radio in a given day..."

Another point that he makes is that radio itself isn't offering exciting content. He states:

"...The product on radio today isn’t very compelling (except for play-by-play sports for the person that can’t get to a television). The industry completely missed the media revolution and could have been at the hub of the wheel (if it hadn’t been asleep at it). Even personality radio is boring..."

Of course he's probably talking about commercial radio. But, I know that college radio stations are attracting young listeners. So there are radio fans out there below the age of 25. How do these arguments make you feel if you are a radio listener? Personally, I do think there is compelling, interesting, and entertaining stuff going on in college radio today. I continue to learn about new music, hear amazing live performances, and catch fascinating public affairs programming on college and community radio stations. But, I guess for the pundits, non-commercial radio has little relevance. Too bad.


Hunter said...

I don't think that Hubbard here is completely off-base, but I think radio will hold on way past '09. I think community radio is at a point where the majority of its listeners tune in as supporters of community radio and what it represents. While ideally community radio would be listened to by more than that small demographic, I think they're pretty die-hard.

I think these are challenging times for radio, but exciting times because you have to adapt, something that all three stations I've worked with so far realize. And this is where community radio has an edge, I think. Greater ability to open lines of communication with listeners so that we can learn and adjust, then market our specialties to a global audience.

In the stations I've worked in, younger audiences, including the college crowd, aren't the real focus, but older listeners appreciate hearing the raw product of college radio. MP3 players are just another portable music device, younger listeners don't tune in because they can engage music within the packed social atmopshere of college or high school, they don't need a DJ to tell them what's going on and often they're only concerned with the music that's "going on". That said, students being involved in radio is just as popular as ever.

Jon Schleuss said...

@Hunter I agree. It seems that those involved in College Radio are really involved. A few months ago a student DJ was a fire-breather at our outdoor carnival. How many commercial stations have volunteer fire breathers? It just doesn't happen.

There's something mysterious with college kids and radio.