If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve gotten that question from people throughout your career. Either in the beginning from a parent or other family member who thought you should’ve gone into something more lucrative and stable. Or, more recently from someone who asks what you do for a living, and when they hear radio, responds with a slightly insulting remark or follow up question like ‘that’s still a thing’ or ‘people still listen to the radio?’ Since I live in a family of radio people and many of my friends are in the business in some way or another, I’m a little insulated from that myself but I still meet the occasional stranger that throws a dagger or two. Skipping past the part about how and why I got my start since I grew up in it, here’s a slightly longer version of how I answer the question of ‘why do choose to still work in radio?’ that also gets to the heart of why advertising on the radio is still an effective way to spend a portion of any company’s ad dollars.
Radio, when done correctly, is a very powerful way to connect with lots of people. Although not as interactive in recent years as it should be, terrestrial radio is at it’s core, is communal. A handful of people are curating an experience that’s tailor made to attract and retain the attention of the masses. That’s one of the challenges of being a radio personality, and why it often takes years to get good at it. It requires talent who are capable of performing like their talking to one person, but that conversation has to simultaneously appeal to thousands. Personalities who excel at it have learned to identify a couple of things everyone is talking about that day, include the minimum amount of details necessary to not confuse the audience and come up with interesting angles to personalize, localize and energize them so it’s entertaining. For the Program Directors more broadly, their task is to choose music, imaging and contests that create a vibe the target audience can connect with. Anyone who doesn’t think that people still form deep emotional connections with radio stations should man the phones and answer emails after a station flips formats. I’ve done so on numerous occasions and have been called several things that can’t be repeated and even had people threaten violence (one guy threatened to cut down the station’s tower once, which hit home because that actually happened to us when I was a kid). But, I get it. People are passionate about their favorite radio station because it’s a part of their daily routine and most people don’t like someone else forcing them to change that routine. They get up, shower, drink their coffee, get in the car, throw on their favorite station and head into work. Leave out any one of those things and it can throw their whole day into chaos.
The other reason why I choose to still work in radio is simple, it still pays the bills. Radio has allowed me to live a comfortable life for quite some time now and there’s no indication that’s changing any time soon. It’s still a 15.4-billion-dollar industry and, although it used to be a 17-billion-dollar industry, I’m confident that out of necessity it’s going to continue transitioning into digital so it can pick up some of the 250-billion-per-year the content creation industry brings in. Even in 2023, virtually everyone has a radio and stats and studies show that the VAST majority of people still listen to the radio. Maybe not as often in particular age groups as they did in prior years, hence why we need to be active on every platform they are, but they are listening. That’s why, again when done correctly, radio advertising is still a cost-effective way to promote any business. Doing it correctly requires the inventory to be priced accordingly and based off tangible things like ratings, clicks or other trackable audience estimates. Plus, we have to hire, recruit and train sales reps who know what questions to ask to A) put their clients into an integrated advertising solution that will actually work for them and B) coach them into messaging that will appeal to that station’s target audience.
Most importantly though, radio is still a lot of fun. Like any job there are mundane parts that can get a little tiresome and boring. But, overall it allows me to flex my creative muscle which keeps me happy and I get to work with lots of weird, funny and interesting people. Often, I’m able to help those people improve to a point where they’re more valuable to the company they work for so they get bigger and better jobs, earn more money and improve their quality of life, which brings me more joy than I can articulate.
What about you? Why do you work in radio? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com.
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