Getting Younger People Into Radio By Andy Meadows

Writing off an entire generation of potential radio listeners isn’t a good long-term plan for our industry. Yes, it’s true that in general younger people are less likely to listen to terrestrial radio than previous generations. It’s also true that if you ask a hundred high school kids what they want to be when they grow up it’s unlikely that any of them will say they want to work in radio. Instead, you’d get a lot of answers like YouTube star, Twitch streamer, Social Influencer and so on. I think these two challenges radio faces feed off each other and therefore the solution is to address them both simultaneously. Here are a few thoughts on doing that.

Recruiting more young employees. Radio is still a great way to earn a living while pursuing the dream of being a digital content creator like a YouTube Star, Twitch Streamer, Podcaster or Social Influencer. But most radio studios are still set up more like caves. They’re well-built for broadcasting and recording audio, but too dark to shoot video without spending a lot of time rolling in lighting and video equipment (which is part of the reason why many stations don’t record video very often). If instead we design our studios around all the kinds of content we need to create daily, making sure we have good lighting and sight-lines to capture video content while we’re broadcasting audio, we’ll be more likely to attract younger employees and put to use the digital skills they’ll walk through the door with. Of course, we’re competing with other industries for those young employees so it’s important that we have competitive pay and benefit packages and are at least open to some level of remote working where applicable. Those younger employees shouldn’t be used to save money and push out seasoned, experienced broadcasters, instead they should work alongside them allowing each to raise the skillsets of the other in the areas they’re stronger. It also shouldn’t be assumed that older employees can’t excel on the digital side because digital is by no means only for the young.

Attracting young listeners. We can’t all be classic hits stations. Yes, there’s room for at least one in most every market but there’s also plenty of room for new music formats as well. But, new music formats built around an old and outdated model for adding music that’s based almost entirely on looking at what other radio stations add is not how you attract younger listeners. We have to adapt to how music is consumed today. That’s why we look at the same data that record labels look at and pair that with some fun digital elements to help collect local and regional data so we can better advise our consulting clients on what music to add, move and drop each week. Another key to attracting young people is to be active on ALL the platforms they’re active on. This is where recruiting and hiring young people comes in really handy because those employees are more likely to connect with their peers on those digital platforms. In addition to that, and especially in the absence of it, we can crowdsource some of our content creation by doing targeted contests with the goal of getting our younger listeners to create content on our behalf.

Young people will still listen to the radio as long as it’s targeted toward them by speaking their language and reflecting what they’re into. They will also happily work for a radio station that gives them a steady paycheck to put their digital skills to use while learning to master the art of radio broadcasting. I’ve coached on-air talent that were fresh out of college to the top of their markets and I’ve recently partnered with a prominent college and high school to help them modernize their radio facilities and curriculum. I’m happy to say that both of those experiences have reassured me that it is absolutely possible to get young people into radio if we’re willing to adapt and evolve our processes, procedures and facilities.

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