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Everyone Knows It’s Whimsy

How do music radio stations and morning shows fare against Social Media when it comes to importance in daily lives of consumers? When we asked over 2100 respondents across all PPM markets in the most recent NuVoodoo Ratings Prospect Study, the results were drawn across generational lines. With any 25+ demo slice, their favorite music radio station was important to more than was Social Media – though it’s not until we jettison those born after 1960 that music radio is a clear winner over Social Media.

It makes sense, for those who’ve come of age during the advent of Social Media, radio cannot compete for daily importance in their lives. Your Social Media channel is all about you – people, brands, interests important to you. At best, your favorite music radio station is composed to be all about people like you – not you specifically.

Nevertheless, music radio remains important in the lives of nearly half these 14-64’s overall – and over 40% of the Millennials in the sample. The challenge is maintaining and even increasing daily relevance for all listeners – and, most importantly, those who’ll be occupying the heart of the sought-after 25-54 demo in the course of the next few years.

Many of us grew up at a time when radio was our connection to whatever was cool in our youth culture. Network TV didn’t have time or recognize the need to resonate with youth. So-called underground newspapers in some cities helped, but only published weekly. We connected with our culture back then via radio stations with DJ’s who lived and breathed the music culture of the day and connected us to upcoming concerts long before an email blast from Ticketmaster or the artist himself were imagined.

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Legendary programming veterans like Bill Tanner talk about the “predictable unpredictability” that many stations used to strive for in the past – and many of the very best still do today. It’s a reminder that radio is an entertainment medium and not a utility. There’d be calamitous outcomes if the power company decided it would be fun to change from 60 Hertz to 66 Hertz for a few minutes every few hours or the water company decided to pump Coca Cola instead of water on April Fools’ Day.

But radio needs those irregularities to remain interesting and relevant. It’s the oh-wow or other pleasantly unexpected song in each segment. It’s the promotion wrapped around an event in the market, but twisted just enough to get a smile and become worthy of mentioning to friends. Sometimes it is production that might sacrifice strategic positioning for just a moment to play to some flight of fancy or theater of the mind.  It’s thinking about radio as a medium that creates a community – and not just a commodity.

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