Can A Format For The 55-72 Demo Work?


John Sebastian thinks it can because he says of The Wow Factor. “The Wow Factor will attract multi-generational (family) listening, meaning that listeners both younger and older will find it appealing.” That’s what Sebastian told Richard Wagoner of The Los Angeles Daily News who wrote a column about Sebastian’s idea.

Sebastian tells Wagoner that demo is getting the short end of the stick when and radio stations are missing out on a lot of revenue. “Sure, there are stations that boomers listen to, but that’s more of an accident. Most stations try to attract a younger audience, some go for an older audience, and boomers will tend to listen to those stations because they like radio and it’s the best they have. But no one programs directly to them. And yet they are the group most loyal to radio.”

In The L.A. Daily News column Sebastian says his eclectic Wow Factor format is a wide variety of music boomers grew up with that has never been heard before on the radio. “Top-40, AOR, classic rock, smooth jazz and country are all part of the mix.”

Sebastian says the 75 million boomers hold 70% of the wealth in the United States, account for 42% of consumer spending, and radio has stopped trying to attract them. He claims these advertiser categories are ripe for the 55-72 demo if radio paid more attention to them: Upscale auto dealers, banks, investment companies, insurance companies, upscale restaurants, vacation clients, retirement homes and communities, senior care, specialty physicians, plumbers, handymen.”

Check out Wagoner’s L.A. Times column HERE. Reach out to Sebastian by e-mail at [email protected]


  1. As a proponent of what John is in the process of perfecting, I can say that I definitely had “Booners” in mind when I launched. in 2005. We’ve made some adjustments but we still offer a hybrid mix of Pop, Rock, R&B, and Dance, a playlist carefully curated and mixed by hand, lots of “oh wow” songs, and have enjoyed 4 straight years of major growth since relaunching in 2015. We’re available for 24/7 distribution via the Synchronicity platform, and John I’m rooting for you old pal. We should discuss Wow Factor and our Sync delivery system.! There’s certainly room to program to us – the “Boomers” and make money doing it ! Go get em John !

  2. Oh, never mind the reply. I just re-read the re-worked article and Mr. Sebastian’s amazement that his 60+ home was being bombarded with 60+ targeted ads has been omitted – an ability that cable/sat providers have that radio does not.

    I can appreciate re-working the article to Mr. Sebastian’s professional benefit, and that speaks well of a radio oriented publication to save radio people from potential professional embarrassment, but why censor me?

  3. I am very pleased to read that Bobby Rich is dropping the absolute quantifiers (Best, Biggest, Most, All etc.) – sometimes referred to as “hype & bull****”.
    His is a very astute move and definitely constitutes an improvement-of-sorts.
    Maybe the communicative aspects of radio might yet be addressed.

  4. I am yet another long-time proponent of serving the Boomers, and those who “Identify As 45-64” from both sides of the Nielsen demos. Also a long time friend and fan of John Sebastian. Like many others I’ve been cheering him on and anxiously awaiting the WOW.

    On August 1, 2019 I introduced my version on KDRI Tucson, The DRIVE. We don’t run typical liners or the usual boastful BS. We don’t have the MOST or BETTER or BEST of anything. We don’t identify eras or songs-in-a-row or minutes-of-music-per-hour. We have the two-minute max rule for spots (up to 3 breaks an hour.) We’re live all day M-F and 10 hours Sat and Sun with talent who all have Tucson backgrounds. We don’t label the format, even within the industry, because it’s different.

    Early response is wildly positive. Sales effort just getting underway.

    P.S. As a lifelong programmer and jock the only way this would happen was by ownership. I am an investor, programmer and morning host of a locally owned and operated station. No corporate oversight, doing it because it feels right.

  5. In reference to The Big A comments. I appreciate your take but The Wow Factor is nothing like AAA. I’ve programmed AAA, I know it well. The Mix I’ve created does not exist on any full signal FM station in the nation. Its potential is nearly unlimited.

    • John you are right. And who knows who “The Big A” really is… he often is a shill for Bob Pittman and iHeart. And guaranteed that Pittkan/iHeart are terrified that an outsider like you, might actually launch a new breakthrough format that shows innovativeness and creativity. Because iHeart wants to be perceived as the industry leader. Yet, their “leading” for years has been to add voice-tracking to multiple dayparts on many of their stations, run intolerably long commercial clusters that just drive listeners away, and pay many of their announcers (not personalities, but announcers) peanuts. So they are terrified that a pro like you, might actually bring some innovativeness back to radio, and show them up badly. That’s why “The Big A” is trying to dismiss you, with his comments. …Good luck John!!

      • Not sure what you’re talking about. I’m simply expressing my opinion. What’s wrong with that? I don’t know of anyone “terrified” of an innovative format. I just don’t see this as being innovative.

  6. I have been thinking about John Sebastions format for some time now and truly believe it could be tweaked a scosh to fit a specific mkt! Definitely medium to small mkts! Imaging and sales team emphasis is most definitely a factor! An enthusiastic air staff, goes without saying! Gettin back to what made radio what it was, adjusting to digital media, could be a success!

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  8. We have 5 Boomer stations in Omaha. It makes for quite a fun legal ID. “KOBM Omaha, KIBM Omaha Council Bluffs, KOBM-FM Blair, K233CO Omaha, K281CJ Omaha”

  9. Those that are programming the so-called “Oldies” stations have been missing the boat for a couple of decades.
    The Boomer market, which includes fairly substantial peripheral demographics, as well, has more in its memory banks than just rock ‘n’ roll or pop. We freaked out in the mid-’60’s, to be sure. And we got sucked in during the British Invasion.
    But we did not get sucked into a black hole. We were being exposed to and had an appreciation for any number of musical elements – and we liked them, too.
    While it would be easy enough to expand a playlist taking into account those factors while throwing out the 300-cut playlists, John’s challenge, I believe, is to provide an on-air staff that can be of interest and a Creative Department that can provide much better and more influential copy.
    Demonstrations of superb ROI’s for the advertisers that do sign on will be more than enough to drag in the larger interests.
    I hope he pulls it off, and I wouldn’t blame him for saying, “Told ya!”

  10. Echoing some of the sentiment here, from people I respect.

    John’s biggest challenge is going to be finding smaller market stations that can afford to pay for programming rather than roll their own. The top markets won’t be interested because they’re almost entirely national advertising based in revenue … and we all know from years upon years of experience that we’re not going to convince the agencies to buy the older demos unless their clients decide to market to us (which apparently is going to happen when pigs start flying).

    Any station that runs this format — and I have no doubt John will do a stellar job at it — is going to need a great local sales staff and production wizards to create great spot packages. Anything less than a total commitment in either of those areas will be unsuccessful.

    All that having been said, I hope that John has a couple of good, standout successes, because that’s exactly what we need to convince Madison Avenue of the demo’s viability.

    • It is not the agencies that are the problem. In the major markers, the vast majority of stations are owned by iHeart and Entercom. Both of those corporate companies are run top-down by CEO’s surrounded by suits that mimic and validate the direction of the CEO’s. Innovation, creativity, and risk-taking would not be tolerated. Not sure why they even have or need Regional VP’s or Market Managers– they are eunuchs, with zero authority to do anything without corporate direction and approval. So forget the major market stations– move on, nothing to see here! …Sebastian is highly talented, and possibly in the medium markets he might find stations with good owners, willing to be creative and take risks– what a concept! Just like radio used to be.

      • “In the major markers, the vast majority of stations are owned by iHeart and Entercom.”

        Both companies have launched 70s soft rock stations in several major markets, so they clearly aren’t afraid of programming to older audiences.

        • Never said they were afraid. And you’re off point- 70s soft Rock is not what Sebastian is concepting, so top trying to categorize it – and, there is zero innovative about 70s soft Rock, which has been around long before the current management of Entercom and iHeart. They both inherited stations already programmed with that format. … Next!!-

          • The article here is about appealing to an older demographic. That’s what the title says. The companies you list own stations that do that.

            Sebastian’s format exists right now. It’s called AAA. They play the mix of genres he’s talking about. Nothing unique there either. The problem is it’s primarily a non-commercial format. If he finds a way to make money with it, more power to him. My point is he’s not the first person to propose such a thing.

    • FYI KSHE doesn’t target 55 to 72. Classic rock actually targets 25-54, and attracts a good number of 18-34. If you try to mix in oldies and smooth jazz, the demos would go up dramatically.

  11. I believe WECK in Buffalo is the best example of how to target the 55-72-year old demographic. But hey — my dad is 75 and he and my stepmom are looking at a new car, purchasing a condo while selling theirs and thinking about travel plans over the next year.

    Still … advertisers don’t care. WRLX in West Palm Beach as a Soft AC was a top-rated radio station with lousy ad sales. It takes a village of AEs and a good Power Point to demonstrate to the millennials in Manhattan that they’re not the ones spending money on anything other than avocado toast and late payments on the credit cards used to fund their student loans.

  12. The fact is there are a lot of smaller stations doing this around the country. Not a unique idea at all. The catch is all of the advertising is local, so all of the expense needs to be in the sales department. A station can easily find a syndicated format that plays 60s music. It costs money to create packages for the kinds of advertisers who might want to reach this audience.

  13. John’s format IS unique (I took part in the music tests as I am a boomer at 62). I’ve also been a radio programmer who took an oldies station to #1 in a rated market and kept it at or near there for three years, and then lost the gig because the agencies in Chicago and local advertisers said our audience (#1 12 plus, 25-54 AND 35-64) was “too old”.

    For God’s sake, radio managers…wake up here! This man programmed 93/KHJ in the years immediately following the initial “Boss Radio Boom” of the mid to late 1960’s. It was still a market leader when he was there. (A time during which I had a chance to visit the lobby of the station during my first vacation from a full time radio job.)

    I am succeeding with a hybrid oldies-classic hits format on an LPFM operation in a small resort town in Ohio. Why? Because THESE PEOPLE HAVE MONEY! AND SPEND IT! On houses (typical house near the Lake is about $200,000 – $350,000 and up), home repairs, cars, exercise equipment, motorcycles, etc. We do this format because commercial radio won’t…and have turned “profit” back into our non profit business now for about 7 years.

    John’s format is not “strictly” oldies, though there’s a good component of old music in there. And it would reach that audience and I would suspect the demo might even find some success in demos down to the mid 40’s, too.

    I own a home…spent $18,000 in cash fixing it up. Hey, Menards! Hey, Home Depot! Why do you think you got your share of it? Because of your RADIO ADS. I looked for bargains.

    Radio today is dropping dimes to pick up pennies. And it’s high time that stopped.


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