(By Jeff McHugh) In 2014, I wrote about Gordon Borell of Borell Associates making the prediction that half of all AM/FM stations would go dark by 2024. In 2020 we learned that stations going silent are at an all-time high.
The pandemic economy is to blame for some recent sign-offs. Some are low-power FMs and small AMs which are tough to make money with even in a good economy.
But pandemic aside, there are now more smart speakers in homes than radios, more at-home listeners tune in through computer and smartphone and AM/FM car radios are being replaced by internet connected dashboards. Talk about competitive!
Radio lives on the economy, which will determined in the short term by our pandemic response and it has not gone as well in the United States as in other countries. (Wear a mask, people!)
In tough times, debt-ridden corporations may run out of people to fire and resort to station sign-offs. Perhaps it will not be half of all stations, but I’ll bet a lot more will go silent by 2024.
The signals that remain lit and profitable will belong to companies that build on the human connection that has always been radio’s strength.
Research proves that entertaining personalities are the #2 draw to AM/FM today right behind, “it’s free.”
Music is less of an attraction reason for traditional radio listeners. Without a likable, well-prepared host to keep them company, generic music playlists and heavy commercial loads are a poor competitor to customizable services like Spotify.
What corporations missed as they “restructured” is that personalities are more important to people than the station.
Howard Stern has way more social media followers than SiriusXM. Charlamagne Tha God has more followers than his show, The Breakfast Club.
Entertaining talent is the path to profit. Our clients build long-lasting relationships with advertisers through personality endorsements, and many are building podcast audiences for future revenue growth.
There are over 10,000 stations on the air in America today. On your next evening drive, look around at the red lights of all the many blinking towers on the skyline.
More than any other decision, the content we choose today will determine which of those stations lives and which ones die.
Jeff McHugh is known for developing talent for radio, TV and podcasts. He brings a mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at The Randy Lane Company and coaches on-stage presenters with Own The Room.