Talent Make the Difference


(By Mike McVay) What does Apple Radio know about On-Air Personalities that some Radio Executives don’t seem to know? 

That question is raised because Apple Music Radio recently launched two new radio channels, and rebranded an existing channel, with on-air personalities to enhance the listening experience of their subscribers.  According to the first two trillion-dollar US company (Apple), as noted in their press release and in a recent article in RollingStone Magazine, they believe by prioritizing the human component of live radio and mixing it with their algorithmic playlists and charts, it will strengthen their position as a music platform.  Meaning that personalities that create a connection with the audience create loyalty among listeners and that means more attraction of potential users. It means repeat tune-in. That’s how traditional over-the-air radio (regardless of the device you use to listen) grows ratings.

Edison Research, in their 2020 Share of Ear study, noted how radio listening has been eroding for the last several years and that Gen Z listeners spend half as much time listening to AM/FM for audio consumption when compared to all other age groups. That’s a scary number. Traditional thinking has always been that if you attract teens and young adults you will create loyalty for the future. That is no longer valid thinking based on Edison’s study. 

Highly respected consulting firm Jacobs Media Strategies was also quoted in the Rolling Stone article. Noted was their study from 2017 that reminded us that one of the audiences’ primary reasons for listening to radio is the attraction of local on-air talent who entertain and inform. Could this not be one of the reasons that radio is eroding on the young side of the demographic scale? We aren’t focused on making our air talent an important part of our everyday product.

This fact echoed loudly with me as for years I have noted to clients of my consulting firm that what we present has to be about more than the music. No doubt that the music, on a music platform, is important. However, it isn’t the only thing that listeners listen for on a radio station.

There is nothing that keeps your competition from playing better music than your radio station, more of it with fewer interruptions, and out spending you on marketing their station … which means they can always beat you in the ratings if they have more money than you. Unless your station has great dynamic entertaining personalities, who have built an audience that is loyal to listening to them. I can easily come to your market and copy your music. If I have a bigger budget, I can out-market your station. I cannot easily copy your on-air personalities.  On-Air talent are key to our success in fighting off competitors.

It is difficult for radio to compete with any music streaming service, if the user of the service wants music without talk. It is especially hard to compete with a service that has no commercial interruptions. That is unless the potential user wants to be entertained, informed and has a loyalty to an air-talent. This has to be what Apple Music Radio is embracing. 

Talent make the difference. 

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Apple’s version of personality – at least in my short listening period – is more of a music and artist report. So the question is how relatable is the content…

    I’d argue that we need to examine WHAT we talk about. Unfortunately, it seems podcasting has replaced some of that personality that was formerly found exclusively on radio. Joe Rogan might have been a great radio talent…but he ended up finding an outlet in podcasting.

    Final point – even substantial investment in personality for radio is not likely to make much of a revenue difference. We’re in the business of catching a falling sword with declining audiences, excessive spot loads, plunging rates and buyer indifference. It would seem that doubling down on what worked before might not be the best strategy.

  2. Mike, as usual you are spot on. Too bad most terrestrial programmers have been afraid of “Personalities“ since PPM. Problem is for the last 10 plus years the proving ground for future personalities has all but disappeared as liners replaced real content. It’s an art to connect in 15 or 20 seconds and like most creativity it needs to be practiced, and fine tuned to develop. We all have those early airchecks to prove the point. Talk isn’t a tune out, pointless blather is.
    Paul Perry


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