(By Buzz Knight) How do you learn about radios opportunities and threats in the short term and the long term?
You talk with 28 graduate students from the Gabelli School of Business and the Consumer Adoption of New Media Technologies class at Fordham University in NY. I was privileged to address the class this past week thanks to my friend and Associate Professor Dr. Janet Gallent.
Janet is a brilliant Media Executive with expertise in Consumer Insights and research from her time at NBC Universal where she served as Head of the NBC Media Center and she provided a steady hand to guiding the conversation with these intelligent and thoughtful students.
I first me Janet when we both worked with the Council for Research Excellence and I was wowed by her talents back then as she fought like the rest of the group for better measurement.
According to Janet: “The composition of the graduate students enrolled in this class provide a unique opportunity to identify actionable insights to media businesses looking for transformative growth. With a mix of both US and international students enrolled in the Masters program in media management or MBA at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, the class discussion offers a wealth of understanding about the younger generation’s attitudes and behaviors that is further elevated by their depth of knowledge about the media industry and their passion for the profession.”
My goal from this piece is to report with the blessing of the University and Bozena Mierzejewska, Chairperson of Communications and Media Management; about the current state of media consumption, radios place in that ecosystem and some potential ways for radio to survive and thrive in the next generation.
Warning! Some of this isn’t pretty but there is some hope.
The group is comprised of all Millennials born between 1981-1996.
Some facts on usage and consumption from the group:
- Spotify is their top source for listening to music, followed by You Tube, 67% and 50%.
- AM/FM and Sirius/XM are at 13%.
One of the most jarring comments about radio came from one of the students who said “for this generation radio is secondary for us as far as finding music.”
Some defining priorities from the group.
These students spoke at multiple times about how Radio needs to provide interactivity with its audience. From their perspective they feel completely disconnected from the medium because they don’t see themselves represented by the delivery, content and overall vibe that is represented by traditional radio.
This is a big problem for a medium that WAS the original social network and that now finds itself unfortunately in a position where “formats in a box” are common occurrences to plug into a market.
I have often spoke about the “heart and soul” factor that radio needs to create and project and interactivity with ALL generations of audiences is vital to that process.
By creating more opportunities for interactivity for radio brands the building of community can become a greater reality.
These students see the importance of personalities as a vital cog in the delivery system and without personalities it is impossible to achieve interactivity with audiences. They spoke about how personalities provide a companionship to their everyday life and they place value in personalities.
I hope this ship hasn’t sailed for the radio industry because the students also wisely pointed out that personalities are not part of what they get from a streaming service thus being a unique point of differentiation for traditional radio.
If traditional radio wants a shot at retaining or building audience from this generation they need to completely embrace an Omni Channel content strategy. Completely! These students use everything available to them to find all forms of content and they aren’t going to conform to what the industry wants them to consume It will be on their terms and on the platform they choose. The way they use Spotify as a main hub of activity makes me wonder why radio hasn’t figured out some partnership opportunity with them and how that can be achieved.
The students didn’t speak directly about internships in the radio business but in my mind this topic rose to the top of the priority list. When internships, correctly were flagged in legal terms for taking advantage of students, in many instances they disappeared or were extremely minimized at companies It became a headache for a Market Manager to go thru the proper process to bring interns on board so many simply chose to erase the money from the budget line. Some managers luckily decided to work thru those logistical and budgetary challenges but they are the minority.
When we think of the importance for an influx of young thinking and we also think of the importance of recruiting people to the business, this decision to minimize or eliminate interns is so dead wrong. It is not too late for those in a position of power to reverse this and help define the future.
Alignment with a mission
The students brought up the importance of aligning with a mission as it related to products they consume but also brands they might consider working for. Radio has an incredible track record of helping its communities but should rethink how to weave the pursuit of an authentic mission into the conversation.
There are more insights that came from this tremendous experience such as the type of non music content they would be interested in, but we will leave those for off line conversations, which Janet and I would welcome.
I left the experience feeling dark about the future and Janet gave me another perspective. It’s great to have someone like Janet who has such media savvy but also is an outsider to radio give her perspective.
Her optimism comes as a result of her belief that her students barely know radio as evidenced by their consumption and behavior. In her mind if you find ways to reinvent, create new trial from this generation and then create new adoption, there is a fighting chance.
Some final thoughts from Janet Gallent:
“Like all legacy media, the radio industry must evolve to adapt to changes in media behaviors and compete for a share of attention in an increasingly crowded landscape as well as attract a new generation of active users. I see digital technology as a way to unleash the power of radio by making high quality programming more accessible to young people who are largely disconnected with legacy media. This means making it easier for them to discover radio content and consume programming in new and meaningful ways that build deeper connections with audiences in ways that are unique to radio.”
Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]