Reversing The Declining Listener Trend. Day Three


In our continuing series with industry leaders about the 2022 Jacobs Media Techsurvey last week, which showed a downward trend line of radio listenership, we hear from Bud Walters, Lee Abrams and Alan Burns today.

Here’s what Cromwell CEO Bud Walters believes the radio industry needs to improve upon today to stop the trend of listeners leaving for other audio sources…

1) Technology on the dashboard.  The visuals that go with our broadcasts need to be as current and visually provocative and anything from Apple, Google, Sirius, Spotify, etc.

Cromwell CEO Bud Walters

2) Localism that sets us apart. Music can be gotten on multiple platforms.

What goes between the songs needs to be locally usable and relevant to those who choose to listen.

  1. Substitute “Consumer/Supporter/User” for “listener”. From our various broadcast and digital platforms we need people to be involved with us.  The may not listen  everyday, but they use our web site or some of our services.  We want more Listeners/Consumers/Supporters/ Users do our brands are ubiquitous locally.   Easier to do in a smaller market than a top 50 market.
  1. Promote, promote, promote and be community involved
Lee Abrams

6 Tips on retaining listeners from legendary programmer Lee Abrams
1) Create “complete” stations rather than abbreviated ones. Starting with  a 360 degree evaluation that evaluates and rethinks literally every aspect of a station from visual identity to street presence to music to maximizing every day part and beyond. Go through the exercise of a living autopsy that dissects every aspect of the station and a plan to deal with anything short of brilliant.

2) AFDI. ( Actually F—-ing Doing it ).  When you evaluate your station without prejudice,  there will be issues.  Aggressively address. Too often they’re minimized through overthinking,  fear,  over-researching or any of scores of excuses.  “It costs too much” is weak as brainpower costs nothing. It takes commitment and guts

3) It’s the blind leading the blind musically.  Step out and understand what the 2022 target wants to hear rather than following the sheep,  or worse yet,  the 1980’s music playbook. Get off musical autopilot and assuming based on what used to work

4) Just because your tower is in a local location that doesn’t mean you’re tied to the hip with the local listeners. That takes work.  A reason XM had such high satisfaction is because much of local radio was generic and missing capitalizing on their advantages… including being local

5) Clear your addiction to the tired radio playbook. It was written decades ago. The last time it was rewritten across the industry was 1970.  It’s been tweaks and slogans since then instead of creating the new playbook for the new Wild West we’re in. Kill the denial,  the playbook is tired.  Think like a McLendon

6) Your digital presence is irrelevant if the core product ( the station ) isn’t operating at a brilliant level

Alan Burns

Alan Burns from Alan Burns and Associates….
Develop and showcase more personalities. As Jacobs’ Techsurvey points out, DJs/Hosts/Shows is the #1 content reason people say is a main driver for their radio listening.  Consumers can get music from many other sources that have fewer or no commercials…but a great local radio personality can be found in only one place.

Too many people say “there aren’t enough personalities” and they are right in one sense: if you keep looking in the same place, you’ll keep finding the same people.  We have to look outside the industry, and be willing to spend time on development.

More focus on the audience.  Our content analyses of music radio stations continue to show that the topic most talked about on those stations is themselves.  Positioning, imaging, contests and promotions, digital products, etc. – that is, what the station is doing – dominate outside of morning drive. And during morning drive, who do our high profile personalities tend to talk to? Each other.  Not the audience.  Add this to the now-standard high commercial load and sales promotion messages, and we’ve turned radio into the annoying guy at the party who won’t stop talking about himself. Great enterprises focus on how to make the consumer happier.

Improve radio’s sales effort.  There are many highly professional sales people and sales managers out there, but not enough.  And not enough owners/managers who are willing to push for higher rates.  Market leaders set rates; if the top three stations hold their rates it brings the entire market up.  Higher rates enable lower commercial loads, thus lowering the cost of listening.  This is a long-term effort, not a quick fix.

Check out Day One of our series HERE.
Day Two HERE


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