Radio is bleeding, and they just don't get it

Recent numbers from France and USA are dramatically clear, and more-or-less nobody in radio groups headquarters is getting it.

Let’s play with words, would you ?

Soft-AC – Cluster – Hot-AC – Adult Contemporary – CHR

Remember those ?

Those were the keys of radio in the 80’s and 90’s. Perfect times. No internet. Adults were adults, responsible. Kids were kids, discovering life through “Back to The Future”, “Wargames”, and their first visit to Disneyland.

The world was perfect : meaning… it was understandable by an accountant relabelled “Radio CEO”.

Everything was clear. And PDs, to enjoy a quiet success, were talking “numbers” to their CEOs. Excel, graphs, everything “number” was good enough to buy peace. The deal was simple : Let me make your station successful, and pretend you understand the Excel files I’m gonna give you. Don’t worry, I will add colours.

Those were the fantastic 80’s and the great 90’s.

Then, in 1996… came… THE INTERNET.

In the middle of the 90’s, young adults understood that they had been FOOLED by the 80’s : They WOULDN’T live a fancy life, they WOULDN’T become rich, they WOULDN’T reach the promise made by advertisers. All was wrong, false, untrue, and Pamela Anderson was ugly. So… those young adults decided to live, quietly, as OLD KIDS.

In an interview for a market study, one guy from that generation summed it up this way :

“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off”

Every country invented a word for that. In France, we call them “adulescents“, subtile (!) neologism built with adults and adolescents (“teenagers” in French). Those adulescents started to live differently. One thing for sure : they stopped growing, and NEVER wanted to hear about their age anymore.

No age, no responsibility, no worry.

Those are called the GENERATION X.

And, guess what ? Generation X (and their successors, Generation Y) are LISTENING TO RADIO !

Yeah… but why are you adressing them the way you were adressing their parents ? That remains a mystery for me.

Let’s look at figures, now :

In France, ONLINE ADVERTISING investments increased of 38 % in the first semester 2008 comparing to first semester 2007, reaching 1,8 BILLION EUROS… thus HIGHER THAN RADIO ADVERTISING INVESTMENTS ! In the same time, radio increased of… 0,8 % !

Let’s cross the Atlantic :

The Wall Street Journal projection for July 2008 is a 4 % DECLINE for Radio… but the RAB (Radio Advertising Bureau) is estimating that this could actually reach 7 or 8 %.


JULY 2008 is going to be the 15th straight month of down revenue for radio in USA.


Now there are two possiblities : facing the truth or denying it.

Let’s read what CL KING & ASSOCIATES analyst JIM BOYLE says this week about the way Radio Groups handle this urgent need for change :

The “gap has remained very wide” between small and large market radio, with smaller markets consistently outperforming their larger brethren. “What are radio leaders doing to change direction? Not much, it seems to us. The industry’s larger groups do not appear ready to institute revolutionary changes yet in sales, programming, promotion or station clusters. There is a notable sense of denial of how harsh the prospects have been and continue to be for radio.”

I couldn’t write it better !

But I’m gonna make it much clearer for all of you to understand :

The classic formats (especially the Adult ones) … are BULLSH*T ways of setting up stations in the 2010 era.

Can you guess the solution ?

Well.. I won’t tell you more… that would be free consulting, come on :-)

But it’s very very easy to guess, quite easy to program, and the ONLY difficult (impossible ?) thing will be to convince your owners, CEO’s, Group Consultants, etc etc.

Good luck.

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One Comment

  1. Mulder

    August 24, 2008 at 3:34 am

    Bon. Eh bien vivement que tout ça se casse la gueule bien gravement, rapidement, que l’aventure recommence.


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