Generation Z ... What's a Radio?
August 30, 2016
The radio industry is in a continuing position to examine, refocus, and plan for the future. Technology, time and generational shifts will indefinitely challenge the audio landscape. Keeping up with the new norms is similar to the reasons I like professional football more so than college; collegian players come and go within four years, but in the pros, some players anchor franchises for years. Familiarity is comforting, but in radio it can be death for ratings and the bottom line. This is a call for action to pay attention and not trick yourself into thinking time stands still; things change at a rapid pace.
How Do You Open The Window?
Recently an X-generation friend of mine told me they had bought a used car and their 15-year-old could not figure out how to roll down the windows. Nothing was broken; it was a vehicle pre-electric windows ... the teenager had not seen a car with a manual window. The same kid was struggling to understand his grandfather's explanation of a record player; he was trying to figure out how the player fit in the car to play music. Hey, it's funny, but the reality of the situation is what this week's column is all about.
Time Does Not Stand Still
The target demos for station core audiences never change, however there is a new crop of people and new generations in these demos. Time passes quickly, that is why it's important to recognize the generational shifts. It is easy to get stuck in a time warp while life moves forward. Staying on top of lifestyle trends is like updating computer software. There are several companies -- Cox, iHeartMedia, Emmis, Radio One, Cumulus and CBS Radio -- leading the way to stay on top of trends. However, too many are still lagging behind.
Rock Bottom And Rebuild
The legendary PD Buzz Bennett said to me in the '90s, "Radio is like an addict; it will have to bottom out and admit the problem before it can begin a recovery." Buzzy, whose life was an open book, knew a thing or two about addictions and was proven correct.
It is important to understand how the generations relate to terrestrial radio and media as a whole. If broadcast companies do not align with the thoughts of the consumers, programmers, air personalities, and sales are fighting an uphill creative battle that cannot be won.
Silent Generation, born between 1925-1942, ages 74-91
A portion of the "Silent" group utilizes e-mail and not much more.
Baby Boomer, born 1943-1960, ages 56-73
The younger "Boomers" are valiantly learning to stay relevant and represent the upper portion of the 35-64 demographic and beyond. Radio is still the first choice, but new media has intrigued this group and become part of their world. In the '90s, they contributed heavily to the tech stock boom.
Generation X, born 1961-1981, ages 35-55
Has some Boomer factor and the older portion shared in the tech revolution; radio is still a choice. Current formats appealing to this generation will have to maintain an audience by reflecting actual lifestyle and musical tastes. President Obama just released another Summertime Music playlist on Spotify; in 2008; it was his iPod list. His musical taste and media usage has evolved. He is not the only "X" that has Hip-Hop, Rock and AC as part of his listening. Many in this group have taken on the task of utilizing all the new shiny technology and media toys.
Generation Y, born 1982-2000, ages 16-34
Most have grown up with computers, blogs, podcasts, MySpace, Blackberrys, Twitter, Macs, chat rooms, MTV, VH1, BET, P2Ps, SiriusXM, Music Choice, Cable TV, YouTube, ESPN, Smart Phones, LinkedIn, iPods and Facebook. This group has an ongoing challenge of keeping up with new change. Radio is used as a last resort rather than a first choice. Instead of a new music fad, the Y generation received new audio and communication delivery systems; watches TV on the computer but still watches some traditional TV sets. Ys represent radio's version of "Custer's Last Stand" ... and will be the determining factor for the fate and future of the industry. The older end at 34-years-old is becoming the oldster. This is the generation given trophies in their youth for merely showing up for competitive events. Ys are the most advertising targeted generation.
Generation Z, born 2001-2021, age 6-
They will probably use traditional radio as a paperweight and only listen if the X and Y parents expose them to it. This is the generation that will text each other while sitting on the same couch. This generation, raised on smartphones, distrusts e-mail, loves Snapchat, Pandora, Spotify, Shazam, Vine, Instagram, streaming, a lot of weekly video posting, downloading, emojis instead of words, Periscope, video games as a lifestyle, message apps, and social media has a huge impact on who they are. This group will grow up with connected cars.
No Broad Brush Stokes
It is also important not to apply broad sweeping generalization to an entire group; usually it's the majority of the core audience, but not everyone. The generational lifestyle has a direct effect on the ways audio media is used
Xs ... Ys ... And Boomers
The generational lifestyle has a direct effect on the ways audio media is used. The work force is now dominated by Xs and Ys, with many Boomers still active and relevant in numerous areas. The Xs and Ys are currently in charge of most workplace listening; malls, super-retail outlets, and services providing music to businesses. With some adjustments, traditional radio can hold on to the aforementioned generations. However, in order for industry growth with younger Xs, the Ys, and the Z generations, there is a need for creative, technological and social application restructuring.
Know The Past For The Future
It is important to understand the generations and how things are continually affecting traditional transmitter-based radio. Both Microsoft's Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs of Apple fame are responsible for revolutionizing communications; both are Baby Boomers born in 1955. Interesting to note; Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is Generation Y (born 1984), Google co- creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Generation X (both born 1973), Instagram co-creators Kevin Systrom and Michel "Mike" Krieger are Y Generation (born 1983 and 1986), and Snapchat co-creator Evan Spiegel is Y Generation (born 1990).
Find a way to stay on top or you will outdate yourself and become one of those people who are mad because nothing stayed the same. Tradition is forever changing.