People On Radio Make It Better

Play-by-play announcers are often the target of sports fans’ ire. I know because I am one (a fan, that is). Back in 1980, NBC took heed and aired a football game with no announcers…just the stadium P.A. and crowd noise. Dick Enberg, NBC’s lead football announcer at the time, said afterward: “The final outcome, with much relief, was the fact after watching for a quarter or two that, you know, something was missing. It was us.”

Enberg continued: “While we are not the most important ingredients in the pie, we certainly are a slice of that pie that gives the whole experience full flavor.”

OK, Enberg is hardly an objective observer! But face it: Had the broadcast been successful, you know NBC would’ve waved bye-bye to Enberg and his other highly-paid colleagues, just as radio groups have been cutting back on personalities for years now. “It’s all about the Benjamins,” right?

So, what do listeners think? Do personalities “add value” to radio? Do they make it better, or worse?

To find out, we completed 953 online interviews with 18-64′s in the U.S. from June 18-19th. Respondents either listened to FM or AM radio, “pure plays” like Pandora, Spotify, etc., podcast or satellite radio.

And we asked them to Think about the PEOPLE on radio — announcers, personalities or personality teams. Overall, how do the people on radio affect your interest and enjoyment in listening to it? Do the people on radio make radio…a lot better to listen to, a little better to listen to, a little worse to listen to, or a lot worse to listen to?

A LOT BETTER to listen to 47%
A LITTLE BETTER to listen to      . 39%
A LITTLE WORSE to listen to   7%
A LOT WORSE to listen to   2%
Don’t know   5%

I’m shocked at how overwhelming the consensus is. The vast majority think personalities make radio better. Nearly half think they make radio a lot better.

And this attitude is across the board, demographically.  Yes, women are a bit more enthused about personalities’ contributions than men are, and 55-64′s somewhat more enthused than younger listeners. But even in the least positive cell — 35-44 men – 78% think the people on radio make it better, 40% a lot better!

If respondents indicated that personalities make radio better (or worse), we asked them How do the people on radio make it better to listen to? (or worse to listen to)…

For the “betters,” humor is clearly the #1 benefit:

Funny 24%
Interesting/engaging 12%
Informative (about music, events)   9%
Entertaining   8%
The music/songs they play   6%
Have good/clear voices   4%
Have/add fun   4%
Have good topics/opinions   4%
Have good personalities   3%
Add energy/enthusiasm/excitement   .   3%
Make it more personal/relatable   3%
Happy/cheerful/upbeat   2%
Friendly/like a friend   2%
Other 35%
Don’t know   8%

Note that these are percentages among those who think the people on radio make it better (a lot, or a little). The percentages add up to more than 100% because some some respondents gave more than a single reason.

Among those who think the people on radio make it worse, it’s about the music more than anything else…25% of them only want music, and 20% say personalities talk too much and don’t play enough music. But it’s not only about music…15% find personalities annoying, 12% uninteresting, 11% unintelligent, and 10% unfunny (even though they try to be).

But, getting back to the majority, it’s worth noting that a number of them put a big “if” in their comments. What they’re saying is that personalities can make radio better if they’re funny, or interesting, etc. The implication is that they aren’t all or always that positive. For example:

If they are funny and you can relate to them, it makes me much more likely to listen.

If they are interesting and have something interesting to talk about.

If they do not spend too much time talking and just play more music.

If they aren’t stupid, don’t talk a lot or act childish they make the station better.

If they’re entertaining, interesting, or interactive it can make it a more enjoyable experience.  If they’re dull or just there to announce song titles, then they detract.

My takeaway from all this is that personalities are a powerful asset for traditional radio in meeting the challenge posed by “music only” alternatives. Of course they need to be interesting, entertaining, informative, etc.

Bottom line: Radio shouldn’t be cutting back on personalities…it should be developing them!

The Six Kinds of Radio Consumers

We in radio tend to look at radio listeners by demographics and formats…18-24 women, 35-44 men, Country P1’s, CHR P1’s, etc.

Totally valid. But I wanted to take a broader look at radio listeners…analyzing consumers based on their attitudes toward radio! – what they want from it, what they get from it, how they feel about it, and even how they see themselves.

So earlier this year, we conducted an online survey of 1,009 18-64’s in the U.S. We looked at all of those issues and more – including how much time they spend listening to radio and other sources of audio entertainment and information – including pureplay streaming like Pandora, as well as YouTube, MP3’s, CDs, etc.

This analysis is a “deeper dive” into the data, based on a statistical technique called Cluster Analysis – a tool that divides consumers into groups that share similar “mindsets”…in this case, with respect to radio.

And we learned that there are six different kinds of radio consumers – each with unique attitudes and preferences:

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Here’s the scoop on each group…

Radio Junkies: The biggest group, they love radio more than the others.

More than any other group, they agree with the statement: “If you couldn’t listen to radio, you’d feel something important was missing from your life.” Their self-reported time spent listening to FM is higher than any other segment, and their listening to AM is above average. More than any other group, they agree that they “pay a lot of attention” when they listen.

Looking beyond programming elements to their “radio psychology,” we find they score higher than average on all 16 benefits of listening to radio we tested and highest on 12 of them! But like most listeners, their biggest motivations relate to mood – get in a better one, get an energy boost, or relax and unwind.

While they listen for music more than anything else, they’re the group most into personalities, and they want more talk than most do. More than any other group, they like personalities that “seem like personal friends.” They’re most interested in contests too.

P1’s of every format are represented among the “Radio Junkies,” as in most of the groups. But the “Junkies” include a higher-than-average percentage of CHR and Urban P1’s.

Music Enthusiasts: Music is really it for this group. More than most, they agree with the statement: “You listen to radio to hear music and nothing else.” Their interest in every other programming element – news, weather, personalities, contests, and so on – is lower than average. 

And, more than any other segment, they agree with the statements: “You keep switching stations until you find a song you like,” and “When announcers start talking, that’s when you switch stations.”

The “Enthusiasts’” interest in music drives their song seeking…more than any other segment, they think they “know more about music than most people.”

Escapism is the biggest benefit they seek by their music-focused listening. More than any other group, they listen to take their minds off problems and to relax. But – at the other extreme – they’re also #1 for listening to “work better and faster” and above average for listening to get “excited.”

Since music is what they listen for, it makes sense that their time listening to FM would be eroded by other sources of music. They do listen to radio less than average, but just a bit less, and 74% agree that radio is a very important part of their lives.

Still, they listen to iPods/MP3’s about as much as FM radio. Pandora and other pureplay internet radio ranks third.

CHR and Rock P1’s have higher-than-average representation in this group.

Music Onlys: They’re so named because they agree with: “You listen to radio to hear music and nothing else” even more than the Music Enthusiasts” (or any of the other segments) do.

They’re the more passive, less-engaged “cousins” of the Enthusiasts. Most disagree that radio is a very important part of their lives.

Their personal and emotional connections to radio are much lower. They don’t think of themselves as more knowledgeable about music. As far as the benefits of listening, relaxing and mood enhancement are #1 for them, but lower than average. Other motivations we tested – like companionship, energy, excitement, laughter, etc. – aren’t very or even somewhat important to them.

Not surprisingly, their time spent listening to FM is lower than average, and they don’t listen to AM radio at all. But they also spend less time than average with Pandora, YouTube, iPods, Sirius/XM, etc.

Rock and A/C P1’s have higher-than-average representation in this group.

Average Joes: They match the 18-64’s in many respects….i.e., they’re average (for the most part).

Like most listeners, mood enhancement is what they get most from radio. They’re also into “fun” motivations – listening for laughs, for excitement, and adding to the fun with others. But they’re not exceptional in these respects…they’re average!

They do want a bit more music than average, and a bit less news. They’re less into “thinking” motivations (ones you’ll hear about in the next group) than 18-64’s as a whole. But they don’t listen for music only, or switch away when personalities start talking. They don’t score non-music programming elements low…they’re average!

The “Average Joes” are humble. They don’t think they know more about music than other people, and their self-image about news knowledge is below average as well. And they don’t claim to be first to try a new station when it comes on the air.

Finally, their time spent listening to FM is average. But their listening to other music sources is lower than average, except for YouTube…which is (you guessed it!) average.

Rock and A/C P1’s have higher-than-average representation in this group as well.

Info-Maniacs: They’re way different from all the other kinds of radio listeners. They’re less into “feel good” motivations for listening to radio. They don’t listen to take their minds off problems…they want realities.

Their top motivations for listening: “To hear things that get you thinking,” “To get practical information to that makes your life better” and “To learn things that make you more informed than other people.”

It’s working for them. More than any other segment, they agree with the statement: “You know more about what’s going on in the news than most people.”

They want more news than any other group. The programming element they’re most interested in isn’t music…it’s national news. Local news about ties it, but that’s unlike all the other groups (that are more concerned with local than national). They’re also the #1 group for talk shows, sports news, and play-by-play sports coverage.

Not surprisingly, they spend more time than any other group listening to AM radio, while their FM listening is about average. As far as internet radio, YouTube, iPods, satellite radio…all are below average.

No surprise, News/Talk and Sports P1’s have much higher-than-average representation in this group.

Disconnecteds: They hardly listen, spending more time with their iPods than with any kind of radio. They’re more interested in music than anything else, but not very interested in that either. Radio is definitely not a big part of their lives, and their emotional connections to it are minimal.

The good news is: They’re only 4% of all 18-64’s! Forget ‘em.

 

So, aside from interesting reading (I hope), what does this all mean for terrestrial radio going forward?

Looking at the groups, I think the “Radio Junkies” and “Info-Maniacs” are the most locked in to terrestrial radio…the “Junkies” because they love everything about it, not just music; the “Maniacs” because what they seek from radio is best delivered by local radio.

The most “at risk” groups are the ones most concerned about music. This is more true of the “Music Onlys” – 16% of 18-64’s – because they don’t have strong emotional connections to radio.

The “Music Enthusiasts” are a challenge, but give radio the opportunity to fight back.  They see themselves as knowledgeable about music, and radio can serve that psychology by being a strong source of music information and discovery. As long as radio taps into that self-image, as well as serving their needs for mood-enhancement, companionship, excitement and energy, it can remain a major player in their lives.

Bottom Line: Radio (as we’ve known it) faces serious challenges (and challengers). We see the potential for erosion, particularly in the two most music-focused groups that represent a third of 18-64′s. But as long as it focuses on what it can do better than its challengers – not just becoming a “me too” music source – it’s certainly not going away!

 

Radio = LOCAL

Larry Rosin of Edison Research made a powerful point in his presentation at this year’s Country Radio Seminar –  radio’s brand is LOCAL.  And he stated that “Voice-tracking and nationalization are…a disaster for the radio industry.” I agree with his premise and his conclusion, but wanted to know what listeners think…

So we completed 718 telephone interviews with 18-64′s in the U.S. at the beginning of this month. First, we tested the basic premise: Is radio’s brand local?  We asked:

Now think about media – TV, radio, newspapers, the internet and so on. Some media are mainly local – focused on serving one city or town – while others are mainly national – focused on the serving the entire country.  

In your opinion, is RADIO a mainly local or a mainly national medium?

LOCAL 65%  .
NATIONAL 32%
Don’t know/Refused     .   3%

Local has it…two to one over national.  And, from a demographic perspective, this perception is across the board. Men, women, 18-24′s through 55-64′s…they’re all in the 60% range seeing radio as LOCAL, first and foremost.

So is the nationalization of radio  – the move by mega-groups (notably, Clear Channel and Cumulus) to roll out the same programming across their markets — bad for the industry? To explore this possibility, we next asked those who see radio as mainly local how a shift toward national programming would impact their listening:

If a local station you listen to switched to focusing more on national programming rather than local programming, do you think you would listen to it MORE or LESS than you do now?

MORE 31%  .
LESS 51%
Wouldn’t matter 14%
Don’t know/Refused     .   3%

(Percentages among those who think radio is mainly local.)

Response to this question does vary by age cell, with 18-24′s the exception. By a small margin, more of them say a move toward more national programming  would make them more interested in listening:

18-24  . 25-34  . 35-44  . 45-54  . 55-64  .
MORE 43% 34% 26% 30% 24%
LESS 36% 53% 50% 54% 60%
Wouldn’t matter 20%   9% 21% 14% 10%
Don’t know/Refused   .   1%   4%   2%   1%   1%

Now, keep in mind that what listeners think they’ll do given a hypothetical situation isn’t necessarily what they would do…that’s a limitation of research. And there are other factors involved…for example, what if the national programming in question happens to be very appealing to them???

Still, what this research does do is tap into bedrock perceptions and attitudes, which totally support Rosin’s contention that radio means local to most, and that the nationalization of radio does hurt the industry. After all,  a third (51% of 65%) of 18-64′s think radio is mainly local and say they’d listen less if it’s not!

Radio Lags As “First Responder”

Where would you go first for information in times of emergency? For me, it’s radio.  When the power’s out, no problem…it’s battery powered. When we’re in the basement bathroom waiting for the tornado to pass, there’s no TV in there…there’s radio.  For me, it’s radio. Then again, I’m a “radio guy”! But I’m also a research guy, so consumers can set me straight…

And they did.  In a telephone survey of 707 18-64′s in the U.S.(conducted 2/26-3/1), we asked them:

Let’s talk about sources of information about emergencies that could affect a local community – like severe weather, flooding, power outages, gas leaks, chemical spills, fires, tainted water supplies and major accidents. Where would you go to FIRST for information in the event of an emergency? Would you turn to…

We then read six choices: AM or FM radio? The internet? Newspapers? Smartphone apps? TV? Or some other source of information? And we rotated the first five to avoid order bias.

We found that radio soundly trounces…newspapers, at 0%!  (It’s hard to keep up with tornadoes in the paper, I’m sure ;) ) But radio is well behind TV and behind the internet as well:

 .
TV 37%
Internet 25%
AM or FM Radio  17%
Smartphone Apps          . 13%     .
Police/Fire/911    2%
Other   4%
Don’t know/Refused      .   1%

Demographically, we find a huge divide between 18-44′s and 45-64′s, but relative to TV and new tech, not radio. Half of 45-64′s would turn first to TV, while only 28% of 18-44′s would. A third of 18-44′s would go to the internet, while only 14% of 45-64′s would. And use of smartphone apps among the younger group is almost double that of the older group:

18-44 45-64
TV 28%      . 51%      .
Internet 34% 14%
AM or FM Radio 15% 18%
Smartphone Apps         . 17%   9%
Police/Fire/911   3%   2%
Other   3%   5%
Don’t know/Refused   1%   2%

Radio’s demo divide is based on gender, not age.  Men are more likely to turn to radio during emergencies than women are:

MEN    . WOMEN
TV 35% 41%
Internet 24% 26%
AM or FM Radio 20% 12%
Smartphone Apps        . 13% 14%
Police/Fire/911   2%   2%
Other   3%   4%
Don’t know/Refused   1%   1%

Most likely to turn to radio are 45-64 men…24% say they would go to radio.  But, that’s still half of the 45-54 men that would turn to TV.

I must admit I was surprised that radio isn’t the “go to” for more consumers during an emergency. But I shouldn’t have been…

Two years ago, a tornado bore down on Dexter, Michigan…just 10 miles away from my home in Ann Arbor and moving in our direction. I was in the basement with my daughter and she was giving me constant updates from her classmates on Twitter: Dad, it’s on Huron River Drive. Dad, they can see it from Walnut Ridge! Dad, it’s at Baker Road!!!

I turned on our local “community” station and all it had to offer was a Talk radio blowhard from more than a thousand miles away, and even further from our very real concerns at that moment.

So it’s not so hard to understand, is it? At a time with more competition than ever, too many stations have cut and cut and cut personnel until there’s no one in the stations who can serve their communities when they’re needed most. And we see the results.

Yes, Listeners DO Care About Radio!

We’ve heard all the doomsayers. “Listeners don’t care about radio,” “Millennials hate radio,” “Pandora will kill radio as we know it,” etc.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

We’ve seen how wrong in previous ListenerThink research — like our Fall P1 study, when we found that radio delivers emotional benefits to listeners beyond music, news, sports, etc., and when 70% agreed that if they couldn’t listen to radio, something very important would be missing from their lives.

Now, we’re looking at listeners’ engagement with radio from another angle…not what would happen if radio went away altogether, but on a more specific basis — what happens when a station they like changes.

What brought this to mind was my own work — research that guides stations to better ratings, sometimes requiring dramatic format changes. Most recently, a client changed format from one that excelled among 45-and-older listeners to one that focuses on 18-44′s.  There was a major emotional backlash among those left behind, who went online to express feelings like: “I am so upset,” “I’m in mourning,” “This is a blow…very depressing,” and some even threatening bodily harm to station execs! 

So, in an online survey we conducted last month among 1009 18-64 year olds in the U.S., we asked how much they agree or disagree with the statement:

It upsets you when a station you like changes format.  
AGREE STRONGLY 44%
AGREE SLIGHTLY 40%
DISAGREE SLIGHTLY 11%
DISAGREE STRONGLY   5%
Don’t know   0%

Dig it…an overwheming majority of 18-64′s agree that a format change would upset them, even if it’s only on a station they like…not necessarily their favorite. Close to half agree strongly!

From a demographic perspective, 35-44′s agree the most…89% 0f them agree, 55% agree strongly. By age, 18-24′s agree least, but even then, 80% agree, 32% strongly. Most indifferent are 18-24 men…still, 70% agree, 26% strongly! From a format perspective, the P1′s of Oldies/Classic Hits stations (89% agree, 61% strongly) and Rock stations (89% agree, 59% strongly) would be most upset when a station they like changes format.

Think listeners don’t care??? Think again.

Pandora: Yeah, it’s For Real

So far this week, we’ve seen that Millennials’ attitude toward FM radio is quite positive. Their attitude toward AM — not nearly as positive — at least isn’t negative. All in all, our research on Millennials reveals that their attitude toward traditional radio is much better than “doomsayers” think it is.

But radio is no longer the “center of the audio universe”…it faces numerous challengers. In last week’s online research among Millennials, we studied four of them — iHeartRadio,  iTunes Radio, Pandora and Sirius/XM…

At the top: Pandora…39% of Millennials “love it,” edging FM’s 37%. Pandora does have a higher percentage that don’t know (10% versus FM’s 1%) but then, FM has a many-decades  “head start”! Given its lower awareness, the fact that four in ten Millenials love Pandora is very impressive:

How do you feel about Pandora?            .
LOVE IT 39%
LIKE IT 26%
DISLIKE IT   5%
HATE IT   1%
Neither like nor dislike it 19%
Don’t know 10%

Next up: Sirius/XM. Even though it, too, has a head start over Pandora, it has a higher don’t know percentage…understandable, since it requires a paid subscription (or a new car):

How do you feel about Sirius/XM?         .
LOVE IT 26%
LIKE IT 22%
DISLIKE IT   5%
HATE IT   1%
Neither like nor dislike it 27%
Don’t know 19%

iHeartRadio and iTunes Radio score almost identically.  That iTunes Radio performs as well as iHeart — which has been around longer — seems impressive.  But it just may be that some respondents aren’t distinguishing betwen iTunes Radio (which is new) and iTunes (which isn’t):

How do you feel about iHeartRadio?     .
LOVE IT 19%
LIKE IT 22%
DISLIKE IT   4%
HATE IT   2%
Neither like nor dislike it 32%
Don’t know 21%

 

How do you feel about iTunes Radio?   .
LOVE IT 18%
LIKE IT 24%
DISLIKE IT   6%
HATE IT   3%
Neither like nor dislike it 31%
Don’t know 18%

Given that these challengers have different levels of awareness, how do we compare their scores, with each other and with FM and AM? We do it with mean (average) scores. Here are the means of each kind of “radio” we tested among those who “know” (that is, excluding the “don’t know” responses). Those who are neutral are included in the mean at the midpoint — in this case, 3…between “love” (5) and “hate”(1):

HATE  1———3———5 LOVE   .
How do you feel about…          . 
FM Radio 4.1
Pandora 4.1
Sirius/XM 3.8
iHeartRadio 3.7
iTunes Radio 3.6
AM Radio 3.1

What this tells us is:  Millennials feel just as positively, on average, about Pandora as FM. Whether you see this as good news or bad news depends on your perspective… If you (like me) are a “radio veteran” who can’t possibly see how Pandora could compare to “real” radio, it hopefully makes you (and me) sit up and realize that Pandora is a serious challenger.

On the other hand, if you’re a Millennial yourself, you just might think: “Yeah, what did you expect???

AM…and Millennials???

Of course, Millennials aren’t a target for the vast majority of AM stations! (Radio Disney is a rare exception.) Still, in our study of under-35′s, we  wanted to know what they feel and think about AM…

Based on 303 online interviews conducted last week with 13-34 respondents, AM has more likes than dislikes. But, not surprisingly, Millennials’ affection for AM doesn’t come close to that of FM, and their #1 response is indifference — nearly a third neither like nor dislike AM:

How do you feel about AM radio?     .
LOVE IT   8%
LIKE IT 27%
DISLIKE IT 17%
HATE IT   9%
Neither like nor dislike it 30%
Don’t know   8%

Positive feelings for AM have a male skew (the opposite of FM’s skew)…42% of males either like (31%) or love (11%) AM, while only 29% of females do. Broken out by age groups, the youngest and oldest Millennials share pretty much the identical view of AM.

We asked those who dislike or hate AM: Why?  We did that for FM too, but there weren’t enough “dissing” FM to do an analysis. For AM, there definitely were, and here’s how their comments broke out:

Why do you dislike/hate AM?
TOO MANY/ALL TALK(SHOWS) 32%
BORING 26%
STATIC/FUZZY 19%
HAS NOTHING I’M INTERESTED IN   . 17%
I LIKE MUSIC/AM HAS NONE 10%
DISLIKE ITS MUSIC   7%
ONLY FOR SPORTS   6%
OLD   4%
ALL NEWS/DISLIKE   3%
Other   8%
Don’t know   3%

Millennials’ reasons for disliking (or even hating) AM radio reflect what they think about it. When we asked respondents: What is the very first thing that pops into your mind when you think of AM radio?, their #1 response was  “talk shows” (16%), followed by “boring” (10%), “old/outdated”  (8%), “sports” (7%) and news (7%).

Next, we gave respondents a list of 38 words or phrases and asked them to check all the ones they think describe AM radio. At the top, we again see AM’s downsides among Millennials:  it’s “for older people” (48%), “boring” (41%), “out-of-date” (28%) and “talky” (27%). They do acknowledge some positives, with “informative” (23%) and “local” (19%) the biggest:

FOR OLDER PEOPLE 48%
BORING 41%
OUT-OF-DATE 28%
TALKY 27%
INFORMATIVE 23%
LOCAL 19%
ANNOYING 18%
CARES ABOUT YOUR COMMUNITY    . 17%
COOL 14%
TIRED 13%
SERIOUS 12%
INTERESTING 12%
ENTERTAINING 12%
DOWN-TO-EARTH 11%
INTELLIGENT 11%
DUMB 11%
CONTROVERSIAL 10%
FRIENDLY 10%
GETTING WORSE 10%
GETTING BETTER  9%
CARES ABOUT YOU  9%
FUN  9%
CHEERFUL  8%
ENERGETIC  8%
EXCITING  8%
CRUDE  7%
FOR YOUR AGE GROUP  7%
RELAXING  7%
FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE  6%
OVER-COMMERCIALIZED  6%
FUNNY  5%
REPETITIVE  5%
SILLY  5%
SOPHISTICATED  5%
TRENDY  5%
LOUD  3%
SPONTANEOUS  3%
OFFENSIVE  2%

Bottom line: The prognosis for AM radio among Millennials is, unsurprisingly, not encouraging. Still, I don’t find these results entirely negative for AM stations…

For one thing, only around a fourth of Millennials dislike AM. In addition, the biggest reasons for their dislike isn’t about the technical sound of AM…that’s only the #3 reason. The two bigger reasons relate to the programming available on AM…more than anything else, talk shows they’re not interested in.

This does not suggest that Talk AM’s should drop the format!!! But it does suggest other AMs might have an opportunity to deliver unique programming listeners can’t get anywhere else, even programming targeted to Millennials.

Millennials: TheyHeartFM

A few weeks ago, an industry pundit wrote “Millennials…they hate radio.”  Really??? Let’s find out how Millennials feel.

Based on 303 online interviews conducted last week with 13-34 respondents, Millennials don’t hate FM radio. ..not nearly! The vast majority either love it or like it, while a scant 1% hate FM:

How do you feel about FM radio?     .
LOVE IT 37%
LIKE IT 45%
DISLIKE IT   4%
HATE IT   1%
Neither like nor dislike it 12%
Don’t know   1%

Teens are the least enthusiastic about FM…21%  “neither like nor dislike it,” while only 10% of 18-34′s do. Even so, they aren’t any more negative than older Millennials…only 3% of teens dislike FM, only 1% hate it. Females are more positive than males – 45% of them love FM, while 29% of males do .

So that’s how Millennials feel about FM radio.  But what do they think about it?

We looked at FM’s image two ways.  First we asked respondents: What is the very first thing that pops into your mind when you think of FM radio? The #1 response was a specific FM station (19%), #2 was “music.” Nothing very enlightening, except perhaps that only 3% volunteer that FM is “old” or “out-of-date.” The perception of FM as “old tech” isn’t top-of-mind with many Millennials.

Next, we gave respondents a list of 38 words or phrases and asked them to check all the ones they think describe FM radio.  I find the results impressively positive.  At the top of the list, a majority find FM “entertaining,”  But the next-highest are more encouraging….42% of Millennials(!)  consider FM “cool,” 35% recognize its “local-ness.”

Moving down the list,  28% consider FM “for your age group”…well ahead of “for younger people” (19%) or “for older people” (18%). More think FM is “getting better” (22%) than think it’s “getting worse” (12%).  And FM’s biggest overt negative is  “over-commercialized,” which isn’t surprising.  Meanwhile check out all the negatives at the bottom of the list.  What stands out for me is that only 7% check off “out-of-date” as something that describes FM.

This describes FM radio…
ENTERTAINING 53%
COOL 42%
LOCAL 35%
CHEERFUL 35%
ENERGETIC 34%
FUN 33%
FOR YOUR AGE GROUP 28%
FRIENDLY 27%
INTERESTING 26%
CARES ABOUT YOUR COMMUNITY     . 25%
EXCITING 24%
OVER-COMMERCIALIZED 23%
FUNNY 22%
GETTING BETTER 22%
REPETITIVE 21%
TRENDY 21%
DOWN-TO-EARTH 19%
FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE 19%
INFORMATIVE 18%
FOR OLDER PEOPLE 18%
CARES ABOUT YOU 16%
RELAXING 16%
TALKY 15%
SILLY 14%
CONTROVERSIAL 14%
ANNOYING 12%
GETTING WORSE 12%
LOUD 9%
SPONTANEOUS 9%
BORING 8%
OUT-OF-DATE 7%
INTELLIGENT 6%
DUMB 6%
SOPHISTICATED 6%
TIRED 5%
SERIOUS 5%
CRUDE 4%
OFFENSIVE 3%

Bottom line: This research reveals that Millennials, as a group, have anything but a negative attitude toward FM! This isn’t to suggest for a second that FM radio doesn’t have challenges going forward…we’ll get to that later this week.  But the idea that radio  is “toast” among younger people is dead wrong.

Now, AM radio?  A different story, as you would expect.  We’ll get to that tomorrow.

Listeners Look in the Mirror

Time to wrap up this year’s ListenerThink P1 research. So far, we’ve looked at what listeners think of radio and what personal needs radio satisfies for them. Now, let’s look at what they think of THEMSELVES…

By understanding how their P1 listeners see themselves, stations can build a stronger bond with them by reflecting that image and attitude right back at them…in advertising, promotions and programming.

Let’s review: This research is based on 989 online interviews conducted last month with 18-64 U.S. radio listeners. In this section of our survey, we listed 54 different words or phrases used to describe people, and we asked respondents to check all of those descriptors that apply to themselves.

We learned (no surprise) that most listeners have a pretty positive view of themselves! Most think of themselves as friendly, down-to-earth and smart/intelligent; fewest consider themselves materialistic, fearful and “party animals.” Here’s the whole list:

FRIENDLY 63% HOMEBODY 35% LIBERAL 19%
DOWN-TO-EARTH 57% CHEERFUL 33% BOLD 18%
SMART 57% OUTGOING 33% IDEALISTIC 17%
INTELLIGENT 54% CONSERVATIVE 32% NEWS JUNKIE 17%
FAMILY-ORIENTED 48% SERIOUS 31% SPONTANEOUS 17%
MUSIC FAN 46% ADVENTUROUS 29% RISK TAKING 15%
OPTIMISTIC 45% SPORTS FAN 29% UNCONVENTIONAL 14%
CAREFUL 44% TASTEFUL 29% FLIRTATIOUS 13%
LOYAL 44% WITTY 29% SEXY 13%
CALM 43% RADIO JUNKIE 28% SOPHISTICATED 13%
FUNNY 43% SARCASTIC 28% REBELLIOUS 11%
WARM 42% SELF-CONSCIOUS 28% IMPULSIVE 10%
CONFIDENT 39% SPIRITUAL 25% HIP   8%
INFORMED 39% A LEADER 24% TRENDY   8%
MOVIE FAN 38% SILLY 23% PARTY ANIMAL   7%
SOCIABLE 38% ENERGETIC 22% FEARFUL   5%
TRUSTING 38% RELIGIOUS 20% MATERIALISTIC   4%
SENSITIVE 37% TOUGH 20%

But wait…there’s more!  The most interesting (and, we think, actionable) aspect is when we compare the P1′s of different formats. Almost all share the same top responses — friendly, smart, down-to-earth. But the ones where they’re highest of the formats or lowest is most telling.  Some are predictable, others surprising…

(Note that the numbers below represent the percentage of each format’s P1 listeners that think each word or phrase describes them. More than one format can be “highest” or “lowest” for a particular word/phrase if they are tied.)

A/C P1’s
#1 self-image: Friendly (74%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Friendly(74%), Warm(54%), Outgoing(39%), Liberal(23%)
Lowest P1’s for: Calm(35%)
Comment: Perhaps they need calming, and A/C serves that need.
Alternative P1’s
#1 self-image: Smart(73%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Smart(73%), Intelligent(68%), Informed(67%), Witty(51%), Sarcastic(50%), Movie Fan(47%), Unconventional(24%),  Liberal(23%)
Lowest P1’s for: Party Animal(0%), Tough(11%), Conservative(21%), Optimistic(31%)
Comment: See themselves as a cut above the common. Play to that self-image (without being too obvious).
CHR P1’s
#1 self-image: Friendly(68%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Sociable(46%), Outgoing(39%), Self-Conscious(38%),
Lowest P1’s for: Unconventional(10%), Idealistic(11%), Intelligent(46%)
Comment: Most concerned with acceptance, belonging. The one format where saying “We’re #1” makes sense.
Christian P1’s
#1 self-image: Spiritual(70%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Spiritual(70%), Family-Oriented(60%), Religious(60%), Optimistic(59%), Loyal(57%), Careful(55%), Sensitive(53%), Tasteful(41%), Idealistic(27%), Fearful(12%)
Lowest P1’s for: Party Animal(0%), Materialistic(0%),  Flirtatious(1%), Risk-Taking(4%), Radio Junkie(6%), Rebellious(6%), News Junkie(7%), Spontaneous(10%), Unconventional(10%), Witty(11%), Adventurous(13%), Silly(16%), Sports Fan(16%), Serious(17%), Sarcastic(24%), Funny(29%)
Comment: On a straight and narrow path to “a better place.”
Classic Rock P1’s
#1 self-image: Friendly(69%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Serious(42%), Party Animal(10%)
Lowest P1’s for: Trendy(2%), Impulsive(2%), Hip(3%), Bold(8%), Movie Fan(22%)
Comment: Has time passed them by??? Not a problem.
Country P1’s
#1 self-image: Friendly(69%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Family-Oriented(60%), Trusting(54%), Homebody(45%), Cheerful(43%)
Lowest P1’s for: Hip(3%), Liberal(11%)
Comment: Family values coming through loud and clear.
News/Talk  P1’s
#1 self-image: Smart(56%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Conservative(50%), News Junkie(37%)
Lowest P1’s for: Sophisticated(7%), Silly(16%), Tasteful(17%), Cheerful(23%),  Music Fan (29%), Family-Oriented(33%), Friendly(39%), Down-to-Earth(45%)
Comment: Definitely different!  Flatter their intelligence.
Oldies/Cl Hits P1’s
#1 self-image: Down-to-Earth(68%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Down-to-Earth(68%), Homebody(45%)
Lowest P1’s for: Silly(16%)
Comment: Best contests prizes? Practical things they can use at home.
Rock P1’s
#1 self-image: Smart(70%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Music Fan(62%), Loyal(57%), Impulsive(15%)
Lowest P1’s for: Fearful(0%), Sexy(5%), Religious(9%)
Comment: No fear! Tap into that self-image with interesting (but safe) contest challenges.
Sports P1’s
#1 self-image: Calm(64%)!
Highest  P1’s  for: Sports Fan(61%), Radio Junkie(28%)
Lowest P1’s for: Energetic(8%), A Leader(9), Self-Conscious(10%), Spontaneous(14%), Sensitive(16%), Spiritual(17%), Tasteful(17%), Outgoing(19%), Trusting(20%), Homebody(21%), Warm(21%), Loyal(29%),  Sociable(29%),  Confident(30%), Family-Oriented(33%)
Comment: Calm??? Really??? Maybe in the “man cave.”
Urban P1’s
#1 self-images: Down-to-Earth(67%), Friendly(67%)
Highest  P1’s  for: Funny(65%), Confident(58%), Adventurous(45%), A Leader (42%), Sexy(37%), Silly(35%), Hip(33%), Tough(32%), Bold(29%), Energetic(29%), Risk-Taking(25%), Trendy(25%), Spontaneous(23%), Flirtatious(22%), Rebellious(13%), Materialistic(11%), Party Animal(10%)
Lowest P1’s for: Informed(32%), Careful(37%), Smart(51%)
Comment: Vibrant and strong…many positive self-images…reflect back to them!

Christian Radio P1′s: It’s Personal

Christian Radio P1′s likely listen for spiritual enlightenment and encouragement most of all. We didn’t explore those motivations in our ListenerThink P1 research, so let’s look at where Christian P1′s stand when it comes to more secular benefits…

Relaxation is Number One. Christian Radio P1′s listen to relax about at much as Country P1′s do — more than listeners as a whole:

RELAX AND UNWIND TOTAL  . CHRSTN P1’s
VERY IMPORTANT 46% 53%
SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT                  .  . 31% 29%
SLIGHTLY IMPORTANT 15% 13%
NOT AT ALL IMPORTANT   6%   0%
Don’t know   2%   5%

Relaxation is the only motivation that Christian Radio P1 score higher than average. Mostly, they’re average when it comes to the reasons for listening to radio.

But nostalgia — bringing back memories of a past time, place or event — is less of a motivation for Christian Radio P1′s than most. Christian P1′s are also likely to listen “to hear things that make you angry”…we’d expect (and hope) that would be the case!

The motivation where Christian Radio P1′s differ most from average is listening for social reasons — to “add to the fun” when they’re with other people:

ADD TO THE FUN WITH OTHERS          . TOTAL . CHRSTN P1’s
VERY IMPORTANT 29% 24%
SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT 38% 15%
SLIGHTLY IMPORTANT 17% 32%
NOT AT ALL IMPORTANT 14% 28%
Don’t know   2%   1%

We’ve often heard talk about “having a personal relationship with God.” For Christian P1′s more than other listeners, that personal relationship extends to their radio listening.