OK, I'll say it - after spending several days at the NAB/R&R, I still have this sour feeling that just won't go away. Back in 2000, I was part of the committee to program NAB panels. As part of the exercise, you get to create and moderate a panel of your own. My choice was "My 14 Year-Old Thinks Radio Sucks." It was a well-attended session, with great panelists from advertising, radio sales, and the media buying community. And nothing happened.
Fast-forward six years, and we're back at the NAB Convention. This time around, there's research. Larry Rosin's truly scary picture of 12-24 listening erosion. Mike Henry's focus groups of young people. And everyone you talk to NOW says essentially the same thing - we've lost America's youth, and that's part of the problem with recruiting new talent for PDs, sales reps, and DJs.
But nothing's happening. Why aren't broadcasters taking those 4th or 5th loser stations in clusters and turning them into teen-targeted stations? Why aren't more HD2 channels being turned over to the college radio broadcasters, and other young experimenters? Why isn't radio developing a true farm system of young people? Why do we have to replace the old Howard Stern Show with the old Opie & Anthony Show? Who is going to replace Bob & Tom, John Boy & Billy, and all those first and second generation morning shows when they finally hang up their headphones?
Broadcasters intellectually understand the issue because they're smart, and they're concerned about the future. But emotionally, they cannot seem to get past the selling difficulties presented by teen-targeted stations. So nothing happens. Our listeners are getting older, the advertising industry is writing off radio as a dinosaur medium, and we're not replacing the audience with the youth necessary to energize the business. This goes well beyond selling youth demographics - it goes right to the heart of how radio is going to populate its stations with sales, management, programming, and on-air staff down the road.
The reason teens are hard for radio to sell to is that the hundreds of advertisers who focus on them (just watch MTV, read teen magazines, look at the web banner ads) have given up on radio. For too long, we have provided little viable programming to reach these coveted listeners. They've moved on. If we have any hope of getting them back, radio has to seriously launch an initiative.
And this blog entry is designed to stimulate just that. Radio's biggest broadcasters need to launch a Teen Task Force - a consortium designed to confront and solve the youth problem. It's not going to be easy, but we have to have programming acumen and talent to make it happen. It just requires a commitment from the nation's top broadcasters. I'm volunteering my services here, and personnel from Jacobs Media to help make this happen.
Who's going to be the first to step up and finally address perhaps the industry's #1 problem?