In its focus on “prime demos,” radio has pretty much ignored young listeners — the future prime demos. I can’t blame stations for this…they’re just trying to give their customers (i.e., advertisers) what they want. But a lack of enthusiasm for radio among teens and preteens doesn’t bode well for the future of the medium.
Think back to when you discovered radio. I remember hearing kids talk about Dick Biondi at grade school, checking him out on WLS and feeling part of a special, “in group” that adults couldn’t possibly understand. Later, as an older teen, I got into the “underground” FM and groups that most people didn’t even know about.
Radio and the music it played was a huge part of my connection to my generation and personal identity. I suspect it’s the same for you too.
One could rightly argue that you and I aren’t typical….we are “radio guys,” moved so much by the medium that we made it our work. But I know plenty of non-radio guys (including women) who have the same feelings and connections. Radio’s role in their lives and what they listen to may have changed, but it’s still important to them.
But what about the kids? I am concerned about their connection to radio, but I got a little ray of hope from AM 910 WFDF — Radio Disney.
I don’t have any inside knowledge of Radio Disney. But I do have some insight into the mind of a nine year old — my daughter! She’s into Radio Disney just like I was into ‘LS and ‘CFL as a kid. She knows most of the songs, she loves the Disney stars on radio, and she especially loves hearing listeners her own age call in and talk on the air.
What most interesting to me is that she’s never commented on sound quality that’s clearly inferior to the FMs we listen to. Unique programming trumps even the limitations of AM.
What I like about it is that I don’t have to worry about content that’s inappropriate for a nine year old…something I’m constantly on guard for when we’re listening to other stations. (What I don’t like about it is that “Crazy Frog” song…Ugh!)
Now, I wonder about the business model for Radio Disney. It seems targeted to a very narrow age group. And as preteens become teens, they tend to reject things they once loved…it’s a rite of passage. Even if a 14 year old enjoyed Radio Disney, it might not be cool to admit it!
But for now, I want to thank Radio Disney for sparking a nine year old’s love of radio, just as mine was sparked by the “Wild I-tralian” Dick Biondi so many years ago.