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!