Your homework assignment is to play the ever-so-brief but ever-so-painful TikTok video above. It's less than a minute long, but it seems much longer.
It's from a young girl who creates a series of driving TikToks, a common format for the platform. But this one's gone “viral,” as they say.
There are many ways to say that broadcast radio has failed to connect with teens, but this simple TikTok video communicates it better than words, charts, or graphs can.
If you work in radio, it's brutal.
When I saw it, it was a reminder to me of the fatal mistake radio continues to make by not even making an effort to reach this generation of truly amazing young people – and voracious consumers.
They may not be as “unreachable” as many radio people imagine. The narrative is they've grown up without radio so why on earth would they start listening now? After all, they're “digital natives.” But Edison data from 2019 suggest otherwise.
In their “Radio's Roadmap to Gen Z,” they point out several fun facts about teens and radio:
- A majority (55%) of 13-24 year-olds in the U.S. are reached daily by AM/FM radio.
- But they spend 50% less of their total share of time listening to AM/FM radio than the 13+ population.
- Gen Z listens most to AM/FM when they're in their cars – almost half the time – ahead of streaming audio and YouTube.
These facts may seem incongruous with what we've come to believe, but that “conventional wisdom” is flat-out wrong.
Radio is easiest to listen to in the car – at least for now. The data show that teens at least are willing to try a radio station when they first jump into the car.
Other so-called facts about Gen Z and their favorite brands fly in the face of logic. For example, Walmart is more popular among teens than Apple.
That's according to a new Morning Consult study, “Gen Z's Favorite Brands 2022.” Look at their top 20 – lots of mainstream brands here:
How could this possibly happen?
Did you know Walmart is making serious efforts to court teens? A new story in Marketing Dive by Peter Adams reveals Walmart's efforts to create interactive virtual spaces before the holidays. They'll focus on several areas, including a beauty and cosmetics section.
Wouldn't you know it? The world largest retailer is working hard to connect with Gen Z via the launch of two Roblox experiences. That begs the question, what do they know we don't know?
Here's Walmart's brand experiences and strategic partnerships director Justin Breton:
“We’re really manifesting the brand in a way that we think is going to excite the next generation of consumers and get them to think of Walmart differently.”
Changing perceptions isn't easily done, especially for an old school brand that has largely ignored an entire generation.
But, if they can do it….
The good news is that unlike the pioneer days of radio where swashbucklers like Bill Drake, Rick Sklar, and Lee Abrams had to gut their way to success, there's no shortage of truly great research available to programmers and marketers now.
In today's Inside Radio, a very cool study and flip book from Horizon Media is featured. A finding that echoes Edison's research is that while they only lightly consume traditional media like newspapers, TV, and magazines, they are heavy users of radio.
In fact, Gen Z's over-index on radio. This data is based on Simmons indices, so a certain level of caution is encouraged. But still….the data indicates more teens listen to radio than most observers think:
Horizon has put together a nifty “Gen Z Field Guide” you can download here, conveniently broken down into five big categories, including “Entertainment.”
It's a slick piece of work, loaded with (mostly) fun facts about teens.
But perhaps here's the most important data point I pulled out of the study:
Gen Z makes up an estimated $360 billion in purchasing power.
At a time when the radio broadcasting industry is struggling with it traditional business and its newest ventures, who's going to be the first to take a shot here.
The Horizon Media study reports than nine in ten 18-25 year-olds say there's no such thing as “mainstream pop culture.” That sounds like an open door opportunity to me.
If you need encouragement, just play the TikTok video again.
When it comes to radio and Gen Z, tick tock.
A special shoutout to NPR's Sal LoCurto, always looking around the next corner.
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Darryl Parks says
Remember when Family Guy did an episode featuring “Weenie and the Butt” mocking radio, complete with all the stupid drops, sound effects, jingles, fake laughter, nervous giggles, and dumb catch phrases? This was years and years ago. When I saw it I cringed, because it was so true. You know what’s happened in all the years since that Family Guy episode aired? Radio still sounds the same. Forced to look in the mirror back then, radio collectively refused to except its ugliness. Miss that episode? Enjoy this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDxGM8IKb2k
Eric Jon Magnuson says
That reminded me of this NSFW post by an Australian cartoonist a few years ago (which was then picked up by one of the trade-press sites)…
David Manzi says
HYSTERICAL clip, Darryl! Forgot how funny that piece was! And very funny (and too close to accurate for comfort) cartoon, Eric. Thank you both! Made my day!
Ian Chambers says
My same reaction whenever I hear stupid imaging like that, only I don’t last as long as she did, and I’m 3 times her age. Who even thinks it relevant for anyone to make such imaging in 2022? Thanks, Fred.
Fred Jacobs says
Had not seen the “Family Guy” video before, Darryl. In a word, painful. And you’re right, the world has changed, while radio has not. Thank god it only has 15,000 views on YouTube. The girl on TikTok is in the millions, an uncomfortable thought. Thanks for the comment.
Bob Bellin says
SNL also took a pretty good shot at radio in 2013:
And before that was Cheech and Chong with Buzz Wire and Wink Dinkerson
How far is radio really from Buzz Wire, which came out in 1980? Dallas was the top TV show and the Oldsmobile Cutlass was the number one selling car. Compare how TV and cars have evolved to radio’s changes. It’s been over 50 years since Wink Dinkerson, but replace the far outs and groovy’s with lame wannabe social media posts and almost worse than nothing websites and its pretty much the same thing. Radio will have to try something really different if wants to attract Gen Z for anything more than a quick laugh.
Without Gen Z, where will radio be in 5 years?
Fred Jacobs says
Oh, that final line, Bob. That’s it right there. It’s truly a question of demographics. And they don’t lie.
Mark Jeffries says
And you know, it seemed like after spending most of the late 60s and 70s and into the 80s trying to sound as uncluttered as possible, all of a sudden in the 90s and into this current era we came to the loud, overproduced imaging. Was everyone trying to show off their digital editing equipment or is this something else we can blame on consolidation?
BTW, the only “Power 96.9” I can find is an Internet radio station. Where is this woman in the video?
Matt Talluto says
Your comment about editing equipment and consolidation is exactly where I went with this Tik Tok exercise.
This isn’t about finding new ways to reaching certain demos and audiences. It’s about entertaining them. They’re leaving by the droves because they’re finding entertainment elsewhere. It’s that simple. No need for another chart, graph, or tutorial. ENTERTAIN THEM!!!!!
And THAT is the result of consolidation.
As you were.
Fred Jacobs says
Mark, it’s part clutter, but also about connecting. The radio stations of that earlier era had (by and large) a stronger sense of community and place. When you listened to CKLW, you knew you were in Detroit. With KHJ, you were in SoCal. One of the sad outgrowths of consolidation was that increasing urge to do what was in the company’s best interest, not the audience’s. That’s when you start sounds like Power 96.9.
K.M. Richards says
Right on the mark, Mark. (alliteration unintentional but I’m leaving it in anyway)
Stations have become too enamored of their clever, creative imaging and are ignorant of the fact that the listeners don’t want all that clutter.
Think about how clutter-free and straightforward the Drake format was. Think about how the Abrams format created for ABC’s FM stations back in the 70s was so free of imaging it was almost bland in its presentation. Think about how the early AC stations successfully adopted the multi-song/no talk music sweep from Beautiful Music.
Why is radio losing the younger audience? Because the alternatives don’t have all this overproduced crap interrupting the music they are seeking to hear.
Use whatever cliché you wish … killing the goose that laid the golden egg, shooting oneself in the foot, etc. Any programmer that has bought in to this audio disaster has only themselves to blame.
I go back and forth about lost hope of radio ever finding it’s way again with young people. Just when I’ve decided it’s over, Jacobs come back with research that gives a glimmer of hope. But is anyone smart enough to use it? Imagine a renaissance of some sort of CHR product with a really great music cycle and some sort of presentation that reaches and holds 12-24’s. It would most likely sound nothing like what we have now and probably wouldn’t include a big box morning and/or midday show of unrelatable people and topics.
Fred Jacobs says
I try to keep it balanced and real, without it getting too Pollyanna-ish. As an industry we can – and must – do better. There may be more of an opportunity here for broadcasters than they think. But to realize it, they must be more intentional about it. It won’t come to them organically.
Randy Kabrich says
Fake audio clip. Edited for effect.
Darryl Parks says
Yep. Exactly why I posted “Weenie and the Butt.”
David Manzi says
Another great, and surprisingly optimistic read, Fred. Painful (if funny/not funny) video. But a great, hopeful read.
Greg S says
Glad you shared this. You dropped all the data and relevant research, but what are your production people going to create to actually connect? The numbers are hopeful, but how are you going to change your approach? How is Walmart talking to teens? Is it working? IWhat are you going to say that will resonate with them? I’d start with talking about them, to them. Not about you. They’re already talking to each other on Tiltok, YouTube, Instagram, etc and with a genuine authenticity that production that was hot in 1998 will never have. Want data? Look at the content that’s blowing up on social media and take inspiration from that for your creative.
Fred Jacobs says
Greg, thanks for this. Of course, it starts with seeing Gen Z as a desirable audience for radio to reach, nurture, cultivate, and (assuming everything is done well) monetize. We are not “there” yet. Not by a longshot.
Saso Mitan says
First to say hi to you, very nice and eye-opening article.
In my humble opinion, based on more than 30 years of radio experience, the next huge step in media (in general, and radio also) will be AI connected to dedicated audio/video/web/social media/audio-video streaming software that will give us new tool for the new era in media. After that, we`ll need completely new approach in music and other radio elements programing, scheduling, rotation, that will allow radio producers to make more dynamic, flexible and fun content that will be acceptable for the listeners (young or older). Live presenters in combination with Artificial voice simulators (Real time AI presenters, AI commercials, AI news), hit music in commercials and commercials in music (spoken and sung), short and fun jingles, best selection of real time production elements, music, SFX and other production elements connected in one main software for real time creating, editing and broadcasting of materials will give the edge and dynamics than modern radio needs.
Also I would like to say something about the whole process of publishing and creating hit music (for CHR & Top 40 stations). If Major worldwide publishers give radio exclusive “Radio plays hits seven (or) days B4 everybody” (new music to be first heard on selected worldwide radio stations for seven days) and then to be played on any other formats. This would give fresh blood to radio as a media and format.
At the end few radio musts: Web site is MUST, App is MUST, easy contact with radio is MUST (on digital platforms), short and interesting VO is MUST, short, dynamic and fun radio elements are MUST, audio and video streaming is MUST, knowing audience is MUST, knowing detailed prime time is MUST, being live everywhere where the happenings are is MUST…
There are many smart radio people out there, but we need to get together now, maybe more than ever, to try to save this beautiful media.
My English is not the best (sorry), but my intentions definitely are.
Greeting from Ohrid, Macedonia