In radio, we sometimes get so myopic, we think the only good ideas are those impacting 25-54 year-olds, the advertising target of choice now for decades. And in the process, concepts that run “north” or “south” of that so-called sweet spot are summarily rejected – because they're “out of demo.”
We've all heard about the “demographic cliff,” referring to audiences aging out of formats like Classic Rock, Talk, Oldies, and others. And on the other side of the spectrum, youth formats that target a burgeoning Gen Z are few and far between.
And yet, some of the most creative, innovative ideas we've run across these past several weeks have come from octogenarians on the one hand, and adolescents on the other.
On the “mature” side of the spectrum, the truly hot newcomer on the scene is a “pirate radio” station made up of senior air personalities who make their homes mostly in congregate and assisted-living facilities.
Known to its growing audience as Recliner Radio, the station is jocked by real “Resident DJs” who are passionately pursuing careers on the radio.
Recliner Radio is another one of those concepts born out of the global pandemic. Recliner Radio DJs are all members of what we call the “Greatest Generation,” and they're living up to the hype.
Their slogan? “Keeping Apart. Staying Together.” How's that for a positioning statement that nails this station's “job to do” while we cope with a disease especially virulent in the facilities in which this “airstaff” lives.
And they're hiring. It's like college radio for the Geritol Generation, and it's attracting new cume from all over the country.
Like many radio careers, these rising on-air stars came to radio out of boredom. As the Recliner Radio website notes, these new DJs are broadcasting “so we can stay connected while we're confined to our rooms.”
I'll have to check with Nielsen to be sure senior living centers can participate in either diary or PPM surveys. Imagine how easy it would be to target these hot zips. By the way, they're taking dedications here: 855-863-0050
And then on the other end of the spectrum, COVID-19 is spurring the creative energies of American citizens too young to vote or drive. But the good news? They're all 6+, and immersed in some of the best community building efforts in 2020.
And they're tremendous marketers who could be an asset to any media organization in the country.
Take 7 year-old Morgan Marsh-McGlone from Madison, Wisconsin, for example. She's launched a “virtual lemonade stand,” a Facebook fundraising page that has caught on in a huge way.
When you make a donation, you receive a coupon entitling you to a cup of Morgan's lemonade. Once life in Madison normalizes, she'll make good on her offer, and pour you a cup of the real thing.
Virtual lemonade purchase dollars are going directly to feed families in her area that have been rocked by COVID-19.
According to Up North News, Morgan's start-up feeds 600 families a week, raising more than $35,000 since its launch.
Not to be outdone, a group of teens from Calgary created a new benchmark – the “Joy4All project.” These kids have a great sense for this moment in time we're experiencing. And they're addressing it in an unconventional way.
When we think of Gen Z, we think of a wired, tech-savvy group who are digital natives. Except this group has created a very analog, old school media product – a jokeline for quarantined seniors to buoy their spirits.
Talk about “Canadian Content.” Features on their phone line include jokes, stories, meditation, and inspirational and educational messages. This is obviously well-targeted programming for these precarious times, designed to generate some good old mood elevation.
Actually, any radio station could pull this off – over the phone or on any number of social media outlets.
And the last entrant in our triple-shot of creative kids is 10 year-old Chelsea Phaire from Danbury, Connecticut. She's created more than 1,500 art kits she sends to homeless shelters and foster care homes to give kids something to do and make them feel better.
She is now a branded organization – “Chelsea's Charity” – with a simple mission:
“Together, we can support children's social-emotional and mental health development thru art!”
These are some of the most creative ideas I've run across since the start of the pandemic, and they reassure me there's innovation and talent well outside the 25-54 year-old spectrum.
I know a number of stations that could use this passion, energy, and spark. And for public radio stations trying to raise funds in new, engaging, and buzzworthy ways, you may have met your future development directors right here.
It is difficult at times to literally make lemonade out of this global crisis that has killed more than 100,000 Americans, put many out of work, and has fueled frustrations and tensions in so many of our communities.
Have a cup on me.
Special thanks to Keith Cunningham, Scott Westerman, Mike Stern, and Mary Eitel.