I’ve attended the NAB Radio show a few times, most recently a couple of weeks ago. I was impressed and excited to see how the show has grown to having a large hotel lower level full of vendor booths and attendees wandering throughout, ranging from large group CEOs to small market account executives. This is not how I remember the show just a few years ago.
The degree to which research and analysis plays into the format now, could not have possibly existed when radio was “local.” Long before what we now refer to as social media was born, local radio stations and their on air personalities kept their audience connected to the immediate community. In markets where more than one “top 40” station existed, clear favorites of djs and station contests were discussed among friends. Weekly “Top 10” lists would be similar, but the coveted “#1” spot was often different, which made for an analysis of why and why not a given song didn’t garner that top spot across the board. The answer usually turned out to be that one station’s audience felt different than the same format across town. Appointment listening would often mean tuning in when that significant announcement was made.
Fast forward to today. I mentioned to an imaging director in a large market, how the emotional connection a young person used to have to radio has (in my opinion) been vaporized by the homogenization of research, consultants, playlists and corporate mergers. He agreed, but spoke of how one nationally known air personality (based in his market) would localize his syndicated show for his station and how much this was appreciated by the local audience. It was an affirmation that listeners still value that community spirit in their choice of listening when it’s available to them.
While walking through the exhibition hall, I popped my head into a session noting a very impressive statistic related to the value of ads on radio vs. ads on TV and how they were virtually neck and neck. In the brief time I was there, this was yet another positive indication that the medium, though changed from what my memories are, is vibrant! Finally, there were ambient conversations I overheard regarding “hyperlocalizing” content. It seems like the pendulum may be swinging back to “local” radio, and that there is an acknowledgement of its value.
Of course, the world of media choice is a far different place now than when it was in the era to which I referenced earlier when radio helped shine a light on its own backyard. The good news is the value of that emotional connection seems to be recognized by today’s media decision makers. It can go a long way in grounding a community and a young listener’s view of their immediate world, when radio is local.
– Randy Hart, Creative Services Director for Aircast Custom Music