Digital Didn’T Kill The Radio Star

Talk Radio Remains As Important As Ever

There is little debate that traditional forms of communications – particularly newspapers and television – have been impacted by the growing power of the Internet and social media. Some, however, question whether radio, particularly talk radio, remains a powerful medium to connect with voters and consumers. It does.

Talk radio emerged in the 1980s when the Federal Communications Communication (FCC) repealed the “Fairness Doctrine,” a policy requiring controversial viewpoints to be balanced by opposing opinions on the air, and satellite technology became more affordable and effective. Radio stations were free to allow hosts to discuss a variety of issues without fear of running afoul of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). AM radio, which analysts at the time viewed as dying, exploded in popularity as local “talkers” on both sides of the political spectrum, from Rush Limbaugh to Howard Stern, became a national phenomenon.

During this period, there was little doubt as to the power of talk radio. Listeners were avid and loyal. Ratings and weekly reach, which exceeded 10 million for some shows, skyrocketed. Hosts and listeners held a bond that outmatched anything found in print and broadcast mediums before.

However, since 1996, the growth of the World Wide Web has created new competition for radio hosts and stations. In recent years, the popularity of podcasts and Internet talk shows surged, causing doubts over the long-term viability of talk radio to emerge as advertising dollars shifted online.

To this day, radio remains a powerful form of communication. According to the Pew Research Center, “traditional AM/FM radio…continues to reach the overwhelming majority of the American public audio, as a platform is stronger than ever, as more and more ways to listen continually emerge.” Another study from last year found that 81-percent of the population considers the radio to be more trustworthy than cable TV, while also considering it to two-time as credible as social media and 27-percent more trustworthy than network TV. An incredible 247 million people listen to radio each week, an increase from the previous year.

Many believe radio listeners are homogenous, but the facts show otherwise. Consider the following:

Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1979):

  • Nearly 80.5 million Gen Xers use radio each month
  • 97% of Generation X reached monthly by radio

Boomers (those born between 1950 and 1964):

  • More than 41.2 million Boomers listen to radio each month
  • 98% of Boomers reached monthly by radio

Hispanics (those 12 and older):

  • More than 44.6 million Hispanics use radio each month
  • 96% of all Hispanics use radio each month

African Americans (those 12 and older):

  • Over 34.5 million African American listeners use radio each month
  • 97% of African Americans use radio each month

From a political, public policy, and commercial standpoint, radio is still a powerful mechanism to speak directly to consumers and activists across the political, racial, and generational spectrum.

There are two primary ways to communicate through radio. The first is through advertising. With costs lower that television and the market segmented based on the profiles of the given hosts and media markets, radio advertising can hit target audiences with near-precision while building name recognition.

The other is through placing guests on shows. With issues concerning public policy, radio hosts are often willing to explore timely topics through a long-form interview process. Rather than paying for 30-second ads, the right questions can afford one the opportunity to delve deeper before the ears of millions of Americans, sometimes for upwards of 30 minutes or more.

TDS Public Affairs can help build your campaign. Let us know about your issue, and we can develop a specialized marketing and promotion campaign centered around the radio and other communication mediums.

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