Get Real, Real Quickly

| September 29, 2014

Maine Association of Broadcasters convention coverage by consultant Holland Cooke

 

cookewriterPORTLAND, ME — There are more of them than there are of us.  For now, we (75 million Baby Boomers) sign checks on the front, and many of them (83 million so-called Millennials) sign them on the back.  But that’s changing soon, literally.  63% of young adults cite “care for parents in old age” among their chief concerns, according to research in a Nielsen presentation at this past weekend’s Maine Association of Broadcasters conference.

Those born 1982-2000 – alternatively referred to as “Generation Y” – are 26% of the USA population, and I’ve never heard them described better than the way Nielsen Client Service Executive Madison Zinsenheim, herself a Millennial, did:

“Millennials are connected, multitasking, social-minded collaborators; influenced by 9/11, texting, the Recession, green initiatives, Facebook, and all things Apple.  We love to take photos and videos and make a virtual scrapbook that we can take with us anytime, anywhere.”

Body language in the room was fascinated and fascinating during the MAB “How Millennials Use Media” session she moderated.  Most of the five college student panelists had never heard the term “Millennials” until they were invited to participate.  And genuinely curious Baby Boomer station owners and managers leaned-into the dialogue like they were conversing with extraterrestrials.

Good News/Bad News: They’re up for radio; but not AM/FM business-as-usual. 

The Good News: “Audio is such an awesome thing, because there’s no picture.  It’s a real chance to connect,” one panelist volunteered.

The Bad News was unanimous, and twofold:

  • Bad news for Central Casting promo voice Bill Balls: “People our age find radio gimmicky,” and aren’t susceptible to the boastful station imaging that animated Boomers when today’s talk stations spun the hits.  “Authenticity is a huge factor,” to these unpretentious young people.  “Be transparent and honest, like there’s another person there talking to you.  It has to come across as 100% sincere.”
  • Unlike their elders, these digital natives haven’t grown up as habitual transmitter listeners.  Nielsen’s Madison Zinsenheim reckons, “When it comes to media, 2 words: anytime and anywhere.”  One panelist said he has “a speaker I move to the car to listen to Pandora, which now has local commercials, which I find interesting.  When the cell service goes away, I turn to NPR.”  Another: “I use apps to get my news.  YouTube is like ‘a visual radio’ that explains things that are going on.  On Twitter, if something’s happening, they’re talking about it.”

But – cyber-communal as Millennials are — don’t think they’ll rely on citizen journalists.  “I never go by that.  When I read something online, I’ll Google to check it.”

“I don’t need the DJ, I don’t need the advertisements, I don’t need to hear about ‘the hundred minutes of music.’  I can get that anywhere.”

One attendee asked “How do you discover new music?”  In unison, several panelists said “from friends;” whereupon the questioner followed-up “When you say ‘word-of-mouth,’ do you mean social media?”  Interestingly, the consensus was that social media was merely a referral tool, and that new music bounces around by personal endorsement.  “When videos go viral, there are suggestions on the side” for similar songs, “and I’ll click them.”

And as-accustomed as these consumers are to do-it-yourself playlists, and Pandora and other non-hosted non-radio music radio, “Having a DJ could add a human touch, but people want customization.”  And no DJ puking.

Asked – given all the alternatives — “Do you want to own music?” panelists lived-up-to their generation’s reputation for social conscience: “It’s easy to get music, or pirate music, and everyone does it.  But if I really respect someone, I’ll buy it.  I like to have my own collection.”

SiriusXM?  None have it.  “It’s awesome, but we’re broke college students.”

The news watch never stops.

Sound bite of the session?  Silence, when none of the 5 panelists could name the anchor of NBC Nightly News.  And attendees were dumbstruck when three-of-five said their “most-trusted source for international news” was “BBC.”  Another: “NPR, they have a record of not being biased.”

And there was silence again when a TV station manager asked “What would it take to get you to watch a TV newscast?”

Every New Englander remembers where he/she was when the Boston Marathon bombers struck.  But even then, “We had TV on, but we had our laptops open.”

Why so blasé about broadcast news?

  • “I could do without news, I could do without weather, because I can look those things up on my phone.”
  • “We can’t wait a half hour for a TV newscast to tell us.  In 10 seconds we can find out on Google.”
  • Broadcast local news “isn’t comprehensive, not updated.”  And there’s that hype, described by this panelist hypothetical: “Two people got taken off a plane, and TV flew a helicopter over, but they didn’t tell us who they were, or what was happening.  It was just an aerial shot that says we [the TV station] are here.”

Asked: “Is Fox News ‘fair and balanced?’”  “NO!” in unison, as they all laughed.

The Lightning Round

Q:  “Do you listen to radio?”

A:  “It’s repetitive.”

Q:  When one attendee described the NextRadio initiative to light-up sleeper FM chips in smartphones (which was news to these panelists):

A:  “That’d be good because it doesn’t use-up your data.  It just needs to work.”

Q:  “Commercials?”

A:  “If it’s funny or unpretentious or relevant to me, I’ll check it out.”

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Holland Cooke (@HollandCooke on Twitter) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers industry conventions for Talkers and RadioInfo. 

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Category: Advice, Analysis