The recent announcements by Infinity to end oldies on their New York and Chicago stations (
6/6/05 RBR #110
) points out another tried-and-trusted format is on the way out, but does it really have to happen? Unquestionably, millions of people in two of the country's most populated markets are wondering that right now.
Now wanting to "date" myself, but I've been in the radio business for over 40 years. I've witnessed the rise and fall of beautiful music and owned a couple of "Music Of Your Life" stations, and in the case of those properties, from day one was advised by media buyers that "the people who listen to that kind of music are not who our clients want to reach anymore. They're too old."
That may have been very true in the 80's, but things are different now and before we throw oldies into the radio trashbin for once and for all, consider these facts about why a 60 year old person today is different from a 60 year old 20 years ago.
The previous generation who were considered the nostalgia format key demo grew up listening to radio for news, drama and variety. They embraced the music of the 40's and the 50's with great fondness, but they were not radio stalwarts the way a typical 60 year old is in today's world.
Today's 60 year old grew up in an environment where the transistor "pocket radio" was the equivalent of today's iPod. The radio was their friend, their confidant, their personal, one-on-one link to the world. The Cousin Brucies of the radio business were the people who could talk to them in a way nobody else could and play music that became the background for their early life experiences. In short, radio, to this generation had a soul which resonates as strongly today as it did in the 60's.
Now, sadly, that soul is fading away, not because the listeners aren't there but because "it's too old for the buy."
Check your latest population trends and realize Baby Boomers aren't going to go to their grave wanting to act like "old people." They are traveling through life kicking and screaming in trying to hold onto remnants of their youth, and radio is one of them. Witness the AARP's recently announced dilemma that their membership is down since the "boomers" don't want to have anything to do with anything that is iconic of the world of "aging!"
We may be seeing the halcyon days of News/Talk as an older generation embraces it. Will the "boomers' be listening to radio ten years from now as they are at present? Likely, no...if there isn't anything of interest to hear. Perhaps the demise of WCBS FM 's oldies image and its ensuing public outcry in Madison Avenue's backyard will send a message to those controlling ad budgets that there's a population bubble which grew up in love with radio that's getting very upset right now to see their electronic buddy being beat up by "those who know the business."
Perhaps the listening public deserves to be listened to rather than dictated to before those of us who enjoy the business of being radio broadcasters shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot by selling our loyals short.
Lowell E. Homburger
Abernat, Roxben & Boggs
Charlotte, North Carolina