How Talk Radio Can Attract Millennials (2/4): The Problem

The fact is that most of my fellow Millennials aren’t listening to talk radio.

There’s no reason they shouldn’t.

My personal observations and at least one poll indicate that many Millennials identify philosophically as libertarian. That’s a start.

But conservative talk radio, which relies heavily on programming which appeals to older audiences, is slowly waning.

Social media allows ideological opponents to harass the medium online faster and harder than pundits can react.

It generally lacks the same internet presence that can allow it to beat back such attacks.

The result is that talk radio continues to fall back on the old stalwart of older blue collar folks.

But insofar as I can tell, stations aren’t attracting large swaths of Millennials, who should be welcoming them with open arms.

This is The Problem.

Changing demographics and inflamed social media reactions have resulted in talk radio both losing advertising money and failing to attract new audiences.

The main issue that talk radio faces today is the blunt reality is that there just aren’t enough young listeners to sustain the medium.

In an interview with Forbes, media scholar Jeffrey Berry summed up the numbers game that talk radio faces today:


And it’s a shrinking demographic. For every white farmer in the heartland who dies, he’s being replaced by a 25-year-old Hispanic living in the Bronx. It’s just the way America is going right now.

People are obviously listening to talk radio, and will continue to do so.

Unfortunately, the audience that most talk radio shows are aiming for isn’t the type that media buyers want to target, that is, Millennials.

Meanwhile, firestorms on the internet instigated by ideological opponents haven’t helped either. In fact, they may account for the lion’s share of the blame.

A 2015 article for The Wall Street Journal reported that controversial comments by Rush Limbaugh directly led to advertisers choosing to avoid buying airtime around such shows.

The article reads:

Local and direct-response advertisers, such as flower-delivery and financial services, continue to advertise on conservative talk shows. But overall demand has tanked among national advertisers for anything else that could air on the same stations, putting some syndicators and stations in a bind on their programming.

As a result of various reasons, having to do with the philosophical inclinations of Millennials and sloppy marketing work, Millennials typically don’t listen to talk radio, conservative or otherwise.

A Nielsen report, for instance, states that only an average of 3.7% of persons aged 18-34 listen to news or talk radio.

The report also notes: “On average, radio reaches nine out of 10 Millennials across all three life stages each week.” (The report breaks down the age group’s preferences by life-stage.)

So Millennials are listening to radio in general, but most of them aren’t listening to talk radio.

The talk radio format still has a hope of reaching Millennials and expanding its audience, thus attracting more advertisers.

If by some marketing miracle this can happen, then the newfound popularity of talk radio among Millennials will make airtime an investment worth the risk for cautious media-buyers.

To accomplish this feat, conservative talk radio will have to do two things:

  • Present a product (programming) that will appeal to the tastes and ideology of libertarian or conservative Millennials.
  • Execute a marketing strategy that will reach this demographic and make the medium attractive to them.

This post discussed The ProblemNext time we will discuss The Campaign.

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